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The Liberty List Act

Location: Washington, DC

THE LIBERTY LIST ACT -- (House of Representatives - July 22, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, when he presented the 2003 State Department human rights report, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared, "We join in solidarity with courageous men and women all over the world who strive to advance human rights and democratic values within their own countries and throughout the international community."

Today, joined by the gentlewoman from Ohio (Mrs. Jones) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers), I am introducing legislation that will build upon the foundation of the State Department's annual human rights report and the annual report on religious freedom. The Liberty List Act will reinforce the special significance of the central pillars of American foreign policy: freedom, democracy, and human rights.

The Liberty List will be an independent annual report issued by the State Department. It will highlight the work of individuals and organizations, including the media, that promote the development of liberty, democracy, and respect for human rights.

In addition to honoring these individuals and organizations for their important contributions to society, the Liberty List will draw attention to the conditions against which these honorees struggle and will offer some protection for honorees by identifying them to the national community.

A few individuals and groups, such as Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, are known around the world for their struggle. Yet for every individual who is known to the international community, there are many other heroes who deserve recognition and support as they risk their lives for the improvement of others.

How many of us in this body have heard of Shirin Ebedi before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work on behalf of Iran's women and children? There are Aung San Suu Kyis and Shirin Ebedis working in countless places around the world. Their struggle is our struggle; and they deserve our attention, our admiration, and support.

The Liberty List is fundamentally different from the existing State Department report on international religious freedom and the annual country reports on human rights practices. Current reports focus on the human rights records of national governments. They deal with the imposition of State power. The Liberty List in contrast will spotlight individuals and organizations who are working against that power to build freedom, democracy, and respect for human

For example, a group of courageous women called Women of Zimbabwe Arise have been struggling against the cruelty of the dictatorship of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. Despite facing arrest, rape and force, these brave women have continued a peaceful struggle for a better life for all Zimbabaweans.

In Uzbekistan, Ruslan Sharipov, an independent human rights activist and journalist, was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison last summer. Sharipov has been a fearless critic of police corruption and human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, a nation whose human rights record has been so dismal, the United States cut off aid earlier this month.

These leaders and others like them who struggle for freedom and democracy around the world deserve recognition for their sacrifices and their struggles. It is too easy to forget that the advancement of human rights, democracy, and religious liberty is the product of individuals and small groups of people who fight to improve the lives of their family, friends, and neighbors.

The Liberty List Act will allow the United States to honor these men and women as they strive to make the world a better, safer place for themselves, their children, and ultimately for all of us.

I urge my colleagues to join as cosponsors of the Liberty List Act.

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