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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Defending Freedoms Hearing - Highlighting the Plight of Prisoners of Conscience around the World

Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 10:00am


In December 2012 the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), in conjunction with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), launched the Defending Freedoms Project (DFP) with the aim of supporting human rights and religious freedom throughout the world with a particular focus on prisoners of conscience.

At the height of the Cold War it was not uncommon for prominent political prisoners to be household names. Robust advocacy campaigns took root in the West—perhaps best represented by the American Jewish community’s efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry. While political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are still very much a reality today, too often their stories are not known, their cases are rarely highlighted in high-level diplomatic talks, and, ultimately, little progress is made in pursuit of their release and eventual freedom.

The Lantos Commission’s first hearing of 2014 will address the plight of prisoners of conscience, who are currently unjustly detained by repressive governments around the world. By highlighting several such cases, the hearing will explore strategies for securing the release of prisoners of conscience, the need to shine a bright light on some lesser known cases, the historical precedent for effective advocacy campaigns and the importance of human rights as a central factor in U.S. foreign policy.

The hearing will feature several witnesses including Mr. Natan Sharansky, the noted human rights activist who spent nine years in the Soviet Gulag for his political activities and later authored The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.

For any questions, please contact the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission at 202-225-3599 or

Hosted by:

James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
Frank R. Wolf, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC


Panel I

  • Dr. Robert P. George, Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
    Written testimony

Panel II

  • Ms. Geng He, Wife of Imprisoned Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, Accompanied by Mr. Jared Genser, Founder, Freedom Now and Pro Bono Counsel for Gao Zhisheng
    Written testimony
  • Mr. Josh Colangelo-Bryan, Pro Bono Attorney on behalf of Imprisoned Bahraini Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab
    Written testimony
  • Mrs. Tran Thi Ngoc Minh, Mother of Imprisoned Vietnamese Labor Activist Do Thi Minh Hanh
    Written testimony
  • Mr. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Introduced by Ms. Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice-Chair, USCIRF and President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
  • Mr. Gal Beckerman, author, When They Come for Us We'll be Gone; The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry




113th Congress