The Honorable Speaker Boehner
United States House
Washington, D.C. 20515
September 7, 2012
Dear Mr. Speaker,
As you prepare for the House to take up a bill to extend Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Russia, we strongly urge you to support the Senate version of the legislation that includes a sanction against global individual human rights abusers.
The expanded Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, combined in the PNTR bill and originally introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin, is a broad human rights bill that would invoke a travel ban against serious violators of human rights, freeze any U.S. assets they may possess and publish their names. This legislation has significant bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and human rights groups around the world also unanimously endorse it.
In our view, the perpetrators for the arrest, imprisonment, torture and death of Mr. Magnitsky in Russia must be held accountable. More critically, we firmly believe this type of accountability should be expanded to other individual human rights abusers who cause unbearable sufferings of many victims in the rest of the world.
As you well know, the International Bill of Human Rights, which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, calls for protection and accountability of civil and political rights, not only to a country’s own citizens but also to everyone within their jurisdiction.
The remaining totalitarian governments such as the Chinese Communist regime have continue to perpetrate gross violations of international human rights law and their domestic laws against their own citizens. They often get away with this by hiding behind the shield of sovereign immunity. Their victims have no recourse to rectify these injustices despite laws to ensure their rights. Since the U.S. granted PNTR to China in 1999, we have seen a rapid deterioration in the Chinese Government’s human rights record. Recently the Chinese government launched its harshest crackdown on human rights activists in more than a decade for fear of a perceived revolution. It is remarkable that China, our major trading partner, is home to the only jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner in the world, Mr. Liu Xiaobo, who is imprisoned by China for peacefully advocating for human rights.
The legislation under consideration sends an unambiguous warning to gross human rights abusers that “you can run, but you can’t hide;” offering an assurance for those human rights victims that the United States will stand by them. Such moral support to those who suffer or risk their lives to fight for civil and political rights is extremely important in a post-Jackson-Vanik era because it will create a new paradigm that will shut off the United States as a haven for these criminals and will also deter them from committing more human rights crimes.
During the Arab spring, the European Union and the United States implemented similar sanctions against serious Libyan human rights violators, and achieved a very positive result. Such sanctions have also worked well in pressing the Burmese Junta government to release political prisoners and open up the country.
Importantly, the legislation won’t hurt trade relations between the U.S. and other countries, nor will it jeopardize American business’ access to global markets, since it targets serious individual human rights violators, not nation states.
We strongly urge you to side with the Senate on this issue. The United States can no longer pretend that the human rights abuses by totalitarian governments has no bearing in the U.S.. Support for legislation that sanctions serious individual human rights abusers globally will move U.S. lip service on human rights to reality.