New Year, New Congress: Video – Human Rights First’s Top 5 Priorities for the 114th Congress

1. Close the door on Torture

With the release of the 500-page summary of Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture and detention after 9/11, the country finally has many of the grisly and horrifying details of the torture and detention program. Congress should support Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill which would close the legal loopholes, restrict the CIA to interrogation methods from the Army Field Manual, and prohibit the CIA from holding detainees other than on a short-term, transitory basis.

2. Shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay

The detention facility a Guantanamo Bay is costly, legally problematic, and contrary to American values and national security. That’s why President Obama has committed to closing Guantanamo by the end of his second term. With 127 detainees still being held at Guantanamo, Congress should use the nomination hearings of Ash Carter for Secretary of Defense as an opportunity to ensure that closing Guantanamo is a top priority for him if he is confirmed.

3. Strengthen our immigration and asylum system by fully funding immigration courts

Refugees seeking protection in the United States from violence and persecution often face significant backlogs in the immigration courts. Congress should prioritize full funding for immigration courts and asylum offices so that all cases – not only those from the border – receive a hearing or interview in a timely manner rather than waiting years.

4. Increase efforts to disrupt the criminal enterprise of human trafficking

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery. Yet human trafficking is the largest growing criminal enterprise today trapping at least 21 million people in bondage both here in the United States and abroad. Congress should introduce new legislation targeted on putting human traffickers out of business and behind bars by increasing resources for investigations, law enforcement training, and data collection and by requiring transparency and accountability in U.S. government procurement and business supply chains.

5. Create a Special Envoy for the human rights of LGBT people in the State Department

Despite strides within the United States toward greater equality for LGBT people, governments around the world continue to subject their LGBT citizens to criminalization, persecution, and violence. The International Human Rights Defense Act, which is expected to be reintroduced this Congress, would create a special envoy to ensure that protecting the human rights of LGBT people worldwide remains a foreign policy priority.

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Published on January 12, 2015

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