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US: Candidates’ Stances on Human Rights

WASHINGTON - Candidates for the presidency of the United States should detail their positions on protecting human rights in the US and around the globe, Human Rights Watch said today. To that end, Human Rights Watch has submitted a list of 12 questions to US presidential candidates on how their administrations would approach a range of key human rights issues.

Composite showing US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) speaking on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 29, 2016, and US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) speaking at a campaign rally in Abingdon, Virginia, U.S. August 10, 2016.

“The next US president will be confronted with a variety of human rights challenges,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. “US voters would benefit from knowing how candidates understand those problems and how they would address them.”

The questionnaire addresses concerns about increasing government repression of free speech and activists around the world, the treatment of refugees, global surveillance practices, and accountability for police abuses, among other issues. The next US president will have to grapple with a broad range of human rights issues at home and around the world. The Human Rights Watch questionnaire focuses on some of the most urgent and complex of these.

Human Rights Watch will post the responses of candidates on its website. The deadline for responses is September 6. The questions are below:

1.    What steps would your administration take to respond to governments that repress independent organizations and media – either through legislation or otherwise – including in Russia, China, and Ethiopia?  

2.    How will you work to address discrimination that impedes the political participation of women? How will your administration protect the rights of women and girls around the world including from gender-based violence?

3.    What should the US do to help address the international crisis in protecting and helping refugees fleeing the Middle East, the Americas, and other regions of the world? 

4.    What role should promoting good governance, the rule of law, and adherence to human rights play in countering ISIS, al-Qaeda, or affiliated groups, particularly in countries with repressive or autocratic governments? 

5.    How would your administration respond to the rising voices of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism heard in a growing number of countries?

6.    How would your administration use the recent diplomatic opening with Cuba to encourage greater protections of human rights and fundamental freedoms there?

7.    How would your administration respond to any future expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank?

8.    What new limits should be placed on warrantless data collection and surveillance practices to ensure that the US government fully respects human rights both within and outside its borders? If none, why not?

9.    How should the US provide accountability for the torture and ill-treatment of individuals who were detained and interrogated by the CIA and military?

10.    What changes would you make to the US targeted-killing program, particularly the use of drones, in places outside areas of active hostilities?

11.    Should the federal government adopt measures to improve accountability of police implicated in the unlawful deaths of criminal suspects? If so, what?

12.    Do you support a national paid family leave insurance program for all workers? Why or why not?


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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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