The latest round of WikiLeaks documents is rousing discussion about U.S. diplomatic relations–but Human Rights First has raised the question of human rights activists who may be at danger following disclosure of certain information.
Read HRF President and CEO Elisa Massimino’s letter to WikiLeaks head Julian Assange (below).
Dear Mr. Assange:
It has come to our attention that the names of foreign human rights activists and organizations who receive support from the United States government are apparently contained among the thousands of State Department documents that WikiLeaks intends to release to the public in the next few days. The public disclosure of that information – to the extent that it includes individuals or organizations from repressive or authoritarian countries (such as Iran, China, Russia, Cuba etc.) – is extremely reckless as it will increase their risk of persecution, imprisonment and violence.
Human rights advocates in repressive and authoritarian countries face many dangers, as governments in those countries regularly harass, mistreat and imprison them. Not least among these dangers is being charged with receiving foreign support or “cooperating” with foreign governments, as that can make them even more vulnerable to attack by governments and their agents. At the same time, many activists in repressive countries have very few options for financial support, as avenues of domestic support are effectively blocked. To protect themselves from the increased risk that comes with foreign support, many activists remain quiet about it.
As a human rights organization, we support freedom of expression and greater transparency in government. Yet, in releasing the information in the circumstances we describe above, the very real dangers to the health and well-being of human rights activists would outweigh the benefits. We urge you to remove any identifying information of human rights activists from the documents that you will be releasing. Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.
President and CEO