Open Letter to the Supreme Court, Signed by Desmond Tutu, Human Rights Leaders from 22 Countries: Uphold Voting Rights

AN OPEN LETTER

To the Hon. Chief Justice and the Associate Justices
of the United States Supreme Court:
Re: Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96

America’s leadership in voting rights has been a beacon of hope for millions around the world who have made their own sacrifices for freedom and democracy. Advocates for global human rights anxiously await your ruling on efforts to roll back the rights and protections that are enshrined in the United States Constitution and implemented by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Human rights go beyond the abstract: they are a measure of a nation’s spiritual health. At the same time they engender full economic participation and the opportunity for advancement. It is no wonder that voting rights, in particular, often are contested by elites who have much to gain by disenfranchising the most vulnerable segments of our societies.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act swept aside the discriminatory requirements and practices that for generations thwarted the fundamental right of millions of African American citizens to vote; required Federal pre-approval of certain voting procedures to prevent racist ingenuity from devising new obstacles; and punished those who would deprive citizens of voting rights on the basis of race or color.

We have watched as government officials in many states enacted discriminatory voter identification laws to restrict the availability of polling places and to limit the numbers of citizens able to vote. These actions were rationalized with claims of voter fraud that have been proven non-existent. Many of the specific practices that made the Voting Rights Act necessary, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, are not likely to be exhumed. But the widespread efforts to enact new voting restrictions, with known and intended discriminatory effects, confirms that America still has need of flexible federal power to halt new attempts at disenfranchisement.

Beyond your borders, the global march toward justice will suffer grievous harm should you surrender to those who seek to disenfranchise American citizens. We urge you to heed the United States Congress’s judgment that continued federal enforcement of the voting rights guaranty is appropriate and necessary.

Friends of the Court

The Hon. Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa
High Court of Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya

Hossam Bahgat
Director
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
Cairo, Egypt

Abu A. Brima
Executive Director
Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)
Freetown, Sierra Leone

José Benjamín Cuéllar Martínez
Director
Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la UCA (IDHUCA)
San Salvador, El Salvador

Kaddour Chouicha
Algerian League for the Defense Of Human Rights
Alger, Algeria

Iara Pietricovsky de Oliveira
Co-Director
Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (INESC)
Brazilia, Brazil

Baltasar Garzón Real
Spanish Judge
Attorney and President of the Baltasar Garzón International Foundation for Human Rights and Universal Jurisdiction
Madrid, Spain

Gustavo Gallón Giraldo
Director

Comisión Colombiana de Juristas
Bogotá, Colombia

Thomas Hammarberg
Former Commissioner for Human Rights
Council of Europe
Stockholm, Sweden

Prof. Mary Elizabeth King
University for Peace
San Jose, Costa Rica

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
House of Lords
London, United Kingdom

Kamelia Kemileva
Geneva Academy of International
Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland

Mario Lana
President
Union of Jurists for Human Rights Protection
Rome, Italy

Moké Loamba
President
Association pour les droits de l’homme et l’univers carcéral (ADHUC)
Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Felix Morka
Executive Director
Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC)
Lagos, Nigeria

Sofía Macher
President, Reparations Council, Peru
Former Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru
Former member, International Executive Committee, Amnesty International
Lima, Peru

Dr. George Mathew
Chairman

Institute of Social Sciences
New Delhi, India

Leonel G. Rivero Rodríguez
Coordinador General
Defensa Estrégica En Derechos Humanas
México City, México

Livingstone Sewanyana
Executive Director
Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives (FHRI)
Kampala, Uganda

Martín Sigal
President
Asociación por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ)
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Aloysius Toe
Chair of the Board
Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy
Monrovia, Liberia

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Nobel Peace Prize Recipient
General Secretary (retired)
South African Council of Churches
Cape Town, South Africa

Desmond Tutu, Human Rights Leaders from 22 Countries, Urges Supreme Court to Protect Voting Rights