WASHINGTON – Lawmakers in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged Dafna Hochman Rand, presidential nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, to crack down on accountability for human rights violations in both adversarial and allied countries on Thursday.
President Joe Biden announced Rand’s nomination in Nov. 2023. If confirmed, Rand would lead the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to protect democratic institutions worldwide and uphold human rights laws, a position that Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) called an “incredibly important post.”
According to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the DRL Bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed leader in more than three years, emphasizing the urgency and importance of Rand’s nomination.
“Attacks against human rights defenders are all across the globe, and coups and democratic backsliding threatens progress on every continent,” Cardin said. “Behind all this is the cancer of corruption that undermines the rule of law and good governance, threatening democratic institutions and human rights. That is why we need an assistant secretary who will be a powerful voice for democratic values.”
Rand is currently a Distinguished Resident Fellow in Strategic Affairs at Georgetown University and a lecturer at Princeton University. Previously, she served as Director of the Office of Foreign Assistance at the Department of State. She also has experience in the DRL, serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the bureau.
In her statement at the hearing, Rand said that responding to the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights violations is of “fundamental urgent importance.”
“The PRC’s vision suppresses freedom of expression and persecutes ethnic and religious minorities,” Rand said. She also expressed concern for the detainment of journalists and political prisoners in China.
Rand noted that “more can be done in the State Department” to implement existing laws that discourage forced labor and human rights violations in China, such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which restricts the trade of products made by forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China. Rand committed to working toward greater enforcement of the UFLPA if she is confirmed.
Sen. Van Hollen (D-Md.) expressed concern about the State Department’s struggle to enforce the Leahy Law, two provisions that prevent the U.S. from funding foreign security forces if there is evidence that the forces have committed gross violations of human rights. He said the State Department has “never had the political will to implement [the Leahy law].”
Rand promised to apply the Leahy Law “consistently and fairly” around the world if she is appointed. She emphasized the importance of securing the resources, staff and funding necessary to vet units receiving funding.
Rand also responded to Senators’ concerns about Egypt, which has detained thousands of political prisoners, according to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). The Biden administration has pushed to send aid to Egypt, despite their many human rights abuses.
Rand committed to advocating that the U.S. government “adhere to the law,” promising the committee that she would work to ensure the Leahy Law is enforced.
“I fundamentally believe in terms of my vision for this bureau that we can integrate human rights and values into our geopolitical and strategic interest,” Rand said.
Cardin noted that most Republicans and several Democrats in the committee could not attend the hearing, attributing their absences to busy schedules and their confidence in Rand as a nominee.
The committee will decide whether to recommend Rand favorably to the Senate in the coming months. If she is recommended, her nomination will be scheduled to be considered by the Senate.