Markey introduced the bipartisan Senate companion to H.R. 6986, legislation that will ensure that the U.S. takes a leadership role in countering abuses, protecting human rights abroad.


Washington (October 1, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauds the successful passage of the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Senator Markey first introduced the bipartisan bill in May, in coordination with his colleague Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02) who sponsored the House bill. The Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act requires the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to apply diplomatic and development assistance tools to combat human rights abuses carried out under cover of the coronavirus response.


“I welcome the House of Representatives’ reaffirmation of the United States’ long history of global leadership with the Committee passage of the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act,” said Senator Markey. “Unfortunately, the pandemic has been used as justification by many leaders worldwide to silence their citizens and implement aggressive measures that hinder the basic human rights of their people. The United States has a responsibility to lead by example and promote the freedoms and universal values we hold so dear. This legislation, through its reporting requirements, programming authorization, and detailed strategic planning, will help support vulnerable populations abroad suffering not just from the pandemic, but from increasing authoritarianism and censorship. I thank my good friend Mr. McGovern for his work in getting this legislation through Committee and I urge swift passage by the full House, followed by the Senate without delay in order to reiterate our commitment to the protection of human rights.”


“The U.S. ought to do all we can to ensure the coronavirus does not become an excuse for governments to violate human rights or for authoritarian leaders to consolidate their rule,” said Rep. McGovern. “We have a moral obligation to speak up for our values and to speak up for the idea that everyone – here in the United State and around the world – deserves to know exactly what their leaders are doing in response to this pandemic. I’m grateful to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for moving this important bipartisan legislation forward, and I urge the Senate to quickly take up our bill to reaffirm that human rights must remain front and center as the world confronts COVID-19.”


Senator Markey was joined by his colleagues Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in cosponsoring the Senate bill S.3819.


Specifically, the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act, as passed by the Committee would:

  • Authorize funding for Fiscal Years 2020-2026 for programs that support democratic institutions, civil society, human rights defenders, and protect freedom of the press and other internationally recognized human rights around the world during and in the aftermath of potentially harmful responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Require the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator to specifically consider how they will address violations of human rights during and in the aftermath of the coronavirus response, in their annual and multiyear strategic planning.
  • Require the Secretary of State to release a detailed report describing whether countries around the world are meeting or violating their human rights obligations, specifically focusing on the use of emergency measures or powers as part of the coronavirus response. 
  • Add a new requirement in the State Department Annual Human Rights Country Reports to include reporting on the misuse of emergency laws and powers.