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Human Rights

As Americans we must protect human rights both at home and abroad--the right to live freely without the threat of violence or repression, the right to live with dignity and respect. Leader Pelosi has led the fight to end the suffering of people worldwide.


Recognizing the Tianamen Square Massacre AnniversaryThroughout her career, Leader Pelosi has called for freedom of religion, speech, and assembly in China. Today, the human rights situation in China remains poor.

In May of 2009, Pelosi led a Congressional delegation to China as Speaker. While there, she delivered a letter to the President of China in Beijing calling for the release of certain individuals detained or imprisoned. Following her trip, on June 2nd the House passed a resolution recognizing the 20th anniversary of the brutal suppression of protesters and citizens in and around Tiananmen Square, expressing sympathy to the families of those killed, tortured, and imprisoned in connection with the protests, and calling for the Chinese government to conduct a fair investigation and to release those imprisoned for participating in the 1989 demonstrations. Read the full resolution>>

During her remarks on the floor, Pelosi submitted the full letter she delivered to the President of China into the Congressional record, explaining, “some of the people arrested at the time of Tiananmen square are still in prison -- we really don't have all of their names, but we do have the names of some prisoners of conscience…I want to submit in full my letter and the list of prisoners because this is important - because they say the worst form of punishment for someone who is a political prisoner is to say that ‘no one remembers that you are here, no one remembers why you are here, so, think about that as you are in prison.' Well, we want them to know that in the Congress of the United States we do know about them, we do care about them and that we will continue to call for their freedom.”

In support of the resolution:

In 2008, the Olympics in Beijing provided an opportunity for more free expression in China - but unfortunately, news reports suggested a pre-Olympic crackdown on peaceful activists including journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders. As the Olympic torch made its way around the world in advance of the Games, it was met with those protesting China's human rights record.

Pelosi called on President Bush to make human rights and freedom of the press top priorities during his visit to Beijing for the Olympics. On August 1st, 2008, she wrote a letter to President Bush, stating, "Your recent meetings with Chinese dissidents at the White House are to be commended.  However, your participation at the opening ceremony of the Olympics will send a signal to the Chinese people and the international community that could be misperceived as your approval, and that of the American people, for the draconian policies of the Chinese government.  Therefore, it is essential that you unambiguously speak out for human rights and meet with the families of jailed prisoners of conscience while you are in Beijing."
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On August 6th, after news reports that the Chinese government revoked a visa for Olympic gold medalist and Team Darfur co-founder Joey Cheek, Pelosi called on President Bush to secure his entry to the Games. She said, “The Olympic Charter states that ‘Any form of discrimination with regard to a country of a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.'  The International Olympic Committee is tolerating clear violations of both the Olympic ideals and the commitments the Chinese government made in order to host the Olympic Games."
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On July 30th, 2008, the House passed H.Res. 1370 - Calling on the Government of the People's Republic of China to immediately end abuses of the human rights of its citizens, to cease repression of Tibetan and Uighur citizens, and to end its support for the Governments of Sudan and Burma to ensure that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games take place in an atmosphere that honors the Olympic traditions of freedom and openness.

Pelosi on House Resolution Calling on China to Cease Human Rights Abuses Ahead of Olympics>>

In support of the resolution:

Read Leader Pelosi on the San Francisco Olympic Torch Relay>>

Leader Pelosi's Statement on 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing>>

Leader Pelosi on the Sentencing of Chinese Human Rights Activist Hu Jia>>


April 7th, 2009, marked the start of the 15th anniversary of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda where an estimated 800,000 women, men and children were murdered. In Rwanda's capital, Kigali, an official hundred day commemoration of the genocide began. As part of this event, 10,000 candles will be lit to remember the victims and express support for the survivors in the national stadium. Leader Pelosi lit a candle in commemoration:

Leader Pelosi and President Obama on the 15th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda>>


For the last 17 years, a military junta has brutally ruled Burma with repression and violence, accumulating one of the worst human rights records in the world.  It has held Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader of the National League for Democracy party, under house arrest for 12 of the last 17 years. When Cyclone Nargis killed an estimated 84,000 Burmese citizens in May, the ruling regime hampered and blocked international humanitarian relief efforts, turning a tragic situation into a criminal one. 

