CFI Tells Senate: Tillerson’s Ties to Russia, Views on Human Rights Must Be Scrutinized

January 11, 2017

The Center for Inquiry has submitted a letter to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations urging that, during its confirmation hearing for Secetary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, members thoroughly question Mr. Tillerson regarding his close ties to the Russian government, including President Vladimir Putin, and his views regarding the role of advancing fundamental human rights in American foreign diplomacy.

In our letter, written by CFI Director of Government Affairs Michael De Dora, we expressed serious concerns about Mr. Tillerson's lack of a track record on substantive issues, and his close relationship with autocratic, abusive regimes such as Russia. As we wrote:

As you are likely aware, Mr. Tillerson, who has served as CEO of ExxonMobil since 2006, would be the first secretary of state in modern history with no experience in government or public diplomacy. As a result, there is little to no information regarding his views on the role of human rights in diplomacy, and the importance of the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression, or LGBTQ equality. Yet, as secretary of state, Mr. Tillerson will be tasked with promoting respect for fundamental human rights around the world. What does Mr. Tillerson believe is the role of human rights in American foreign diplomacy? Is Mr. Tillerson well-versed on international human rights norms, knowledge of which will be essential to his efforts? Is he aware of the plight that millions of humans face due to their religious beliefs or lack thereof, or else their sexual orientation or gender identity? Does he strongly support the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression and fully oppose restrictive and discriminatory measures, such as blasphemy and similar laws, that governments and societies use to muzzle minorities and dissenters? Does he oppose policies that restrict the rights of citizens based on their religious affiliation? How will the promotion of basic freedoms figure into his diplomacy? How will he work to advance fundamental human rights, especially when dealing with the world’s worst violators? We urge you to inquire on these fronts.

Tillerson's confirmation hearing is scheduled to take place Wednesday, January 11, at 9:15 a.m. 

You can read and download our letter here.

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