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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

About the Defending Freedoms Project

In December 2012 the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Amnesty International USA, launched the Defending Freedoms Project (DFP) to support prisoners of conscience around the world. DFP aims to increase attention to human rights abuses by encouraging Members of Congress to advocate on behalf of prisoners of conscience wherever they may be found. The project allows Members to stand in solidarity with prisoners of conscience, let them know they have not been forgotten, and encourage accountability for unjust treatment. In recent years the DFP coalition has expanded to include Reporters without Borders (RSF), Freedom HouseFreedom Now, Scholars At Risk, PEN America and the Senate Human Rights Caucus. 

Any Member of Congress who chooses to support the case of a prisoner is provided with a detailed toolkit to help facilitate in his/her advocacy efforts.  By taking on a prisoner’s case, the Member could contribute to the release or reduction of a prison sentence or the improvement of prison conditions, while also raising awareness about the unjust laws or policies that led to imprisonment.

The project is flexible, allowing Members to determine and pursue different advocacy activities.  Possible activities to undertake include:

  • Write to the prisoner and his/her family.
  • Give one-minute speeches on the floor.
  • Write an op-ed for the local paper, tweet and blog about the prisoner, or appear on radio and television to feature the prisoner’s case.
  • Sponsor Hill briefings highlighting the prisoner and relevant issues in the country where the prisoner is being detained.
  • Hold a town meeting about the prisoner and related issues.
  • Sponsor legislation and collaborate with relevant committees to hold hearings.
  • Press the Department of State and the White House to prioritize the prisoner’s case.
  • Urge the government of the country to release the prisoner, reduce the sentence, or provide more humane treatment.
  • Ensure that delegations traveling to the country in which the prisoner is detained raise concerns about prisoner and talk about needed reforms.