Tightening Sanctions Against Burma

On July 15th, 2008, the House passed legislation to tighten sanctions against Burma and ban the importation of Burmese gems. This legislation will strengthen the economic pressure on the Burmese regime, and will take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the hands of its repressive government.

Read Leader Pelosi's statement on House passage of legislation tightening sanctions against Burma>>

Watch Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman speak in support of the legislation:


Cyclone Nargis

On the night of May 2nd and through the morning of May 3rd, 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck the coast of Burma. Cyclone Nargis has caused enormous loss of life and destruction. 

On May 13th, the House passed H.Res. 1181, expressing condolences to the Burmese people on the enormous loss of life caused by Cyclone Nargis and calling on the ruling military junta to accept broad international assistance.   
The resolution:

  • Extends its condolences and sympathy to the people of Burma for the grave loss of life and vast destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis;
  • Vows its full support of and solidarity with the people of Burma;
  • Calls on Americans to provide immediate emergency assistance to cyclone victims in Burma through humanitarian agencies;
  • Expresses confidence that the people of Burma will succeed in overcoming the hardships incurred because of this tragedy;
  • Calls for the Burmese military junta to consider the well-being of its people and accept broad international assistance; and
  • Demands that the referendum to entrench military rule be called off, allowing all resources to be focused on disaster relief to ease the pain and suffering of the Burmese people.

On May 28th, Leader Pelosi said that the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi deserves the full condemnation of the international community. In the wake of the extreme devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis, the Burmese people desperately need legitimate leadership.

Leader Pelosi Condemns Continued Detention of Burmese Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi - May 28, 2008
“The Burmese military junta's decision to continue the detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is deplorable and deserves the full condemnation of the international community.  A clear message must be sent that Aung San Suu Kyi and all other prisoners of conscience in Burma must be released, immediately and unconditionally.
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Leader Pelosi's Statement on House Resolution on Burma Cyclone - May 13, 2008
“This resolution today is a statement of this Congress' support for the people of Burma.  But we must do more.  With the Bush Administration and the Congress working together, the United States government will provide the necessary resources to help the people of Burma at this critical time." 
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Leader Pelosi On the Catastrophic Cyclone in Burma - May 5, 2008
"The thoughts of the world are with the people of Burma as they struggle to recover from the catastrophic cyclone this weekend. It is our hope that the worst in Mother Nature can bring out the best in human nature."
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House Condemns Violent Suppression of 2007 Peaceful Protests

On August 15th, 2007, Burma's military junta announced a suspension of fuel subsidies, resulting in a quintupling of  the price of fuel and causing immediate suffering by the Burmese people. 

Since then, protests grew across Burma - culminating in an estimated 100,000 peaceful protestors marching through Rangoon on September 24th.  In response to this protest, the military regime fired on unarmed protesters - killing several protesters and injuring hundreds, many of whom were Buddhist monks.

On October 2nd, 2007, the House passed a resolution that condemns the violent suppression of the peaceful protestors in Burma in the strongest possible terms, and demands the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. Watch Leader Pelosi's floor speech in support of the resolution:



The resolution also demands that China and other countries that provide political and economic support to Burma's military junta end such support until the Burmese regime's violent campaign against peaceful protest has ceased and the Burmese government has fully met the political demands of the Burmese opposition.

Learn more about the Resolution Supporting Democracy in Burma>>

Pelosi Statement Supporting the Non-Violent Protests by the Burmese People>>

Leader Pelosi has also called to renew the U.S. import restrictions on the Burmese government until substantial progress is made to promote democracy and end human rights abuses. On July 23, 2007, the House passed a resolution in support of renewal of U.S. import restrictions on Burma.

This resolution on the military regime in Burma sends a message that those fighting for democracy and human rights in Burma do not stand alone in their struggle. The human rights situation in Burma continues to worsen with the deplorably familiar pattern of government-sanctioned murder, torture, rape, arbitrary arrest, and forced labor. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, remains under house arrest in Burma. She has fought tirelessly to win freedom for her people, and seen her supporters beaten, tortured, and killed. This resolution shows that the American people will continue to stand with Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma in their struggle for freedom.

