Human Rights and Civil Rights

“As Americans, we must protect human rights – the right to live freely with dignity and respect and without the threat of violence or repression – both at home and abroad.”

SUMMARY OF STANCE

We must continue to stand in solidarity with people around the world who still fight for freedom, justice, and human dignity. Our children must be reminded of the struggles and the cost of seeking and maintaining true freedom.

RELATED ACTIONS AND LEGISLATION

Introducing legislation is just one action that a member of Congress can take to address a concern or issue that impacts constituents. House Members can also introduce Congressional resolutions calling on the House (or even the full Congress) as a body to recognize or support a certain event or position on an issue. Members can write letters to government leaders requesting they take certain action, hold hearings with expert panels to address issues, work with colleagues at the committee level on specific issues, or even make direct in-person appeals to other Members or officials in the government. Here are a few examples of how I have taken action on this issue.

Global Human Rights 

Human rights violations that are committed around the world must not go unnoticed and unreported. I believe that the United States must be a leader in the promotion of global human rights, especially with our trade partners and international allies. Increased trade and relations with countries around the world should go hand in hand with the advancement of human rights. As a former member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for two Congresses and a member of Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, I am proud to advocate for strong human rights protections in every avenue of America’s foreign relations.

I have introduced resolutions each year honoring the anniversary of Human Rights Day and supporting the ideals of universal human rights, reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and encouraging all nations to continue working towards freedom, peace, and security, which can be achieved only through democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.

Congress, and the world, must recognize that those who are denied basic human rights, such as the freedoms of speech and religious or political expression, are therefore denied an opportunity to be treated with respect and dignity.

Civil Rights For All Americans 

Starting in the 1950s, a time when large parts of the nation remained racially segregated, the Civil Rights movement brought together millions of Americans in calling for fundamental social and economic justice for all Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King and the other leaders of the Civil Rights movement helped to awaken the conscience of the country. Their activism, and motivation of everyday Americans across the nation, resulted in Congress enacting the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the most sweeping civil rights bill since Reconstruction.

We must strive for an America that has achieved Dr. King’s vision of an America where "we the people" have not only secured the blessings of liberty, but have extended them to all people. Over the last 50 years, key progress has been made in moving toward the vision of America that Dr. King laid out in his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. And yet more progress needs to be made. 

I was proud to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March in Alabama in 2015 with many of our nation’s leaders, including President Obama and Rep. John Lewis, who was a leader at the same march 50 years earlier. This seminal march led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act. President Obama's address at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma was a strong reaffirmation of what we as a nation have accomplished over the past 50 years and yet, how far we still have to go.  That is why is it is imperative that Congress act to restore the Voting Rights Act so that our nation continues to protect voters from discrimination on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.  I believe every person's right to vote is absolutely fundamental to our democracy and must be protected. 

Human Rights in Vietnam

America must show global leadership that reflects the ideals we cherish—freedom, democracy, human rights, and respect for people as individuals. The annual commemoration of the Fall of Saigon reminds us that there is still much work to be done to ensure that the basic rights we enjoy here in America are upheld and respected in Vietnam. Our commitment cannot waiver until the ongoing human rights violations in Vietnam and around the world end.

As a Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, I am committed to making sure the United States does more to call for freedom, justice, and basic human rights in Vietnam. I cosponsored H.R. 2140, the “Vietnam Human Rights Act” to withhold any increases in United States non-humanitarian assistance to the government of Vietnam until it has made substantial progress toward respecting political, media, and religious freedoms; minority rights; access to U.S. refugee programs for Vietnamese nationals; and actions to end trafficking in persons; and the release of political prisoners. 

When I visited Vietnam in 2015 as part of a Congressional delegation, I made clear to the Vietnamese government that they must respect and safeguard the basic human rights of all Vietnamese.  If Vietnam wishes to build stronger economic and diplomatic ties with the United States, it cannot continue to suppress freedom of religion and the press, ban independent labor unions, and jail prisoners of conscience.

During my time in Congress, I have adopted three prisoners of conscience through my work on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project. I am proud to say that my first adopted prisoner of conscience, activist Nguyen Tien Trung, was freed from prison due in part to my advocacy, but still remains under house arrest in Vietnam. My other adoptees, Luther Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and human rights activist Nguyen Van Dai still remain imprisoned.

Until the Vietnamese government has regained trust from its people and the rest of the world, I will remain vigilant in shining a light on its consistent human rights violations.

Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia

I have written numerous letters to officials in Cambodia as well the U.S. government regarding the upcoming elections in Cambodia.

