WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), co-chairs of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, today introduced a resolution to establish a Senate Human Rights Commission, modeled after the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the resolution would create a bipartisan commission to examine human rights violations through regular briefings and events and promote human rights initiatives in the Senate. Joining Senators Coons and Tillis in introducing the resolution were Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.).

In December 2020, over 50 leading human rights organizations sent a letter to Senate leadership in support of the establishment of a Senate Human Rights Commission.

“I’m proud of the work that Senator Tillis and I achieve through the Senate Human Rights Caucus, and we are eager to do more to defend human rights and stand up for those who are denied their basic freedoms,” said Senator Coons. “A bipartisan Senate Human Rights Commission would provide more resources to advocate for those who suffer from violence, oppression, and wrongful imprisonment, and shine a light on abuses around the world. I’m hopeful we can advance this legislation to uphold our responsibility to fight for the universal protection of human rights.”

“From the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal imprisonment of Muslim minorities to the Russian government’s crackdown on political dissidents, we are tragically seeing a resurgence of authoritarian regimes denying people basic freedoms,” said Senator Tillis.“Now more than ever, it is vital the United States prioritize human rights and reveal violations occurring across the globe. I’m honored to join my colleagues to establish the Senate Human Rights Commission to keep focused on these pressing issues.”  

“I am proud to support the bipartisan resolution to establish the Senate Human Rights Commission. This will raise awareness of international human rights violations and promote human rights initiatives in the Senate,” said Senator Durbin. “We must pass this bill and champion the Universal Declaration of Human Rights both at home and abroad.”

“The United States must continue to take a leadership role in advancing human rights around the globe,” said Senator Collins. “By establishing a Commission in the Senate whose sole focus would be to promote human rights worldwide, our bipartisan resolution would help to raise awareness about these issues, spread American ideals abroad, and crack down on violators.”

“The United States has an interest in and duty to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the globe and the Senate should be at the forefront of that effort. This critical legislation will create a Senate Human Rights Commission to shine a bright light on international abuses and help strengthen partnerships with those around the globe who are fighting back against oppression,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“In America, we believe every person has worth and dignity,” said Senator Lankford. “This belief has allowed us to become the world’s greatest defender of basic, fundamental human rights, including the right to life and the right to freely live your faith. It is past time for the Senate to formally establish the Senate Human Rights Commission to collaboratively promote the rights and dignities of every individual around the world.” 

“Amnesty International USA welcomes this bipartisan resolution to establish the Senate Human Rights Commission, and urges the Senate to swiftly pass the resolution. The U.S. Senate has a major role to play in highlighting and curtailing human rights violations around the world, and ensure universal human rights are central to US foreign policy. From the right to protest in Egypt and Chile, to violations against international religious freedom in Myanmar and China, or the migrant/refugee crisis gripping the America’s and Sub Saharan Africa, there is no shortage of human rights issues that need attention from the U.S. Government, and we believe this commission will help us find some of the answers to these pressing global challenges,” said Joanne Lin, National Advocacy and Government Affairs Director of Amnesty International USA.

“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is grateful that the United States Senate is prioritizing international human rights through the proposed creation of the Senate Human Rights Commission. The Senate Commission would convene experts on various human rights situations taking place around the world and discuss solutions to very difficult problems, and it would serve as an important reminder that the U.S. is committed to individual universal freedoms as a vital part of its foreign policy and engagement with the world. We look forward to the establishment of the Senate Commission and to seeing its contribution to international religious freedom as it addresses the ongoing persecution of faith communities around the world,” said Gayle Manchin, Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

"In Defense of Christians strongly commends Senators Coons and Tillis for their leadership in converting the Senate Human Rights Caucus into a funded commission. The work they have done with the caucus has offered much-needed support to Christians such as Andrew Brunson and Ramy Kamel, who have been persecuted for their faith in the Middle East. We strongly encourage the Senate to support this resolution so this commission can expand this vital work to promote human rights across the globe,” said Toufic Baaklini, President of In Defense of Christians. 

“The creation of such a commission would provide an important forum for senators to stay abreast of critical human rights issues worldwide, at a time when too many governments have been exploiting the pandemic to restrict the rights and liberties of their citizens, and be a seminal step towards re-enforcing human rights as a cornerstone of American foreign policy,” said Thomas O. Melia, Washington Director of PEN America. “As the state of free expression and other fundamental rights are under assault world-wide, Congress must devote itself to a strong defense of the civil liberties certain governments seek to undermine."

“The need for Congressional leadership to preserve and protect fundamental human rights around the world through U.S. foreign policy has never been more critical. This new commission would complement the work of Congressional committees and strengthen collaboration between government and non-governmental bodies. A Senate Human Rights Commission would increase the volume and effectiveness of bipartisan work focused on human rights abuses across the world,” said Dr. Randel Everett, President of 21Wilberforce.

The full text of the resolution is available here.

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