In December 2012, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. House of Representatives, in conjunction with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA, launched the Defending Freedoms Project (DFP) to support prisoners of conscience around the world.
The 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 the prisoner, 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 House, Freedom Now, Scholars At Risk, PEN America, and the Senate Human Rights Caucus.
USCIRF nominates individuals to the Project who are imprisoned specifically for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief and pairs them with a Member of Congress to advocate on their behalf. Any Member of Congress who chooses to support the case of a prisoner is provided with a detailed toolkit to help facilitate 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.
Below are the USCIRF nominated prisoners of conscience in the DFP and the Members of Congress who advocate on their behalf.
Click on the following links to read op-eds co-authored by Members of Congress advocating for prisoners of conscience in the DFP and USCIRF Commissioners:
Click on the following links to watch hearings and events relevant to the DFP: