The State Department Needs Human Rights Leadership: Confirm Uzra Zeya Now

June 9, 2021 — The Council for Global Equality focuses on policies, not politics.  Our goal — that of advancing the human rights and community inclusion of LGBTQI people everywhere — is grounded in American principles and values, not in the partisan gamesmanship in which so many seem to revel.

But when gamesmanship intrudes on principle, we call it out.  And so we call on Senate Republicans to allow Uzra Zeya’s nomination as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights to advance in the Senate.

The role for which Ms.Zeya has been nominated is the top Administration job carrying duties uniquely tied to the advancement of human rights.  It has been vacant for over four years. 

Uzra Zeya is a talented, accomplished diplomat with three decades of stellar experience, much of it encompassing the substantive areas for which she has been nominated to serve.  Voted out of committee, her nomination has been pending before the Senate since April 21. 

We need her leadership now.

Around the world, democracy is under attack.  In Hong Kong, China has carved away Hong Kong’s autonomy at an alarming pace — and with it, freedoms that our country and others long have pledged to defend.  Military dictators have entrenched themselves from Myanmar to Mali, eroding the institutions of democracy.  Russia and Belarus have imprisoned political opponents, without accountability.  Uganda and Cameroon have embarked on another round of offensive arrests of people suspected of being LGBTQI.  And the arrest of 21 human rights defenders in Ghana is an affront to democratic freedoms and good governance in that country, long considered a leading democracy in the region.

All of these developments negatively impact not only human rights, but the environments in which American national security interests can best thrive.  Our Secretary of State, and indeed our country, need senior human rights counsel of the caliber for which Zeya is known.  This is hardly the time to have her voice, and the authorities attached to her position, sidelined.

If, as reported by the Foreign Service Journal, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has tied Zeya’s confirmation to a policy dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, shame on him.  Knee-capping our human rights policy voice out of unrelated policy disagreements is beneath his moral and constitutional responsibilities.

But if Senator McConnell can’t convince his party to allow this nomination to move forward, the shame truly is on him — and the damage to our country’s human rights position will be laid at his doorstep.

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