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Hearing: Hamas’ Hostages, Putin’s Prisoners, and Freeing International Captives: Towards Stronger U.S. and Global Action for International Political Prisoner Day

Towards Stronger U.S. and Global Action for International Political Prisoner Day

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

10:00am – 11:30am

Longworth House Office Building 1334

Stream live here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U-5Mj_WQtE

Hamas’ hostages and Putin’s political prisoners have seized the world’s attention, showing the depths oppressors around the world will sink to in terrorizing civilians and undermining democracy. Dictators and terrorists use violence to fuel fear in those they seek to control, imprison those who stand up to them, assault dissidents and their families, seize hostages, and systematically isolate those who attempt to shine light on their brutal practices.

U.S. efforts in these areas include the creation of a Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and laws such as the Levinson Act. Yet families, citizens, and even Congressional officials often still struggle to get answers on America’s strategy to free captives—or even on why the State Department has failed to designate individuals like long-time U.S. resident and democracy advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza as “wrongfully detained.” To highlight these and related issues, last year the Commission’s Ranking Member Congressman Steve Cohen and Chairman Joe Wilson introduced a resolution to recognized October 30 as International Day of Political Prisoners and a bill for new action on Kara-Murza’s case. As we approach this important day of remembrance, the hearing will examine what stronger actions are urgently needed from Congress, the U.S. Administration, and America’s allies, as hostages and political prisoners are increasingly used by America’s adversaries to undermine freedom, democracy, and peace.

Americans and our allies for democracy around the world are often singled out and targeted for their roles in promoting basic freedoms and human rights. The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation estimates that US nationals are held hostage or wrongfully detained in at least 15 countries. During Hamas’ attacks in Israel on October 7th, the terrorist organization took between 150 and 200 people hostage, including several Americans whose status remains unclear. At the same time, many of those fighting for freedom and democracy globally are currently held in detention as political prisoners for merely exercising their fundamental rights.

This hearing will also examine what more the United States can be doing to secure the release of Americans in captivity and political prisoners who are wrongfully or unjustly detained globally. Witnesses will discuss the experiences of political prisoners and hostages held in Russia, Gaza, and elsewhere and specific policy options to hold the perpetrators of these and other unjust detentions accountable.

The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:

Panel 1:

  • Irwin Cotler, Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
  • Davyd Arakhamia, Parliamentary Faction Leader of Servant of the People Party and Chief Ukrainian Negotiator for Prisoners of War and Abductees

Panel 2:

  • Jared Genser, International Human Rights Lawyer, Managing Director of Perseus Strategies
  • Evgenia Kara-Murza, Advocacy Director at the Free Russia Foundation, Wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza

 

Additional witnesses may be added.

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