This Thursday, former senator Chuck Hagel will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee to seek confirmation as secretary of defense. While he will not have primary responsibility for U.S. foreign relations in that post, he will have substantial influence over U.S. policy toward regimes that are hostile to both American interests and democracy. Senator Hagel’s record on these issues raises critical questions that should be addressed during the hearing, which are included in the following blog post.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights advocates from Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand received support from Freedom House, as they participated in civil society initiatives organized in light of ASEAN & East Asia Summits, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from November 18 to November 20. They joined a number of LGBT rights advocates from the region in working to ensure that the rights of LGBT persons are part of the ongoing regional human rights dialogue, and are fully guaranteed in the now-adopted ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. Freedom House also co-hosted a symposium in Washington D.C. on November 28, which provided in-depth insights on ASEAN's Human Rights Declaration.
The world was outraged when a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan was shot in the head last week simply for being an ardent advocate for the right of girls to an education. Unfortunately, Malala's case is not an isolated one. In most parts of the world today, individuals and organizations working to advance social, political, and environmental justice face imminent danger as a result of their work. In the past two months alone, a 70-year-old activist in Cambodia was sentenced to 20 years in prison because he challenged the government's policy of confiscating local land for powerful corporate interests; in southern India, police used live ammunition on villagers protesting against a proposed nuclear power plant; a human rights lawyer opposing the creation of special economic development zones was shot dead in Honduras; and in the United Arab Emirates, an outspoken critic of inhumane treatment of political prisoners was assaulted in the street twice and faced government surveillance.
Update: Freedom House strongly condemns the Cambodian Court of Appeals’ decision to deny bail to independent radio station owner Mam Sonando while he awaits appeal. The 71-year-old radio station owner was convicted of sedition in October 2012 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, despite a clear lack of evidence. The charges against Sonando are unfounded and politically motivated, and stem from criticism of the Cambodian government that aired on his radio station in June 2012. Freedom House calls for his immediate release.