Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, March 13, 2006

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For IMMEDIATE Release

Global Human Rights Review
Chris Smith Schedules Thursday Oversight Hearing 

BACKGROUND - In 1948, the international community took the momentous step of adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Thirteen years ago, the international community reaffirmed those rights at the World Conference on Human Rights and asserted that their protection and promotion were and are the “first responsibility” of governments.  Nevertheless, governments continue to deny their people the most basic rights and liberties to which every human being is entitled.  Violations of these human rights affect not only individuals, but the very peace and security of societies, regions and the international community as a whole.  China and Saudi Arabia exemplify this broader and deeper impact.  China violates the fundamental human rights of its people in a way that impacts every aspect of their lives and resorts to violence to suppress any expression of protest.  Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, maintains a “poor overall” human rights record which includes “legal and societal discrimination against women, religious and other minorities” and “no religious freedom.”  The denial of religious freedom, particularly in Islamic countries, warrants extra attention in the post-9/11 world which rightly views freedom of thought, conscience and religion as a national security imperative.  This annual human rights review continues to be a critical process.  It allows the United States an opportunity to bear witness, to reassert fundamental principles, and to examine its own conscience about whether its foreign policy comports with these principles.   

WHAT:                             Subcommittee Oversight Hearing: 
                            Monitoring Respect for Human Rights Around the World:
                            A Review of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005   

                            Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations
                            U.S. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chairman

WHEN:                             2 p.m., Thursday, March 16, 2006

WHERE:                           2172 Rayburn House Office Building

WITNESSES:                    Panel I:

                                          The Honorable Barry Lowenkron,
                                         
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy,
                                          Human Rights and Labor,
                                          U.S. Department of State;

                                          Panel II:

                                          The Most Reverend Thomas Wenski,
                                         
Chairman, Committee on International Policy,
                                          U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;

                                          Ms. Elisa Massimino,
                                         
Director of Washington, D.C.
                                          Office, Human Rights First;

                                          Ms. Nina Shea,
                                         
Director, Center for Religious Freedom,
                                          Freedom House;

                                          Mr. Ali al-Ahmed,
                                         
Director, Institute for Gulf Affairs; and

                                          Ms. Sharon Hom,
                                         
Executive Director,
                                          Human Rights in China.

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