Archive for December, 2020

Free Nicholas Opiyo

On Tuesday, Ugandan officials unjustly arrested celebrated human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo. In violation of Ugandan law as well as both international and African human rights law, the LGBTI+ rights and civil liberties advocate is now being dangerously and unjustifiably detained along with several other human rights lawyers including a member of the Ugandan opposition party.

On Wednesday, the US Embassy took action, issuing a joint statement voicing concern and demanding the immediate release of the four detainees. Voicing concern for the four lawyers and support for due process, the statement was the result of collaboration between members of the Partners for Democracy and Global Governance Group: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK, USA, and the EU. 

We’re heartened by their swift action and specifically the US Embassy’s coordination with other embassies. In collaborating with the PDG, the US has taken a necessary stance to protect human rights advocates. The PDG’s statement amplified a chorus of human rights defenders — from the board of Opiyo’s nonprofit Chapter Four Uganda and Ugandan Law Society to the International Centre for Transnational Justice and Human Rights Watch — and affirmed our coalition’s efforts on behalf of all marginalized people. Notably, the statement explicitly names a human rights lawyer best known for defending the LGBTI community, a promising sign at a time when our rights are under attack globally. 

“Nicholas Opiyo is a fearless defender of human rights. His bold, unapologetic conviction and tireless work towards upholding and defending the constitutionally guaranteed rights for all is what the country needs. We must fight against any efforts to crucify him on the altar of evolving political circumstances because wherever human beings exist – so will inalienable human rights.”

Angelo Izama, Board Member of Chapter Four Uganda where Nicholas Opiyo serves as Executive Director

Rejecting Refugees on Human Rights Day

December 10, 2020—Today is International Human Rights Day, marking the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the birth of the modern human rights movement at the United Nations.  To our national shame, the Trump Administration today also released new asylum regulations that gut asylum protections in the United States, tragically turning our country’s back on those fleeing persecution and seeking to breathe free on our shores.    

In the aftermath of the Holocaust and with the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave practical form to the world’s collective cry of “never again.” More than seventy years later, the refrain from the Trump Administration is an isolationist rant. 

President Trump went through the motions yesterday, officially proclaiming today as International Human Rights Day, but he spent most of the week tweeting a torrent of lies about his election defeat, desperately trying to convince courts and legislatures to invalidate legal ballots and the will of the American people.  President-elect Biden, in contrast, pledged to “stand with human rights defenders here in the United States and the world over as we put universal rights and strengthening democracy at the center of our efforts to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”  And he reminded us that we all have rights, “no matter how we look, how we pray, or whom we love.” 

Today’s deadly asylum regulations are really an attempt to codify the cruel legacy of the Trump Administration: refugee families ripped apart, children thrown in cages, and vulnerable people turned back at the border.  President-elect Biden has pledged to overturn that legacy and rebuild our country’s refugee and asylum system.  That will require the President-elect’s personal commitment, the dedication of officials across the government, and, most importantly, the empathy of ordinary Americans.     

All of us living in the United States—Democrats and Republicans alike—have  a responsibility to undo the misery caused by this outgoing Administration. On this International Human Rights Day, let’s redouble our efforts to make our country a haven for those fleeing persecution.  

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