How U.S. Representatives Are Defending Prisoners of Conscience

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

Last week, the Defending Freedoms project launched a Week of Action in which U.S. Representatives nationwide spoke out to highlight and give voice to political prisoners being held or detained around the world for expressing their views.

Members of Congress “adopted” prisoners of conscience and stood in solidarity with them with a commitment to highlight their cases and push for their release, as well as for an end to the human rights abuses they had been subjected to.

These individuals have been imprisoned because of who they are, what they believe, and how they have chosen to express their convictions. As a result, they are prevented from enjoying the most fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The Defending Freedoms project was kick-started by Representatives Wolf and McGovern adopting the initiative’s first two prisoners of conscience – Gao Zhisheng of China and Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab. In late 2012, Congress’ nonpartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) joined the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA to create the Defending Freedoms initiative as a way to raise awareness and support for human rights and religious freedom by focusing on human rights defenders, political prisoners, and those who have been unjustly imprisoned around the world.

Members who participated in the Action Week included TLHRC co-chairs U.S. Representatives Frank Wolf and Jim McGovern, and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Trent Franks, Alan Grayson, Randy Hultgren, Hank Johnson, Lynn Jenkins, Alan Lowenthal, Jim Moran, Joe Pitts and Jan Schakowsky. Activities members undertook included statements for the record, social media engagement and one-minute floor speeches, among other actions.

Help U.S. Representatives protect human rights worldwide and take action on behalf of current prisoners of conscience by joining Amnesty International’s Urgent Action Network. Click here to view the latest Urgent Actions.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

2 thoughts on “How U.S. Representatives Are Defending Prisoners of Conscience

  1. i think we should stop criticizing people for who they are and what they think. At least these people stand up for something they believe in!

  2. I grew up hearing bad stories from the time communism ruled in my country and I heard about people being locked up for things they said or believed….I never thought this would still be happening now.