For Immediate Release: October 24, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First urges the U.S. Department of State to continue to show solidarity with Syrian human rights defenders and members of the opposition even as its top diplomat and advocate for reform is forced to exit the country under credible threats to his safety. The group noted that Robert Ford, American Ambassador to Syria, has been a champion for human rights and his leadership is a model that the U.S. mission in Damascus should continue to follow.
“Over 3,000 people have been killed since the uprisings began in Syria earlier this year and there is no indication that the Assad regime is slowing its crackdown on human rights,” said Human Rights First’s Quinn O’Keefe. “Ambassador Ford stood in solidarity with the Syrian opposition movement and his efforts kept human rights reform at the top of the U.S. government’s agenda in Syria, a country where policy options are limited. Ambassador Ford was an effective international observer to the grave human rights abuses that continue in Syria. The threats to his safety show that he has rightfully rattled President Assad’s supporters.”
According to O’Keefe, Ambassador Ford has openly criticized the Syrian government’s lethal crackdown on peaceful protestors and has demonstrated solidarity with the human rights movement through visits to towns where the violence has been severe. He also used Facebook to publicly speak out against the Assad regime’s violent crackdown on human rights defenders and members of the opposition. In doing so, he shined a spotlight on human rights defenders who put their lives and livelihoods at risk to advance the rights and freedoms protected by the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
“Ambassador Ford’s method on human rights has been effective and the U.S. diplomatic mission in Syria should, in his absence, continue to follow his lead. By continuing his work, the U.S. government would show the world that it cannot be intimidated away from its commitment to human rights and that the Syrian opposition movement has international support.” added O’Keefe. “Moreover, Ambassador Ford’s actions should not be unique to the circumstances and person. His model on human rights should be followed wherever those fighting for human rights and democracy are at risk, including traditional U.S. allies like Bahrain.”