Chairman James P. McGovern

James P. McGovern, Co-Chairman

Chairman Joe Pitts

Joe Pitts, Co-Chairman


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Legislative Authority

About the Commission

Mission Statement of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

The mission of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments. In particular, the Commission shall:

• Develop congressional strategies to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms reflecting the role and responsibilities of the United States Congress.
• Raise greater awareness of human rights issues among Members of Congress and their staff, as well as the public.
• Provide expert human rights advice to Members of Congress and their staff
• Advocate on behalf of individuals or groups whose human rights are violated or are in danger of being violated.
• Collaborate closely with professional staff of relevant congressional committees on human rights matters.
• Collaborate closely with the President of the United States and the Executive Branch, as well as recognized national and international human rights entities, to promote human rights initiatives in the United States Congress.
• Encourage Members of Congress to actively engage in human rights matters.


After the death of founding Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) Co-Chairman Tom Lantos on February 11, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appointed Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA) to join Congressman Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) as Democratic CHRC Co-Chairman. On the Speaker’s initiative to institutionalize the CHRC as a full entity in the House of Representatives, the House unanimously adopted H. Res. 1451, the “Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Establishment Resolution,” on September 24, 2008. Pursuant to H. Res. 1451, the Speaker and the Minority Leader appointed Congressman James P. McGovern and Congressman Frank R. Wolf as Commission Co-Chairmen for the remainder of the 110th Congress. In March 2009, the Speaker and the Minority Leader of the House re-appointed both Congressmen as Co-Chairmen for the 111th Congress (2009-2010).

In addition, the Speaker and Minority Leader confirmed the appointment of eight Members of Congress to the Commission’s Executive Committee upon suggestion of the Co-Chairmen as required by H. Res. 1451. These appointments for the 111th Congress included:

• Donna Edwards (D-MD)
• Janice Schakowsky (D-IL)
• Keith Ellison (D-MN)
• Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
• Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ)
• Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA)
• Trent Franks (R-AZ)
• Jeff Duncan (R-SC)


H. Res. 1451 formally institutionalized the now defunct Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC), the largest bipartisan and bicameral congressional human rights working group, which was founded by the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) and retired Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL) in 1983. The CHRC was founded in the defense of all rights codified in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the end of the 106th Congress, Congressman John Edward Porter retired from Congress and Congressman Frank R. Wolf assumed his responsibilities as the Republican Co-Chairman of the Caucus.

The Legacy of Tom Lantos

The Commission is named in honor of the life and legacy of the late Congressman Thomas Peter Lantos (D-CA12). Mr. Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in the U.S. Congress (1980 – 2008). He was born in Budapest, Hungary, where as a teenager he was sent to a forced labor camp by the German Nazi occupant military. He escaped the labor camp and sought refuge with an aunt who lived in a safe house operated by Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status and visa-issuing powers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews. Mr. Lantos quickly joined the anti-Nazi resistance. After the Russians liberated Budapest in 1945, Mr. Lantos tried to locate his mother and family members, but he gradually came to realize that they had all perished in Holocaust.

In 1947, Mr. Lantos came to the United States to study on a Hillel Foundation Scholarship. He earned his B.A. in 1949 and M.A. in economics in 1950 from the University of Washington in Seattle. Three years later he received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley. He subsequently served as a foreign policy commentator on television and as a senior advisor to several U.S. Senators.

In 1980, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 12th District of California. Throughout his congressional career, Congressman Lantos dedicated all of his efforts to raise awareness and respect for human rights around the world and became a leading human rights champion in the Congress. In 1983, he co-founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus with then-Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL). After serving 27 years on U.S. House Committee of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lantos was appointed Chairman of this Committee during the 110th Congress.

Among his many human rights accomplishments, Mr. Lantos’ historic invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to attend a formal meeting of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the U.S. Congress in 1987 stands out, as it opened and deepened the congressional relationship with His Holiness. In addition, Mr. Lantos and his wife Mrs. Annette Lantos were dedicated to the promotion of the heroic work of Swedish Diplomat Raul Wallenberg, who saved countless lives during the Holocaust in Hungary by issuing "protective passports," declaring the bearer to be a citizen of neutral Sweden.

In January 2008, upon announcing his retirement, Mr. Lantos said: “It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.”

Congressman Lantos died on February 11th, 2008, at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland.


Contact the Commission

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
4150 O'Neill Federal Building
200 C Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20515
United States of America

Phone: +1 (202) 225-3599
Fax: +1 (202) 226-5887


The Commission seeks to make its events, meetings and hearings accessible to persons with disabilities.

If you are in need of special accommodations, please call (202) 225-3599 at least four business days in advance or whenever practicable.

Questions with regard to special accommodations in general (including availability of Commission materials in alternative formats and assistive listening devices, sign language interpretation, etc.) may be directed to the Commission.

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