Trump-Putin Helsinki Summit: Human Rights Must be Front and Center

July 11, 2018

On July 16, President Trump will meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. No formal agenda for the summit has been released but, given the severity of multiple global humanitarian crises, human rights must be front and center! On July 11, Amnesty International’s Executive Director, Margaret Huang, and Eurasia Advocacy Director, Daniel Balson, sent a letter to President Trump calling on him to use the conference to tackle burning human rights challenges in Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine. The letter is reproduced below.

July 11, 2018


President Donald J. Trump

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington, DC 20500


          Re:  July 16 summit with Russia President Putin


Dear President Trump:


On behalf of Amnesty International and our more than seven million members and supporters worldwide, we urge you to use your upcoming meeting with Russia President Putin to address urgent human rights challenges in Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine.

The summit location has profound historic significance. Over 40 years ago 35 nations, including the U.S. and the Soviet Union, signed a declaration in Helsinki committing to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The resulting Helsinki Accords spawned numerous nongovernmental organizations and government bodies committed to embedding human rights into the international system.

The upcoming summit offers an opportunity to follow in these storied footsteps. You can use the summit to make progress on some of the world’s most pressing human rights challenges. Specifically:

  • Syria: Commit to ending attacks on civilians: As part of the U.S. offensive on Raqqa in 2017, Amnesty International has documented the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, including artillery and mortars, in highly populated areas. These tactics have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and have injured many more. More recently in Daraa Province, Syrian government forces, supported by Russia, have launched a series of attacks against highly populated areas in an effort to oust rebel groups. These attacks have targeted numerous field hospitals in contravention of international law. The U.S., and Russia should commit to minimizing civilian casualties in Syria and ensure that their respective Syrian allies do the same.
  • Yemen: Ensure that Yemeni civilians can access basic goods in the Security Council: The war in Yemen between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels shows no signs of abating, despite the fact that over 6,000 civilians have been killed and over 10,000 have been injured. Civilians in Yemen have faced increasing difficulty obtaining food, medicine, and fuel as the Saudi-led coalition continues its blockade of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. By routinely delaying the arrival of items indispensable for human survival to Yemen’s Red Sea ports, Saudi Arabia continues to violate UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and risks further deepening Yemen’s already substantial humanitarian catastrophe. The U.S. should join Russia on the UN Security Council to ensure that all parties to the conflict in Yemen implement the human rights and humanitarian provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and the UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement of March 15, 2018.
  • Ukraine: Call on President Putin to Free Oleg Sentsov: Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Russia following an unfair trial on politically-motivated charges. As of May 14, Mr. Sentsov has declared an indefinite hunger strike. Since that time, he has lost 33 pounds and is in frail health. Numerous celebrities, international human rights organizations, representatives of intergovernmental bodies, and representatives of your administration have called on Russia to free Sentsov. We ask you to raise his case with President Putin.

Thank you for your consideration. If your staff have any questions or require additional information, please contact Daniel Balson, Amnesty International’s Eurasia advocacy director, at [email protected] or (202) 509-8132.




Margaret Huang

Executive Director


Daniel Balson

Advocacy Director, Europe & Central Asia