Read Leader Pelosi's statement in support of renewing U.S. import restrictions on Burma>>


"If freedom loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in Tibet we have lost all moral authority to speak on human rights anywhere in the world. The cause of Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. A challenge we can help meet."
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Leader Pelosi honors the sacrifice of Tibetans who gave their life fighting for freedom, and has demanded that the Chinese government release all prisoners on conscience. The survival of the Tibetan identity is an issue of urgent U.S. and international concern, and we must be committed to meeting the challenge of human rights in Tibet if we are to work for human rights around the world.

On March 21st, 2008, Leader Pelosi led a bipartisan delegation to express support for the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to discuss the current situation in Tibet. Leader Pelosi delivered remarks praising the Dalai Lama and calling for an end to the crackdown by the Chinese government in Tibet. She said, "Today, this delegation from the United States Congress is here to shed the bright light of truth on what is happening in Tibet. In sanskrit the word non-violence means ‘truth insistence.' Insistence on the truth is what this is all about. We insist that the world know the truth about what is happening in Tibet."

On April 3rd, 2008, Leader Pelosi and members of the bipartisan Congressional Delegation that met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India introduced a resolution calling on the Chinese government to end its crackdown in Tibet and to enter into a substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama. On April 9th, the House passed the resolution.

Watch Leader Pelosi's statement in support of the resolution>>

Pelosi: ‘We are Hearing the Call to the Conscience of the World'>>

Read Leader Pelosi's statement and the full text of the resolution>>

Read Leader Pelosi's full speech delivered to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-In-Exile in India>>

The Gavel: Leader Pelosi Leads Bipartisan Delegation to Meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama>>


Congress has supported and will continue to support the struggle of the Tibetan people. On October 17th, 2007, Leader Pelosi and Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in recognition of his contributions to peace, nonviolence, and religious understanding. It is long past time for Beijing to make progress on a solution that respects the human rights of every Tibetan.

The Gavel: Leader Pelosi will award His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal Today>>

Leader Pelosi: ‘Dalai Lama Brings Luster to Congressional Gold Medal Award'>>

Leader Pelosi's statement commemorating Tibetan National Uprising Day>>

Chairman Tom Lantos, 1928-2008: A Tireless Human Rights Advocate

On February 11th, 2008, Congress and the nation experienced a profound loss with the passing of Chairman Tom Lantos.

From his earliest days in House, when he co-founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, to his final days as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Tom Lantos used his powerful voice to stir the consciousness of world leaders and the public alike. Wherever there was injustice or oppression, he used his expertise and moral authority to put the United States on the side of justice and human rights.

Chairman Lantos stood tall in the sometimes lonely fight for the people of China and Tibet.  Leader Pelosi was proud to join him in the effort to honor the people of Tibet by presenting the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal last year. He also worked to strengthen sanctions against the military junta in Burma and pushed for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. 

As the only Holocaust survivor serving in Congress, Tom Lantos devoted his life to shining a bright light on dark corners of oppression. He fought to end the genocide in Darfur and recently helped enact legislation to crack down on the Sudanese regime. In 2006, he was one of five Members of Congress arrested at the embassy of Sudan during a protest on behalf of the people of Darfur. "We have been calling on the civilized world to stand up and to say, 'Enough,' " Chairman Lantos said at the time of his arrest. “The slaughter of the people of Darfur must end."

Watch Leader Pelosi speak on the House floor in memory of Chairman Lantos:


Read Chairman Tom Lantos' guest post on Think Progress: Rallies Show Americans Want Real Action on Genocide>>


On February 19th, 2008, Leader Pelosi and House Democrats wrote to East Timor President José Ramos-Horta, after the recent attempt on his life.  Ramos-Horta was a leading figure in his country's liberation movement and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his efforts to bring freedom and human rights to his country.

From the letter:

"By voting for independence in 1999, the people of Timor Leste placed their faith in democracy.  Please be assured that the United States remains deeply committed to supporting your young government.   The bravery of the people of Timor Leste in achieving independence and in building their nation is an inspiration and commands continued admiration and support from the world. 

Your personal role in the unfolding story of Timor Leste is heroic, and we are thankful for your continued leadership.  You helped bring the cause of the East Timorese to the world and, as one of the founding fathers of your nation, you helped ensure that the establishment of Timor Leste would be guided by the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and basic human rights.  Your unceasing dedication to these principles as Prime Minister, and now as President, is a testament to your leadership and to your commitment to your country."

