About AIUSA: Amnesty International USA – the U.S. section of the global movement of Amnesty International – is the nation’s leading grassroots human rights organization, counting over two million members and supporters in the United States. Through member engagement, research, and advocacy, we promote the universal protection of human rights at home and abroad.
About this survey: Human rights should be at the forefront of our domestic and foreign policy. We invite 2020 presidential candidates to explain how they would address some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.
Amnesty International USA will publish and disseminate all responses we receive on our website, www.amnestyusa.org.
All presidential candidates have been given the opportunity to respond to this questionnaire. Amnesty International USA is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse any specific candidate or campaign. We are a non-partisan, tax-exempt organization dedicated to upholding human rights for all people. For more information about candidates’ positions, please visit their individual campaign or party websites.
Please note that candidates are limited to a 250-word response for each question. Text beyond 250 words will be truncated in publication. Please submit your responses either online or via email to Meredith Cullen at [email protected]
Responses will be due by the end of the day on Monday, June 10, 2019.
Protecting People Forced to Flee
Asylum-seekers: As growing numbers of people have sought asylum, the U.S. government has responded by restricting access for those seeking asylum, including by turning back asylum-seekers at the U.S. southern border, indefinitely detaining them, and separating families and children.
- Refugees: Currently, there are 68.5 million people in the world displaced by violence, war, and conflict – the highest levels of displacement on record. Yet despite this level of need, governments around the globe have responded with restrictive measures, including the U.S. government, which in 2018 resettled the lowest number of refugees in the history of the U.S. refugee admissions program.
- Internally displaced people: Over 40 million people were forcibly displaced within their home countries at the end of 2017. Africa has been hardest hit by this phenomenon: a combination of conflict, violence, and natural disasters (including drought and floods) have spurred displacement in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, as well as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. In the Middle East, armed conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen has impelled growing levels of internal flight.
Preventing Gun Violence and Killings by Police
Gun violence: The U.S. has both the highest absolute and highest per capita rates of gun ownership in the world, and guns are easily accessible by those likely to misuse them. In 2017, gun violence killed an average of 109 people each day. Gun violence is the second leading cause of death among children, and firearm deaths disproportionately affect African American and Latino communities.
- Police use of force: Hundreds of people are killed by law enforcement in the U.S. Although no official government sources track this data, 998 people were reportedly killed by police in 2018 alone. These killings disproportionately impact people of color: 25% of those killed by police in 2018 were black Americans, who make up only 13% of the population. Lethal force should be a measure of last resort and used only where there is an imminent threat to life.
Protecting Religious Freedom and Ethnic Identity
Religious and ethnic persecution: Across the globe, individuals are being targeted on account of their religious beliefs and ethnic identities. In Asia, the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region of China have experienced state-sponsored campaigns of violence, harassment, and surveillance. In the Middle East, Christian populations face persecution in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, while other religious minorities, such as the Yezidis and Mandaeans of Iraq, the Bahais and Zoroastrians of Iran, and Shi’a Muslim populations in Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia are under attack by state and non-state actors.
Promoting Gender Equality
LGBTI rights: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people face violence, discrimination, and inequality. The U.S. government has banned transgender individuals from serving in the military and has refused to defend vital protections for transgender children in schools. Abroad, from Malaysia’s draconian laws permitting caning for same-sex acts to the Russian government’s complicity in the face of a homophobic crackdown in Chechnya to the life sentences under proposed Ugandan law for the “crime” of being gay, LGBTI individuals are under attack.
Sexual and reproductive rights: Recent years have seen a regression in U.S. commitment to sexual and reproductive rights. Over the past two years, the State Department has erased mention of sexual and reproductive rights from its annual human rights reports. Furthermore, the government not only reinstated the “global gag rule,” which withholds all assistance to organizations abroad who even mention abortion-related services, it has also created a U.S. version: the “domestic gag rule,” which bars clinics performing or referring women for abortions from getting any federal family planning funds.
Guaranteeing Freedom of Expression, Association, and Assembly
Human rights defenders and journalists: Around the world, governments are targeting activists fighting for human rights, as well as journalists seeking to bring the truth to light. In 2018 alone, 321 human rights defenders in 27 countries were assassinated because of their work, including the Brazilian activist Marielle Franco, an outspoken critic of police brutality, and countless more have been arbitrarily detained, including a group of Saudi women fighting for equal rights. That same year, 34 journalists were murdered, including the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Political repression: Across the world, authoritarian leaders seeking to retain power are repressing political dissent and quashing the right to free expression of political opinion. These forms of repression include deadly crackdowns on protesters in Venezuela and Nicaragua, widespread censorship in China, the shuttering of civil society organizations in Turkey, and extrajudicial executions and arbitrary arrests of dissidents in Syria, Egypt, and Cameroon.
Respecting Human Rights in the Context of National Security
Use of lethal force and indefinite detention: In the name of national security, the U.S. has engaged in torture and indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay. It has also killed a quarter of a million civilians abroad since 9/11 and has increased its use of lethal force against civilians in multiple countries, including Somalia. Yet no one has been held accountable for these acts, and the U.S. government has taken numerous steps to forestall a possible International Criminal Court investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, including attacks on civilians, committed during the war in Afghanistan.
Arms sales: In 2019, the United States announced it would revoke its signature of the Arms Trade Treaty, a landmark instrument that ensures arms transfers are not used to fuel conflicts, atrocities, and abuses. Two of the United States’ largest weapons importers are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have used weapons to commit human rights violations against Yemeni children and civilians and to blockade ports of entry to restrict aid from entering Yemen, thereby placing 11 million Yemenis at risk of famine. Nonetheless, the U.S. continues to build the military capacity of the Saudi-Emirati coalition, making the U.S. complicit in creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Promoting Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights
Business and human rights: U.S. corporations frequently are involved in human rights abuses, harming Indigenous communities and exacerbating climate change through anti-environmental practices. The U.S. government’s human rights standards for corporations – including extractive industries, supply chains, and contractors engaged in trades from arms manufacture to for-profit incarceration – are inadequate and ill-enforced. Thus, businesses are often not required to identify and address human rights abuses in their operations.