Press release

United States: Congress Should Adopt New Bills on Human Rights during Pandemic

As countries around the world take measures to address COVID-19 and its repercussions, it is vital to uphold human rights and democratic practices.

In response to the announcement of two bills intended to safeguard human rights during the global pandemic, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We applaud this effort by members of Congress to stand up for international human rights during the global pandemic,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “As countries around the world take measures to address COVID-19 and its repercussions, it is vital to uphold human rights and democratic practices. Now is not the time to abandon our international commitments and leadership on these critical issues, which will define how we emerge from the crisis. The new bills support important international programs and include essential reporting requirements on human rights abuses committed during the coronavirus outbreak. We fully support these pieces of legislation and hope they will soon become law.”

Background:

On Thursday, May 8, two bills that address human rights during the pandemic were announced by members of Congress. The Protecting Human Rights during Pandemic Act and the COVID-19 International Response and Recovery Act (CIRRA) both authorize funds for programs that support democratic institutions, civil society, and human rights defenders, and protect internet freedom, freedom of the press, and other internationally recognized human rights around the world. They also require the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to take steps to monitor international responses to the pandemic and counter attacks on human rights and democratic institutions.

The Protect Human Rights during Pandemic Act was announced by a bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Ann Wagner (MO-02), and Tom Malinowski (NJ-07). More detailed information on the legislation can be found here.

The COVID-19 International Response and Recovery Act (CIRRA) was announced by a group of Senate Democrats, including Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). More detailed information on the legislation can be found here.

The United States is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2020, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2019.