The 2018 elections in Cambodia will be the first national elections held in the Asian nation since the disputed 2013 national election that resulted in the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen narrowly maintaining its hold on power in the face of widespread reports of irregularities.

Following the 2013 elections, the leaders of the main opposition party, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, have faced politically-motivated criminal investigations and charges brought by the Hun Sen government. Sam Rainsy, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was forced to leave Cambodia and is forbidden from returning, while CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha was kept under virtual house arrest for months within the party’s headquarters.

The recent passage by the Hun Sen government of a new law affecting political parties resulted in the ouster of Sam Rainsy as leader of the CNRP. This law and other legal actions taken by the ruling party also threatens the very existence of Kem Sokha's leadership of the CNRP and places the future of the party at the whims of the Hun Sen government.

I also authored H.Res 728, a resolution which established the House of Representatives’ official support for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cambodia. The resolution reiterated many of the same instances of Cambodian government harassment against the CNRP, as well as detailing the irregularities in the 2013 national elections. 

In order for a political environment to exist where free and fair election can be recognized by the international community, the Cambodian government must immediately drop all politically-motivated charges against opposition leaders, cease harassment of the CNRP, and allow independent election observers at all polling places


CAUCUSES OR MEMBERSHIPS RELATED TO ISSUE

Congressional Caucus on Vietnam
I am proud to serve as the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam is dedicated to fighting for civil, political, and religious freedom for the citizens of Vietnam.

Congressional Cambodia Caucus
I serve as the Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Cambodia Caucus which brings together Members of Congress interested in both Cambodia’s difficult political situation and the broader U.S. relationship with the Southeast Asian nation.

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
The mission of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.

Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism
A bipartisan organization of House Members that provides information on legislative issues related to anti-Semitism and facilitates contacts with international governing bodies, U.S. and foreign government officials, and civil society groups involved in the fight against anti-Semitism.

Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus
This caucus as an informational and advocacy entity in the House for besieged religious minorities who are central to a pluralistic, multi-cultural Middle East.

For more information concerning my work and views on human and civil rights, please contact me.

Related Files

More on Human Rights and Civil Rights

February 26, 2020 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today issued the following statement on the passing of the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. The Patriarch was 93 and passed away at the Tu Hieu Temple in Saigon, where he has been residing:

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.  This is a tremendous loss for the people of Vietnam and for people everywhere who believe in human rights and religious freedom.

February 19, 2020 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today issued the following statement regarding the European Union decision to revoke Cambodia’s favored trading status with the EU. The step is being taken by the EU over human rights and democracy abuses by the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

October 22, 2019 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today issued the following statement on the case of Ha Van Thanh, a Vietnamese activist who, under threat of imprisonment by the communist Vietnamese government, fled Vietnam and sought political asylum in the U.S. His plea for asylum was rejected by U.S. authorities and he was deported back to Vietnam yesterday:

September 26, 2019 Press Release
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) joined with nine of his House colleagues today to mark the fifth anniversary of the forced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico by sending a letter to the Mexican government offering support for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s recent efforts to bring truth and justice to the families.
July 25, 2019 Press Release
Congressmen Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Mark Pocan (WI-02) today joined with 27 of their House colleagues to introduce a House Resolution honoring the 71th Anniversary of Human Rights Day and the 1948 ratification by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

July 16, 2019 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Congressman Steve Chabot (OH-01), co-chairs of the Congressional Cambodia Caucus, today applauded the bipartisan passage of legislation which will enact sanctions on Cambodian government officials responsible for undermining democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.

June 24, 2019 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, today issued the following statement regarding the sentencing in Vietnam of American citizen Michael Nguyen to 12 years in prison:

May 17, 2019 Press Release
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today issued the following statement on the passage in the House of the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation to ban discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in public accommodations, housing, employment, and other core areas of daily life:

"No American should be discriminated against, harassed, or denied service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. If we are to hold true to the idea that core American values include equality, equity, and diversity, then equal rights must apply to, and be protected for, all Americans.
April 29, 2019 Press Release

Congressmen Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Lou Correa (CA-46), and Harley Rouda (CA-48) each represent a portion of the Little Saigon community in Orange County, California—the largest Vietnamese American community outside of Vietnam. The Congressmen today issued the following statements regarding the commemoration of the 44th anniversary of Black April.

April 11, 2019 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) this week introduced House Resolution 309 recognizing the significance of, and commemorating the 44th anniversary of, the Fall of Saigon and the tragic collapse of the Republic of Vietnam.

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