Questions for Secretary Kerry

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Freedom House has compiled the following questions for Secretary of State John Kerry, who will appear before Congress this week to discuss the proposed foreign affairs budget for fiscal year 2015.

General

  • How does promotion of human rights and democracy fit into America’s overall foreign policy? How is this conveyed in the United States’ bilateral relationships?
  • Do you believe that the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy are in the United States’ national security interests? How do you weigh those issues when determining U.S. military and security relationships with foreign partners?
  • A number of studies by Freedom House have revealed an alarming increase in pressure on independent media around the world. Does the United States have a strategy to combat the decline in press freedom? Would you consider a campaign on behalf of press freedom, as has been done with women’s rights?
  • What is the United States’ strategy for supporting civil society and human rights defenders around the world?
  • Countries like Uganda, Nigeria, India, and Russia are implementing legislation targeting LGBTI people and activists. What is the United States doing to protect them, and what is the U.S. strategy for pushing back against such legislation and preventing additional countries from adopting similar laws?

Eurasia

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not only an attack on that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity but an assault on freedom throughout the region. How can the United States push back against Russian efforts to undermine democracy?
  • What is the administration’s strategy for ensuring that Ukraine and other Eastern European states take steps toward democratic governance, rather than fall under authoritarian rule or domination by the antidemocratic regime in Russia?
  • Can you describe how the visa ban list required by the Sergei Magnitsky Act has been implemented? Do you anticipate adding names to this list this year? What criteria will you use to determine whether new names should be added?
  • Among other measures to deter Russian aggression, would the United States advocate a movement to strip Russia of membership in the G8 as well as its role as host country of the 2018 World Cup if Vladimir Putin continues his policies of belligerence toward Ukraine?

Middle East

  • What steps have been taken to persuade the Egyptian government to pardon or annul the convictions of the Egyptians, Americans, and others who were sentenced in the trials against NGO activists last June?
  • Do you believe that Egypt can achieve democracy or even stability if it continues to jail journalists and activists and treat the Muslim Brotherhood as an illegal, terrorist entity?
  • Given the current impasse in peace negotiations, how does the administration intend to bring about an end to the violence in Syria and enable a transition to an interim government?
  • The United States has historically had close ties with the monarchies of the Gulf region. In recent years, human rights conditions have declined in a number of these societies, most notably in Bahrain. What is the American strategy for persuading the leaders of the Gulf states that long-term stability requires upholding human rights and creating space for peaceful dissent?

Latin America

  • How does the United States plan to respond in the event of an intensification of the crisis in Venezuela? What would be your reaction if the Maduro government were to escalate its persecution of the opposition?
  • The Mexican government has prioritized the development of human rights protections and democratic institutions within the country. What is the United States doing to assist these efforts?
  • Freedom House found in its Freedom in the World report that there were modest openings in Cuba in 2013 due to the easing of travel restrictions and some new opportunities for private discussion and self-employment, though it remains one of the most repressive regimes in the world. What is the United States doing to promote human rights and democratic progress in Cuba?

Asia

  • Chinese authorities have threatened and withheld visas from foreign journalists who investigate the Communist Party elite. What has the United States done to ensure that American journalists have unfettered access to this crucially important country?
  • Many observers have noted a crackdown on dissent, particularly online, under the current Chinese leadership.  Beyond raising such issues in meetings with Chinese officials, what role can the United States play in promoting positive change in China?
  • What is the United States doing to promote a peaceful and democratic resolution to the current political crisis in Thailand?

Africa

  • In August, President Obama will host 47 African heads of state in Washington for the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The White House said it would use this summit to “highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.” How does the U.S. government plan to promote democratic development during the gathering, and will you commit to including the issues of democracy and human rights as a stand-alone agenda item?
  • Congress is planning to review and possibly renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) this summer. Currently, AGOA has a very low threshold for eligibility in terms of a country’s democracy and human rights record. Would the U.S government be prepared to strengthen the criteria for democracy and human rights and even introduce “hard hurdles” for these issues, as with the criteria for Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts?

Analyses and recommendations offered by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Freedom House.

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