Read the full letter>>



In January, 2008, the House passed a resolution condemning the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and reaffirming the commitment of the United States to assist the people of Pakistan in combating terrorist activity and promoting a free and democratic Pakistan.

Watch Leader Pelosi speak in support of the resolution:


Leader Pelosi on the Bhutto Resolution>>


"Each day that the genocide continues, and each day we wait, the hope that we saw in the eyes of the youngest children will disintegrate into disease, despair, and death."
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Speaker Pelosi at a rally supporting the people of Sudan.On December 18th, 2007, the House passed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, which has now been signed into law. The bill protects states' and investment firms' rights to divest from companies with connections to the government of Sudan. SADA also prohibits federal contracts with such companies.

Learn more about the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act>>

The Gavel: House Passes Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007>>

Read the Gavel's coverage of Congress' work to stop the genocide and violence in Darfur>>

Leader Pelosi led a Congressional delegation on an official visit to five African nations, including the Darfur region of Sudan. After seeing the horrific conditions firsthand in Darfur, assessing the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and consulting with heads of state in the region, the delegation returned to the United States, convinced that action be taken quickly to bring security and hope to Darfur.

Additional humanitarian assistance and troops are needed to provide immediate relief to the Sudanese people and end the violence while negotiations take place. The government of Sudan has done nothing to assist its own people in Darfur. As the world responds to the suffering in Darfur, the Sudanese government must live up to its responsibilities to bring about a true cease-fire that protects civilians. The needs of the people of Darfur must be addressed, and the government of Sudan cannot be allowed to continue to shirk its responsibility to protect its people and provide for their needs.

After leaving Africa with a stronger sense of outrage and urgency, Leader Pelosi is committed to working with President Bush to make sure the world community works quickly to end the genocide in Darfur. Leader Pelosi supports the Bush Administration's May announcement that it will impose tougher economic sanctions on Sudan. The Bashir government has made it clear by its actions that it only responds to pressure, and it is up to the international community to apply the kind of pressure that will end the violence in Darfur.

Pressuring countries that support the violence in Sudan is another key way of bringing the genocide in Darfur to an end. On June 5th, 2007, the House passed a resolution calling on the government of the People's Republic of China to use its unique influence and economic leverage to stop genocide and violence in Darfur, Sudan, H.Res. 422.

The resolution calls on China to condemn the violence in Darfur, and end economic and military assistance to Sudan until Sudan engages in peace negotiations. The government of China has long-standing economic and military ties with Sudan, which it continues to strengthen in spite of the on-going genocide in Darfur.  For example, China purchases at least 70 percent of Sudan's oil and has reportedly cancelled approximately $100 million in debt owed by the Sudanese government.

This measure calls on China to urge Sudan to allow the entry of the U.N. sanctioned peacekeeping force and to comply with U.N. resolutions demanding that the Government of Sudan disarm militias operating in Darfur.  It also calls on China to join the international community in threatening sanctions on the Sudanese government if it continues to carry out or support attacks on innocent civilians or to frustrate diplomatic efforts to end the violence. China must join with the international community in working to end this genocide.

Learn more about the resolution calling on China to stop supporting violence in Darfur>>

Read Leader Pelosi's blog post on Darfur in honor of Human Rights Day>>

Watch a video on the genocide including interviews with Leader Pelosi and Rep. Jim McGovern>>


In June of 2007, Leader Pelosi supported a resolution passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee calling on Japan to formally acknowledge and apologize for its Imperial Armed Forces' coercion of young ‘comfort women' into sexual slavery during its occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands during the World War II era.

While Japan is a crucial ally to the United States and a responsible member of the international community, in this case, the Japanese government needs to do more. It has been more than half a century since the horrors of World War II occurred, but it is not too late to recognize the mistakes of the past and educate future generations so that history will not repeat itself.

Out of 200,000 women that were exploited as comfort women by the Japanese Imperial Army, only a few hundred are still alive.  This resolution calls on the government of Japan to accept responsibility for the coercion of young women into sexual slavery during the war by making an unambiguous statement of apology.

Read Leader Pelosi's statement in support of the ‘Comfort Women' resolution>>