Freedom Now applauds U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL) for introducing House Resolution 750 entitled “Expressing support for the designation of a ‘Prisoners of Conscience Day’.”

The resolution, introduced yesterday, recognizes that thousands of people around the world are prisoners of conscience: persons imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their political, religious, or other conscientiously held beliefs, or for their identity, even though they have neither used nor advocated violence. It also acknowledges that governments imprison prisoners of conscience for a variety of reasons, including to restrict the flow of information, narrow the space for independent civil society, diminish the power of the people to express their views, and prevent challenges to their authority. The resolution calls on President Trump to issue a proclamation recognizing a “Prisoners of Conscience Day”, encourages the U.S. Government to undertake specific actions directed at countries that detain prisoners of conscience, and for members of Congress to raise individual prisoner of conscience cases in Congress, with the executive branch, with their constituents, to foreign governments and multilateral organizations, and during delegation trips abroad. The resolution is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

“We are grateful that Rep. Hultgren and his fellow co-sponsors recognize the journalists, lawyers, civil society leaders, bloggers, and human rights defenders unjustly imprisoned for exercising their fundamental human rights,” said Freedom Now DC Director Melina Milazzo. “This bipartisan resolution focuses attention on the need of the U.S. government to prioritize the freedom of prisoners of conscience as a foreign policy goal. We hope this initiative brings greater attention to the harsh conditions many prisoners of conscience face. We also encourage members of Congress to adopt prisoners of conscience through the Defending Freedoms Project. A number of prisoners listed by the Project remain without advocates, including Gaybullo Jalilov, a human rights defender imprisoned in Uzbekistan since 2009, and Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, a political dissident imprisoned in Turkmenistan since 2008.”

Freedom Now is a proud member of the Defending Freedoms Project coalition. The coalition was created in 2012 through the House of Representatives’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in collaboration with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Amnesty International/USA. Other coalition members include Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, and Scholars at Risk. Through the Defending Freedoms Project, members of Congress advocate on behalf of prisoners of conscience from around the world and shine a light on them and the governments of the countries that have imprisoned them. Since the project began, 32 members of Congress have adopted 42 prisoners of conscience, 23 of whom have been released, including Freedom Now clients Do Thi Minh Hanh and Doan Huy Chuong, labor activists wrongly imprisoned in Vietnam.