Washington Week on Human Rights: April 13, 2015

Top News

Equality in Jamaica During his trip to Jamaica last week, President Obama voiced support for the island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and praised young civil society leaders for pushing an agenda that includes equality. The call came just days after a letter issued by Human Rights First, signed by a broad-based group of 20 human rights organizations, urged President Obama to raise concerns for the human rights of LGBT Jamaicans during his visit. President Obama’s town hall gathering with young leaders included a special mention of a key partner of Human Rights First, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica’s Angeline Jackson, who he praised as a young leader whose efforts are making a global difference. Human Rights First recently returned from Jamaica, where researchers met with local activists, Jamaican officials, and U.S. officials based in Jamaica to discuss challenges for the island’s LGBT community. They often live in a climate of fear of violence, including threats, sexual attacks, and other physical violence. Activists report widespread discrimination against the LGBT community in access to services, including housing, employment, and healthcare. Access to healthcare is of particular concern, and activists report that members of the LGBT community are fearful of seeking treatment, including for HIV, given experiences of mistreatment or discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. There are also particular concerns, including gender-based violence, faced by women and transgender people.

Terrorism Prosecutions It took federal prosecutors less than two years to secure a guilty verdict in the prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who last week was found guilty of all 30 charges stemming from the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Meanwhile, the Guantanamo-based military commission prosecutions of the five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks in 2001 that killed nearly 3000 people on U.S. soil, and of the man charged with orchestrating the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors in Yemen, continue to face protracted delays. This months’ 9/11 case hearings were postponed while the government scrambles to prove the FBI’s infiltration into defense teams didn’t compromise representation of the accused. And last week, a military judge ordered an MRI for the USS Cole defendant, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, who claims he suffered brain damage due to torture during his interrogation. Since Congress forbids the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States, even for medical procedures, the base had to purchase an MRI machine in 2013 for nearly $1.7 million. That machine never actually made it to Guantanamo, however. The Nashiri case will now face further delays as military officials figure out how to comply with the judge’s latest order.

Extremism in Hungary Over the weekend, Hungary’s far-right extremist party Jobbik won its first parliamentary district in a by-election. Lajos Rig received 35.3 percent of the vote to win the Tapolca district seat. Jobbik is now Hungary’s second-largest political party and the party’s recent transition to what MTI state news service calls a more “measured, calm voice” has increased its popular support. Human Rights First’s report, “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care,” details the growing threat to human rights posed by the rise of Jobbik. It also documents the Hungarian government’s actions over the past four years that have violated religious freedoms, curtailed judicial independence and media freedom, and failed to combat a rising tide of violent antisemitism. These actions have led to a series of rebukes by the European Union, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and from Hungary’s own Supreme Court.

Quote of the Week

“And what gives me so much hope about your generation is that you’re more interested in the hard work of waging peace than resorting to the quick impulses of conflict. You’re more interested in the hard work of building prosperity through entrepreneurship, not cronyism or corruption. You’re more eager for progress that comes not by holding down any segment of society, but by holding up the rights of every human being, regardless of what we look like, or how we pray, or who we love.”

—President Obama as he held a town hall meeting young civil society advocates in Kingston, Jamaica

We’re Reading

Following a piece by Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord urging President Obama to raise human rights concerns during his trip to Jamaica, the Advocate and the Washington Blade reported that the president highlighted the work of Jamaica LGBT human rights defender and Human Rights First ally Angeline Jackson during his remarks at the youth leaders forum in Kingston.

In a piece for Defense One, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley argues that lifting the hold on military aid to Egypt is likely to only add to instability in the region.

Prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab wrote in Foreign Policy about his arrest and prosecution for statements made on Twitter, urging the United States and other allies to pressure Bahrain to challenge terrorism at home. The article was published one week after Rajab was arrested at his home, read more here.

We’re Watching

Following the announcement that the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coaltion members are taking steps to root out human trafficking from their supply chains, Human Rights First released a new video about how to bankrupt the criminal enterprise of modern slavery. The video features campaign ambassadors former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Louis J. Freeh.

On the Hill


The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “National Defense Priorities from Members for the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act.” 10AM, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will testify. 10AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building


The House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement budget. Sarah Saldana, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will testify. 10AM, 2362-A Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will markup of H.R.1150, to amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to improve the ability of the United States to advance religious freedom globally through enhanced diplomacy, training, counterterrorism and foreign assistance efforts, and through stronger and more flexible political responses to religious freedom violations and violent extremism worldwide; and H.Res.50, calling for the release of Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who was captured by Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine and has been held illegally in a Russian prison since July 2014. 2PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2015

The Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute will hold its 10th annual Samuel Dash Conference on Human Rights, with the theme “Migration, Border Externalization and Access to Humanitarian Protection.” 9:45AM, Georgetown University Law Center, 120 F Street NW, Gewirz Student Center, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will host a discussion on “Border Security, Metrics and Immigration Enforcement.” The event will feature former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, chairman and co-founder of the Chertoff Group; Bryan Roberts, senior economist at Econometrica Inc.; Paul Anstine, staff director of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee; and Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at BPC. 11AM, BPC, 1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) will hold a discussion on “Outlook for the 114th Congress,” focusing on “a range of pressing policy issues, including military action against the Islamic State group, a potential nuclear deal with Iran, prospects for defense spending, and trade policy.” The discussion will feature Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass.; former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., national security contributor for CNN; and Jake Tapper, chief Washington correspondent for CNN. 12:30PM, CFR, 1777 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and The World Bank Group will hold a meeting in Washington, DC. World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Preston Auditorium, Washington, D.C., or as noted.


Published on April 13, 2015


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