On International Human Rights Day, Americans reflect on the importance of protecting fundamental freedoms throughout the world. These liberties include freedom of speech and religion, the right to assemble, and equality before the law. Throughout its history, the U.S. has worked to extend basic human rights to other countries. "We are standing with dissidents and exiles," said President George W. Bush, "against oppressive regimes and tyranny."
Today, countless people around the world cannot exercise their basic human rights. In Belarus, democracy advocates are often beaten and opposition leaders have been imprisoned and murdered. In Iran, ethnic minorities, including the Azeri Turks, are denied the right to preserve their language and culture in the schools. Those who agitate for these rights are often beaten and detained by authorities.
In Burma, the military junta ruthlessly suppresses all forms of political opposition and dissent. Some one-thousand-one-hundred Burmese remain in detention for the peaceful expression of their political views. And National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.
There is now the potential for a political transition in Cuba. President George W. Bush has urged "the Cuban people to work for democratic change." He says, "History proves from Poland to South Africa, that patience and courage and resolve can eventually cause oppressive governments to fear and then to fall."
In an effort to help people become free, the U.S. has expanded its support for democracy promotion programs. In particular, the U.S. has increased funding of the National Endowment for Democracy to promote free elections, free markets, free speech, and human rights.
"Freedom and dignity," said President Bush, "are God's gift to each man and woman in the world." As the U.S. marks International Human Rights Day, said Mr. Bush, "we encourage all nations to continue working towards freedom, peace, and security, which can be achieved only through democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.