International Human Rights
The United States, as a world power, must remain a global leader for human rights. The guiding principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, if accepted and enforced by all countries, promise a world community where each citizen is guaranteed fundamental freedoms and equality before the law. As a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the formal institution of the former Congressional Human Rights Caucus, I have been working to protect these fundamental rights, and I will continue to work with the Administration to safeguard these rights wherever they are threatened.
Stopping the Genocide in Darfur
I have long been concerned about the ongoing violence and humanitarian disaster in the Darfur region. The conflict has claimed as many as 450,000 lives, displaced 2.7 million people, and left up to 4 million dependent on outside aid. Rhode Island has been active on this tragic issue for many years, with Providence becoming the first US city to divest from companies tied to the Sudanese government in 2006. In 2007, Rhode Island passed Sudan divestment into law.
Since this crisis began in 2003, I have supported legislation to fund peacekeeping efforts in Sudan, encourage the work of the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping forces in the region, and call on the President to impose sanctions on the Sudanese government. I am hopeful that President Obama will continue America's role as an international leader in working to stop the genocide in Darfur, and I will continue to support the efforts of the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity that have taken place in Sudan.
Helping Human Rights Groups in Colombia
In spite of its democratic tradition, Colombia has suffered from internal conflict for over 40 years. This conflict has challenged the political structure, as well as endangered human rights across the country. While Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has reiterated his commitment to human rights, there continue to be troubling reports of threats to labor and community organizers across the countryand nearly 5 million Colombians still live as internal refugees. In 2008, the U.S. Department of State's Country Report on Human Rights Practices highlighted that despite laws protecting the freedoms of assembly and association, they were "limited in practice by threats and acts of violence committed by illegal armed groups." Recognizing the many difficult challenges President Santos faces in strengthening the rule of law, I have joined my colleagues in expressing our deep concern that these incidents are handled expeditiously by the Colombian government, and repeatedly called on Colombia to act on these serious allegations.
Ensuring the Rights of People with Disabilities
On December 5, 2006, I was pleased to co-chair a Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) just days prior to its adoption. The Treaty requires countries to take measures to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities. Since its adoption in December 2006, the CRPD has garnered 153 signatories and 118 ratifications world-wide. On July 24, 2009, I was honored to attend the signing of the Presidential Proclamation stating that the United States would become an official signatory to the Treaty. I am deeply disappointed that on December 4, 2012, the Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the CRPD in a 61-38 vote. I will continue to work with my Congressional colleagues to advocate for ratification by the Senate, so the United States remains a world leader in international human rights.