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.”


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.


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


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

June 15, 2018 Press Release

Congressmen Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), and Lou Correa (CA-46) today spoke with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Dan Kritenbrink to express their serious concerns about the arrest and detention by the Vietnamese government of U.S. citizen William Nguyen.

The 32-year-old Nguyen, a graduate student studying in Singapore, was arrested by Vietnamese government authorities while taking part in a peaceful protest on June 9 in Ho Chi Minh City against the Vietnamese government's economic and censorship policies.

June 8, 2018 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today issued the following statement regarding the release of Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Dai:

"I am very pleased to hear the news that the falsely imprisoned Nguyen Van Dai, a prisoner of conscience I have long advocated for, has been released and been granted asylum in Germany.

"I am glad to see that the Vietnamese government yielded to international pressure, including from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the Congressional Vietnam Caucus here in the U.S.

June 7, 2018 Press Release

Seeking to build on the United States' fight for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) equality to be a foreign policy priority both at home and abroad, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Senator Edward Markey (MA), have simultaneously introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2018 in the House and Senate.

May 17, 2018 Press Release
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today issued the following statement regarding the House Foreign Affairs Committee passage of the Cambodian Democracy Act—bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by the Congressman and aimed at sanctioning Cambodian officials responsible for undermining democracy in the Asian nation.

May 15, 2018 Press Release

Congressional Caucus on Vietnam Co-Chair Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with Congressman Lou Correa (CA-46) and other Members of the Caucus in urging the Vietnamese government to end its recent crackdown on activists and journalists in Vietnam. The letter, addressed to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, also calls on the government in Hanoi to release human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, and all prisoners of conscience currently in custody. 

April 27, 2018 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today introduced a bipartisan House Resolution recognizing the significance of the 43rd anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and the tragic collapse of the Republic of Vietnam. The Congressman also joins the remaining co-chairs of the Vietnam Caucus to lead a bipartisan bill by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) that would address human rights violations by imposing financial and travel sanctions on Vietnamese government officials and human rights abusers.

April 11, 2018 Press Release
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today issued the following statement on the sentencing of six Vietnamese activists to harsh prison terms by the Vietnamese government. Those sentenced include Congressman Lowenthal's adopted prisoner of conscience, human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was sentenced to 15 years:

March 27, 2018 Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with 10 of his House colleagues to call on the Ambassador of Mexico to the United States to verify that the Mexican government is moving forward in an investigation regarding the use of spyware technology against human rights defenders, journalists, and anti-corruption activists in Mexico.

December 14, 2017 Press Release

Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Cambodia, yesterday introduced H.Res. 661 to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Cambodia.