Washington—Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Representative Albio Sires, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; and Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, today called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to maintain robust funding for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In a letter to the Secretary, the members expressed their concern about the potential consequences of defunding the Commission. The letter is a response to reports that the Trump Administration is considering ignoring congressional intent and cutting U.S. funding for the Commission.
“Cutting or eliminating funding for the Commission at this crucial moment would derail its crucial human rights monitoring processes in countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela,” wrote the lawmakers. “The United States cannot take a back seat when it comes to human rights violations in our own neighborhood.”
Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
We write to urge you to respect congressional intent and maintain strong U.S. funding for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as it carries out its mission to defend democracy, human rights and the rule of law throughout the Western Hemisphere. With human rights crises in Nicaragua and Venezuela, anti-corruption setbacks in Guatemala and additional challenges throughout the Americas, the United States must be able to continue to call on the Commission to hold bad actors accountable and promote our core values.
Cutting or eliminating funding for the Commission at this crucial moment would derail its crucial human rights monitoring processes in countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela. Following the violence that broke out in Nicaragua last April, the Commission and the Organization of American States moved quickly to establish the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its Spanish acronym) for Nicaragua. In just six months, the GIEI was able to issue a detailed report and establish a highly sophisticated website documenting the alarming levels of violence that took place from April 18th through May 30th. Thanks to their crucial work, we can put names to the faces of the victims and hold Daniel Ortega accountable.
In Venezuela, the Commission played a critical role in holding the regime accountable by publishing a comprehensive report last year on human rights violations committed by Nicolás Maduro and his security forces. This report is considered the gold standard in examining the human rights crisis in Venezuela.
There are countless other examples that demonstrate just how vital the Commission is in supporting core U.S. values. We are grateful that in 2018 alone, the Commission issued several key statements on a wide array of human rights concerns in the Northern Triangle countries.
Perhaps most importantly, the Commission plays a crucial role in issuing “precautionary measures” requesting that governments in the region take steps to protect individuals whose security is in danger. In 2018, 120 requests for precautionary measures were granted. The two precautionary measures issued this year have been made to protect Juan Guaidó of Venezuela and a political prisoner in Nicaragua.
The United States cannot take a back seat when it comes to human rights violations in our own neighborhood. We therefore urge you to continue to respect congressional intent and provide the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with the funding it needs.
Thanks for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your response.
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