Human Rights USA made a straightforward case against Yahoo, outlined in part on their website: “By turning over identifying information about its customers, Yahoo is enabling serious human rights abuses such as torture, forced labor, and arbitrary and prolonged detention based on the exercise of free speech and free press rights.” The lawyer from Human Rights USA who represented the journalists hopes that Yahoo will pressure the Chinese government to release the journalists now that the case has been settled.
Human Rights USA is an important organization whose good work expands far beyond the Yahoo case. Refugee women who want to spare their daughters from sexual abuse have earned the right to do so; the work of Human Rights USA directly resulted in the court decision that established that female genital mutilation qualifies as torture. Their work on another case set a precedent that the usual deadline to file asylum claims need not apply to sexual abuse victims with severe traumatic stress, who might hesitate to report such instances out of fear.
Some conservative groups don’t approve of all Human Rights USA’s work, but surely they can support these particular instances of noble work on behalf of freedom.
Despite the best efforts of groups like Democracy Forum and Human Rights USA, many companies—Internet businesses in particular—do not realize the beast they’re sure to fight when they set up shop in authoritarian countries.
The U.S. House of Representatives has sought to tackle this problem with a bill that would ban companies from saving identifying information about their customers in oppressive countries. The idea is simple: no private data on file, no need for a communist government to subpoena information that could lead to gross violations of human rights.
The bill, which has already been approved in committee and is currently awaiting a floor vote, represents an idea whose time has come, thanks in no small part to the work of Democracy Forum and Human Rights USA. One can only hope that news of this legal victory has reached the two men unjustly trapped in Chinese prisons, and that it speeds their release.
Editors Note: Jane Jacobsen of the National Endowment for Democracy sent in the following correction to this story.
Dear Mr. Wilson: Your article, A Victory for Freedom, has an understandable error in it that I think should be corrected. Shi Tao did not send his email to the Democracy Forum associated with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Foreign Policy Association, which is the New York Democracy Forum. Rather,Shi Tao sent the e-mail to: http://www.asiademo.org/ (Asia Democracy Foundation) (which does have a New York office) and the information was posted on the (Democracy Forum) website (which is the Foundation's website). Below is the website for the Democracy Forum (there is no English version of the site). http://www.asiademo.org/
Neither of these organizations are or ever were supported by NED.
Director, Public Affairs
National Endowment for Democracy
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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