Human Rights on Capitol Hill – March 2021 Newsletter



march 2021 NEWSLETTER

Featured: International COVID-19 Response


Amnesty International joined a Feb. 26 letter with 400 civil society groups urging the administration to support an emergency COVID-19 waiver from the World Trade Organization’s (“WTO”) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) agreement. The waiver, which was on the TRIPS Council agenda on Mar. 10-11, is necessary to provide greater supplies of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests for lower-income nations. The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be stopped anywhere unless vaccines, tests, and treatments are available everywhere. 

For more on the TRIPS waiver and intellectual property restrictions on the equitable distribution of COVID-19 products, read this Mar. 9 Just Security blog and Amnesty International’s statement for the Mar. 10 House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee hearing titled “A Year into the Pandemic: The State of International Development,” and watch this Mar. 10 interview. Amnesty urges the administration to support multilateral efforts to ensure affordable and equitable vaccine access for all, including the proposed WTO TRIPS waiver and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (“C-TAP”).

International updates


Amnesty International USA submitted a statement for the record ahead of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “The Biden Administration’s Priorities for U.S. Foreign Policy” on Mar. 10. Amnesty’s recommendations focus on five global themes: (1) internet shutdowns and restrictions; (2) Big Tech complicity in censorship; (3) government attacks on civil society and NGOs; (4) the COVID-19 pandemic; and (5) the climate crisis.



Congress should swiftly pass Safe from the Start Act (H.R.571). In humanitarian situations, women and girls face an increased risk of rape, child marriage, domestic violence, human trafficking, exploitation by humanitarian personnel, and other forms of gender-based violence (“GBV”). This legislation would implement the Safe from the Start program which would ensure context-appropriate services for girls and women who are exposed to GBV during humanitarian crises, and would establish tools to promote greater efficiency and accountability of response and recovery efforts.


Congress should pass H.Res.196, a resolution calling for a feminist foreign policy. This landmark resolution, supported by 36 House Members, calls for the adoption of a feminist foreign policy which includes foreign assistance and humanitarian response, trade, diplomacy, defense, immigration, funding, and oversight mechanisms.


On Mar. 2 three women human rights activists in Poland were acquitted on charges of “offending religious beliefs” for distributing posters of the Virgin Mary with a halo in the rainbow colors of the LGBTI pride flag. The activists were facing up to two years in prison simply for standing up for LGBTI rights in a climate of hate and discrimination.

Middle East and North Africa


Congress should swiftly pass the Libya Stabilization Act (S.379), which was passed by the House in 2020 with Amnesty’s strong support. Libya has experienced untold suffering, with civilians bearing the brunt of years of conflict, insecurity, and militia rule. The Libya Stabilization Act authorizes U.S. support for efforts to strengthen good governance, promotes anti-corruption measures, and supports economic recovery both during and after a negotiated political solution to the Libyan conflict.


On Feb. 19 Lebanon’s military prosecutor filed terrorism-related charges against at least 23 detainees, including two minors, involved in heated protests in the northern city of Tripoli. Lebanese authorities should immediately stop the use of terrorism-related charges to prosecute protesters and to cease the practice of summoning civilians before military courts. Amnesty is calling for an independent UN-led investigation into the Beirut port blast of Aug. 2020 and the assassination of Lebanese activist Lokman Slim in Feb. 2021.



Following the Feb. 1 military coup, people in Myanmar have been engaged in nationwide demonstrations, which have been overwhelmingly peaceful. New research by Amnesty International, released on Mar. 11, has confirmed that security forces appear to be implementing planned, systematic strategies including the ramped-up use of lethal force. Many of the killings documented amount to extrajudicial executions. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the death toll from the protests as of Mar. 4 stands at 61. This official estimate excludes additional known casualties since Mar. 4. Watch this video summarizing Amnesty’s analysis.


A Feb. 25 Amnesty report documented that illegal loggingthe main cause of deforestation in Cambodia’s Prey Lang rainforestis leading to widespread forest clearings and new roads cleared within the protected area. USAID and DOS, as the main partners of the Cambodian Ministry of Environment in its efforts to protect Prey Lang, should take a firm stance against illegal logging in the rainforest, and strongly oppose the Cambodian government’s plans to construct a 300 km power transmission line through the heart of the forest.

domestic updates


Gun-related deaths and injuries rose in the U.S. during 2020 despite much of the country living under shelter-in-place orders. We laud the House’s passage of the Background Checks Act (H.R.8) and Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R.1446) and call on the Senate to swiftly pass both bills, which are critical measures to end gun violence.


On Mar. 3 the House voted to advance the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R.1280). Amnesty International USA welcomes the advancement of some of the reforms in this bill, including the institution of a national standard for use of force by law enforcement that would prioritize de-escalation. A 2015 Amnesty International report Deadly Force: Police Use of Force in the United States concluded that no state or federal laws comply with international law or standards on law enforcement use of force. Amnesty calls on the Senate to make improvements to H.R. 1280, to ensure the end to the DOD 1033 program to transfer surplus military-style equipment to state and local law enforcement.


Amnesty International welcomes the executive orders and DHS actions aimed at restoring access to asylum as well as refugee and humanitarian protection. However, the U.S. government must also free people from immigration detention. Congress must press the Biden administration to free detained immigrants within its first 100 days. On Mar. 11, Amnesty International USA’s Board of Directors wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to urge the Department of Homeland Security to (1) release people in detention through an affirmative file review process with a presumption of liberty, (2) end family detention, (3) and end the use of facilities run by private prison companies and county jails for immigration detention.

Congress should pass the COVID-19 in Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act, which would require immigration detention facilities to collect and report data about COVID-19 cases, vaccine distribution, and the preventative measures in place in these facilities.

In Case You Missed it


Amnesty International USA is excited to announce the opening of the new film, The Mauritanian. The film tells the story of former Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Salahi and is based on his memoir Guantánamo Diary. Amnesty International activists campaigned for Mohamedou’s release, which did not happen until 2016, more than 14 years after he was detained by U.S. authorities, tortured, and imprisoned without charge or trial. Jodie Foster, playing Mohamedou’s lawyer, won a Golden Globe award for her role on Mar. 1. Watch the film on streaming services.

Connect with us

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our experts or email [email protected] for a general inquiry.

Regional Experts

Eurasia: Deniz Yuksel

Middle East, Americas: Philippe Nassif

Africa: Adotei Akwei

Asia, U.S.: Joanne Lin

Thematic Experts

Surveillance, Technology, Digital Rights: Michael Kleinman

Gender, Sexuality, and Identity / Indigenous Rights: Tarah Demant

National Security: Daphne Eviatar

Human Rights Defenders, Prisoners of Conscience & Individuals at Risk: Andrew Fandino

Criminal Justice: Krissy Roth

Climate Crisis: Zeke Johnson

COVID-19, Gun Violence, and all Other Issues: Joanne Lin


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