For Immediate Release: September 22, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today said American Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, is an example of how ambassadors should publicly stand for universal human rights. The group said his leadership and actions should be publicly commended today as the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia holds its hearing on U.S. human rights policy in Iran and Syria.
“Syria is a country where U.S. policy leverage is limited. For that reason alone, Ambassador Ford’s performance has been valuable,” said Human Rights First’s Quinn O’Keefe. “His leadership and strong demonstration of solidarity with the protestors and local human rights movement in Syria is how U.S. Ambassadors everywhere should stand for human rights, democracy, and freedom.”
O’Keefe notes that Ambassador Ford has openly criticized the Syrian government’s lethal crackdown on peaceful protest and has demonstrated solidarity with the human rights movement by visiting towns where the violence has been severe. He has also supported human rights defenders in other direct ways, including his attendance last week at a memorial service for an activist who died in government custody.
According to Human Rights First, the ongoing struggle in Syria shines a light on how human rights defenders put their lives and livelihoods at risk to advance freedoms protected in the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Their work continues and their resolve is strengthened by the knowledge that they can expect a certain amount of support and engagement from the international community, including the United States.
“It is important that Senator Clinton has given Ambassador Ford leeway to make such a public stand. The same attitude should be adopted with regard to U.S. Ambassadors in other nations where those fighting for democracy truly need U.S. support, including in places like Bahrain,” added O’Keefe. “Rather than dismiss Ambassador Ford’s actions as unique to the circumstances and person, the U.S. government should institutionalize its commitment to human rights and adopt public guidelines for engagement between human rights defenders and U.S. diplomatic missions.”