As political prisoners around the world begin another year behind bars, the United States announces the launch of the Without Just Cause initiative, which seeks to raise international awareness of the plight of political prisoners and their families, and to advocate for the release of all individuals worldwide who are detained unfairly.

The individuals highlighted in this initiative are emblematic of the many political prisoners held by governments in every region of the world.  Many are subjected to torture, gender-based violence, inhumane conditions, enforced disappearance, or other forms of abuse.  Some are held in reprisal for peaceful protest, exposing corruption, or critical reporting.  Others are held because of their race, ethnicity, religion, language, gender identity, or for perceived or real LGBTQI+ status or conduct.  Some governments abuse their legal systems to target peaceful protestors or government critics on contrived charges such as “terrorism,” “extremism,” “cybercrimes,” “fake news,” or “hooliganism.” Many are sentenced by courts that lack independence, in trials closed to outside observers, while others are detained without being afforded other applicable legal protections.

The Without Just Cause initiative will include diplomatic engagement and public diplomacy in Washington, DC and by U.S. embassies abroad.  It reflects input from political prisoner advocates, family members, and nongovernmental organizations.

As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes clear, every person worldwide is entitled to respect for their human rights, including freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association.  The United States calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners, and invites all who believe in the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms to support this initiative.

To learn more about this initiative, visit

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U.S. Department of State

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