We applaud the commendable efforts of Benedict Rogers to publicize the harassment he, his family, and his neighbors have faced from China in response to his efforts to ensure freedom, human rights, and rule of law in Hong Kong. Reading his tales of anonymous letters containing veiled threats, the danger faced by those who dare to challenge the absolute power of the Chinese government is laid bare. As you read, please pause to consider how much worse it must be on a daily basis for Hong Kong based youth activists like Joshua Wong. If this level of harassment is happening to an established British citizen, then we can only imagine the pressure on Hong Kongers themselves. Joshua’s continued democracy work in the face of obvious threats from the Chinese government is exactly why he was chosen to receive the 10th Annual Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize later this year in Washington, DC.
On July 16th the world witnessed a stunning and deeply concerning press conference in which the President of the United States seemed to argue that there was a credibility equivalence between US intelligence agencies findings on Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the laughable denials of Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer who many believe to be a cold blooded killer. Another outrageous moment during this memorable press event was when Putin suddenly launched an attack on Bill Browder, the brilliant and brave man behind the Sergei Magnitsky Accountability Act. Bill Browder’s herculean efforts to win the adoption of this ground breaking human rights law have done more to put actual teeth into the enforcement of human rights standards than almost any another initiative over the past two decades. It has also made him Putin’s No. 1 enemy and someone who daily faces the very real danger that Putin’s agents will succeed in murdering him as they have so many other so-called “enemies” of the Russian President.
Some months ago, we had the opportunity to speak with Bill Browder on The Keeper and, given the events of the past few days, we thought it would be very worthwhile and timely to
re-release our podcast with Mr. Browder from last Fall.
Our guest, Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer, is known as the “mother of the Uyghur nation”. She is the acknowledged global leader of the Uyghur people - a community of over 15 million living primarily in the East Turkestan region of China where this largely Muslim community has been subjected to discrimination, persecution, mass incarceration and cultural and religious oppression at the hands of the Chinese government.
With the help of an interpreter, Mrs. Kadeer spoke about the increase in persecution being experienced in East Turkestan, the Government’s efforts to intimidate her into silence by targeting her family members who are still in China, and why the US government should apply the Global Magnitsky Act to the Chinese official responsible for the outrages taking place in East Turkestan.
The world relies on brave journalists to tell the stories of those with no voice. One of the most serious global human rights crisis points happening today is in Myanmar, as the Rohingya Muslim minority is terrorized by the state military. It is an affront to the Rule of Law that the two Reuters journalists who simply reported on the growing massacre will now face trial and could be sentenced to over a decade in prison. It is especially shocking that Aung San Suu Kyi, who herself once suffered under a regime that ignored the Rule of Law, would be so compliant in allowing this kangaroo court case to move forward. We call on the Myanmar Government to release these journalists and focus on the most important issue at hand: restoring the rights and freedoms of the Rohingya people.
The Lantos Foundation joins leading NGO's to call upon the government of Pakistan to stop the discriminatory provisions in the electoral law of Pakistan that deny Ahmadis the right to vote due to their religious beliefs.
In a rare bit of good news, the Russian Council for Civil Society and Human Rights has called for an investigation into the legality of a number of criminal prosecutions of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. This peaceful community has been subjected to outrageous persecution in Russia. Perhaps the injustice is becoming too much even for the Russians. Click the image below to read the translated article from The Council Under The President of the Russian Federation for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.
Today we commemorate World Refugee Day which marks the historic adoption of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status Of Refugees. This global treaty recognized in international law the moral duty of nations towards those who face cruel persecution in their countries as well as individuals who find themselves driven from their homes due to war, famine, or natural disasters. This treaty represented a giant step along humanity's road to building a more just and decent world for all people. And yet the principles underlying this treaty are ancient, venerable, and live in the hearts of people of goodwill in every nation and culture.
The ethical and religious call to welcome the stranger, give help to the widow and the fatherless, and to be our brother's keeper, truly speaks to the "better angels of our nature" and in 2018 it calls to us more insistently than ever. The United Nations estimates that 68.5 million people are currently displaced from their homes due to persecution, war, poverty, and other causes. This staggering figure represents the largest global refugee population since the 2nd World War. How individual nations meet this challenge will be a test to not only our resilience and generosity, but in the deepest sense, our national character.
On this World Refugee Day, the Lantos Foundation calls upon governments and citizens to reject the siren call of ultra-nationalism and xenophobia. We urge nations to remember the lessons of history; that we can not and must not avert our eyes from the terrible crises afflicting our fellow human beings. We must remember that if we ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters, their tragedies will, in time, find their way to our doorsteps. For reasons of both compassion and self-interest we must engage our hearts, minds, and strength to alleviate the refugee crisis across the globe. We should also remember that grateful and talented refugees have immeasurably strengthened the lands that have welcomed them. The late Congressman Tom Lantos, a most eloquent and passionate advocate for human rights, was one such immigrant to America and his gratitude and contributions to his adopted country were both larger than life. In the spirit of Congressman Lantos, we commemorate World Refugee Day and proclaim the shared humanity of all people and our solemn duty to stand with those who have been driven from their homes.
The Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), sends the terrible signal that America is abdicating its global leadership on human rights at a time when we can ill afford to do so. Our nation's leadership on human rights is already being called into question as President Trump has expressed admiration for the brutal dictator of North Korea and a new zero tolerance policy at the southern border has led to the intolerable separation of young children from their parents.
The Lantos Foundation agrees with Ambassador Haley that the Council has shown an unconscionable and chronic bias against Israel and too often its actions have, in her words, made "a mockery of human rights." Nonetheless, we believe that we can accomplish more to advance the noble cause of human rights by keeping our place at the table and not simply walking away from it. Only by remaining engaged can the United States use its influence to push back against the abuses of the UNHRC and defend vital human rights in countries ranging from Iran and North Korea to Myanmar and Syria.
In 2006, Congressman Tom Lantos called on the Bush Administration to refrain from boycotting the newly established Human Rights Council, saying the decision to do so, would be a "self-inflicted wound." At the time, he wrote that American diplomats should leverage the tools of the Council to "dismantle the myth of moral equivalency among states that has long polluted the UN human rights efforts." We think Congressman Lantos had it right and are following his legacy in urging the Trump administration to reconsider his decision to withdraw the United States from the UNHRC.
As the world waits breathlessly on the outcome of the historic Trump/Kim Summit, it is vital that we not forget the horrific state of human rights in the Hermit Kingdom. The United Nations 2014 report on North Korea made it clear that "gross and systemic" violations of rights are occurring in North Korea at a level unmatched by any other regime in the world. The depth and depravity of abuse within North Korea is, as the UN said, without "parallel in the contemporary world".
The Lantos Foundation sincerely hopes for a successful summit and, like all groups of goodwill, we recognize the immense benefit to humanity that would result from the successful de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We fervently hope this can be achieved. At the same time, we urge President Trump and Secretary Pompeo not to sideline the urgent human rights crises that exist in that nation. As a first step they should press vigorously for North Korea to close the notorious labor and prison gulags where over 100,000 prisoners are held in appalling conditions. Often entire families, including small children are imprisoned for the alleged "crimes" of a single family member. Over the past two decades it is estimated that 400,000 people have died in these camps from starvation, disease, torture and execution.
We believe that lasting peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula can only be achieved if the United States employs its "maximum pressure" strategy on every front, including human rights. A peace achieved by turning a blind eye to the abhorrent human rights practices of the North Korean regime will prove to be an illusory and false peace. For the sake of our own national security and our moral integrity we must insist that North Korea begin a process of de-brutalization, hand in hand with its promised de-nuclearization.