National Security, Trafficking, Equality Among Topics at 3rd Annual Human Rights Summit

Washington, DC – Today and tomorrow, Human Rights First convenes its third annual Human Rights Summit, bringing together human rights defenders, U.S. policymakers, military leaders, and business leaders, and Members of Congress from across the political spectrum to address some of the most pressing issues of the day and identify pragmatic opportunities for American leadership to advance human rights. Human Rights First focuses not just on what human rights outcomes should be, but puts forward real-life roadmaps on how to achieve them.  To that end, today Human Rights First is issuing five policy blueprints on how to solve critical human rights challenges:  how the U.S. government can work to conduct effective counterterrorism that reinforces human rights, close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, disrupt the business of human trafficking, stop the spread of Russian-style anti-LGBT laws, and address the rise of antisemitism and extremism in Europe.

This week’s summit takes place at the Newseum Knight Conference Center in Washington, D.C. It culminates with presentation of the Beacon Prize, which will go to Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John McCain (R-AZ) for their leadership to end the use of torture and other cruel treatment of prisoners by the United States.

“This year’s Human Rights Summit comes at a time when our nation is grappling with how to respond to crises here at home and around the world. Finding effective solutions to these challenges will depend on diverse actors coming together around shared values. That is the reason for this gathering—to bring policymakers, business leaders, and activists together to share ideas and chart a way forward on the most pressing issues of our time,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino.

The Summit is comprised of two days of panel discussions, keynotes, and plenary sessions that cover a wide array of topics including national security, immigration, human trafficking, the rights of LGBT people, the role of sports in advancing human rights, and protecting civil society groups. Featured speakers include: General John F. Kelly, Commander, U.S. Southern Command; Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski; Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Representative David Cicilline (D-RI), Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Major General Paul D. Eaton (Ret.), Daniel Benjamin, and many others. For a full list of speakers, click here.

In addition, today during lunch, Human Rights First will honor Egyptian human rights defender Kholoud Saber Barakat with the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty for her work advocating for the rights of women and providing psychological support to sexual assault and rape survivors. Following the conclusion of today’s program, the organization will host a “Voices of Hope” reception celebrating 2014 victories in advancing the human rights of LGBT people.

Tomorrow, the organization will present its Beacon Prize for American global leadership on human rights. That presentation comes as the Senate intelligence committee prepares to release key sections of its comprehensive 5-year investigation into the CIA’s post-911 interrogation and detention program. Senator Feinstein spearheaded that effort and, along with Senator McCain, has championed the report’s release. In addition, Senator McCain, himself a victim of torture, led a bipartisan effort to enact the McCain Amendment as part of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.

Among the new policy documents released today by Human Rights First are the following policy blueprints:


Published on December 9, 2014


Seeking asylum?

If you do not already have legal representation, cannot afford an attorney, and need help with a claim for asylum or other protection-based form of immigration status, we can help.