Global Voices of Freedom Act would strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to protect human rights defenders.

March 24, 2023, Washington, D.C.–Yesterday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the Global Voices of Freedom Act of 2023. The bill is intended to protect human rights defenders by strengthening the U.S. government’s capacity to respond to attacks against them and anticipate the rise of authoritarian regimes likely to undermine democracy and human rights. 

Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) co-sponsored the bill.

EarthRights International Senior Policy Advisor Kirk Herbertson released the following statement: 

“We applaud Sen. Menendez for introducing the Global Voices of Freedom Act of 2023. It is well past time the United States government adopts a comprehensive, cross-agency approach to supporting human rights defenders, who risk their safety and security to protect their communities. The United States government needs to think about human rights defenders when it makes decisions on economic diplomacy, security assistance, climate change, and other top foreign policy priorities. 

“Attacks on human rights defenders, often linked to extractive industries such as logging and mining, have skyrocketed in recent years. Each year, thousands face assassinations, arbitrary detention, torture, and threats to their families and friends, all for speaking out on challenges that affect their lives and livelihoods. Each attack can have a broader, chilling effect, leading to self-censorship and stifling free speech across an entire community. Environmental defenders and Indigenous rights advocates, in particular, experience some of the highest levels of violence. 

“U.S. embassies regularly provide support to businesses, security forces, and foreign government leaders implicated in some of these attacks. Companies that profit from violence against human rights defenders sell their products in markets that reach U.S. consumers. We in the U.S. are therefore obligated to do more to protect defenders. While the United States government has long used diplomatic pressure to respond to attacks and has demanded justice after they occur, these efforts have largely been ad-hoc. As a result, the U.S. government is often unprepared to respond effectively to attacks or to track patterns of attacks as they emerge.

“With this vital new legislation, the United States can realize its vision for itself as a global champion of human rights and democracy and as a leader in the struggle against rising authoritarianism. We urge Congress to protect human rights defenders worldwide by passing the Global Voices of Freedom Act.” 

Kate Fried, EarthRights International
(202) 257.0057