On March 24, 2023, U.S lawmakers took a decisive step to combat the alarming trend of transnational repression by introducing the Transnational Repression Policy Act. This legislative proposal, led by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley, Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN), aims to address the threat posed by foreign governments targeting their citizens living outside their home countries. The bill seeks to uphold the values of free speech and protest while safeguarding the human rights of those subjected to transnational repression.
What is Transnational Repression?
Transnational repression refers to the use of oppressive tactics, such as surveillance, kidnapping, and threats, by authoritarian regimes to silence and intimidate dissent and opposition figures abroad. This dangerous practice targets political and human rights activists, dissidents, journalists, political opponents, and minority groups, extending the reach of oppression beyond the borders of the home country.
Why its important for all Pakistanis living across United States, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia & New Zealand to read about "Transnational Repression"? the new law emerging in North America to protect anyone who is on American soil from the harassment by authoritarian states who…
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) July 29, 2023
The Need for the Transnational Repression Policy Act
Senator Merkley highlights the significance of the Transnational Repression Policy Act in addressing the growing threats faced by individuals exercising their freedom of speech and assembly. The bill aims to hold foreign officials accountable for their involvement in transnational repression and seeks to impose targeted sanctions on them. Additionally, it aims to provide essential support and protection to the victims of transnational repression, allowing them to seek justice and safeguard their fundamental human rights.
Watch Senator Merkley talking about transnational repression:
The Path to Becoming Law
The issue of transnational repression has been a subject of extensive debate, with numerous institutions, including the FBI, the Heritage Foundation, and Freedom House, playing a pivotal role in shedding light on this critical matter.
As of now, the bill has not been approved by the Senate and still requires approval from the House of Representatives and the U.S. President. However, given its focus on protecting the foreign population of the United States, it is expected to pass and become law.
The Role of Interpol in Transnational Repression
Authoritarian regimes have extensively exploited Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, to perpetrate transnational repression. They fabricate false cases against their diaspora members and request Interpol to issue arrest warrants, leading to dire consequences for those targeted.
U.S. lawmakers have emphasized that the new law primarily targets authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, and Iran. However, it’s essential to recognize that the law will impact Pakistani institutions due to the evident transnational repression faced by the Pakistani diaspora in America, including journalists and activists.
A striking example of this is the case of prominent journalist Arshad Sharif. Last year in August, he was forced into exile after facing grave threats. Seeking safety, he relocated to the UAE, but sadly, the threats persisted. Fearing for his life, he moved again, this time to Kenya, where he was murdered. As of now, his murder remains unresolved, leaving justice elusive.