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Remembering Prisoners of Conscience on Human Rights Day

By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom  •  December 9, 2014

Washington, D.C. – To commemorate International Human Rights Day tomorrow, December 10, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) highlights the plight of prisoners of conscience around the world, particularly those imprisoned due to their faith or belief.

On International Human Rights Day in 2012, USCIRF, along with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) and Amnesty International, launched the Defending Freedoms Project (DFP).  Through this project, Members of Congress advocate on behalf of prisoners of conscience from around the world.

“Through their actions, Members of Congress stand in solidarity with these imprisoned individuals, letting them and their families know that they are neither alone nor forgotten,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett.  “By shattering the silence, Congressional attention seeks to, and has helped, improve the conditions under which prisoners are held and, in some cases, secured their freedom.

“The Defending Freedoms Project is about people who have been detained for who they are, what they believe, and how they have chosen to express their convictions. We must shine a light on them and the governments of the countries that have imprisoned them, not just on International Human Rights day, but every day.  We must continue our advocacy until these countries have implemented needed reforms that reflect internationally approved standards that many have agreed to in writing but violate in practice,” said Lantos Swett.

Defending Freedoms Project prisoners include Tun Aung (Burma), Ilham Tohti (China), Saeed Abedini, Ayatollah Mohammad Boroujerdi, and the Baha’i Seven  (Iran), Asia Bibi (Pakistan), Raif Badawi (Saudi Arabia), Gaybullo Jalilov (Uzbekistan) and Father Ly (Vietnam).  Other prisoners come from countries including: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

USCIRF applauds Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), the co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, for their leadership of this project and their support for human rights and religious freedom.  “The Commission especially wants to thank Representative Wolf who is retiring from Congress this year for his indefatigable and long-standing efforts in support of the oppressed.  He is an example for us all, and we will miss him,” said Lantos Swett.

For more information about the Defending Freedoms Project, please click here.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-9812.

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