Washington Week on Human Rights: April 20, 2015

Top News

Refugee Protection On Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Secretary of State John Kerry will deliver remarks during the 45th Annual Conference on the Americas, co-hosted by the U.S. Department of State. Among the topics Secretary Kerry should address during his speech is how the Obama Administration plans to protect refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. Currently, the administration is dealing with this humanitarian crisis by housing women and children who are fleeing the region’s violence in immigration jails. Human Rights First is urging the administration to stop detaining families with children and ensure that these women and children receive fair proceedings to determine if they qualify for asylum or other protection in the United States. Human Rights First’s fact sheet “ How to Manage the Increase in Families at the Border” details steps the United States should take to protect refugees deserving of U.S. protection.

Trafficking The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a Wednesday hearing on “Accountability and Transformation: Tier Rankings in the Fight Against Human Trafficking.” The hearing will address the recent politicization of the country rankings in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report. Among those testifying is Mark Lagon, who is among the prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state, and local government, and the civil rights community that Human Rights First has partnered with to launch a major public education and advocacy effort to disrupt the business of human trafficking. The group of ambassadors is co-chaired by former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis J. Freeh. Human Rights First has also issued a blueprint, “How to Disrupt the Business of Human Trafficking,” that outlines steps the United States should take to weaken the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business.

Bahrain Over the weekend, Bahrain hosted the Bahrain Grand Prix Formula One race. The race has often coincided with the Kingdom’s crackdown on human rights defenders, a step some have speculated is a government effort to deter protests during the event. Just weeks before this year’s race, Bahraini authorities arrested Nabeel Rajab after he tweeted information about reports of torture in the country’s main prison and about the military attacks in Yemen. While Formula One had been reluctant to weigh in on human rights concerns in host countries, this year it reversed that stance and issued a statement saying it “has committed itself to respecting human rights in Bahrain and other countries in which it conducts business.” It also pledged to “understand and monitor through our due diligence processes the potential human rights impacts of our activities” and to “engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, where appropriate.”

Day 1 for LGBT Special Envoy Today is the first day on the job for Randy W. Berry, the State Department’s newly established Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Berry is responsible for advancing the State Department’s initiatives to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, responding to discrimination and violence against LGBT people, and building partnerships with LGBT activists around the world. Human Rights First advocated for the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT people, urging President Obama to build on his administration’s progress in advancing equality by creating this position.

Quote of the Week
“[T]ogether we must firmly and forcefully condemn the anti-Semitism that is still far too common today. Together we must stand against bigotry and hatred in all their forms. And together, we can leave our children a world that is more just, more free, and more secure for all humankind.”

—President Obama honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day

We’re Reading
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley argued in Al Jazeera that President Obama should put pressure on Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other Gulf allies to improve their civil society and human rights record as the administration works to complete a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported that the Periodic Review Board, an intra-agency administrative board comprised of national security and intelligence experts, has cleared Guantanamo Bay detainee Masher al Sabri for transfer. Human Rights First has called on the administration to increase the pace of reviews if it intends to close Guantanamo by the end of President Obama’s term in office.

We’re Watching
The New York Times’ Retro Report investigates the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, in which the agency lied to Congress and the administration about the effectiveness and brutality of the program. The Retro Report features an interview with former General Counsel of the Navy Alberto Mora, has argued that the inhumane nature of the program was unlawful and violated human rights.

On the Hill


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Department of State.” State Department Inspector General Steve Linick will testify. 10AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Defense Department policy and programs to counter threats to the United States from terrorism and irregular warfare. 2:30PM, 222 Russell Senate Office Building


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will host a hearing on “State Department Reauthorization: Ensuring Effective U.S. Diplomacy Within A Responsible Budget.” Deputy Secretary of State for Management And Resources Heather Higginbottom will testify. 9:30AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Financial Services Committee will host a hearing on “Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing – A Survey of Global Terrorism and Terrorist Financing.” 10AM, HVC-210, U.S. Capitol

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Accountability and Transformation: Tier Rankings in the Fight Against Human Trafficking.” Shay Cullen, president and CEO of the PREDA Foundation; Mark Lagon, president of Freedom House; and Matt Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, will testify. 1:30PM, 2200 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Armed Services Committee ‘s Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee markup of H.R.1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2016.” 2:30PM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building


The House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the budget for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gill Kerlikowske will testify. 8AM, B-308 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Armed Service Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee will hold a markup of H.R.1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2016.” 12PM, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and the National Interest Subcommittee hearing on “Eroding the Law and Diverting Taxpayer Resources: An Examination of the Administration’s Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program.” 2:30PM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Around Town

MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2015

The Americas Society/Council of the Americas will hold the 45th annual Washington Conference on the Americas, April 20-21. 5:30PM, Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.


Freedom Network will host its 13th annual conference on “Trafficking Victims Protection Act Past, Present and Future: Elevating the ‘Human’ in Human Trafficking,” April 21-22. 8:30AM, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Washington, D.C.-Crystal City, 300 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, Va.

The National Endowment for Democracy will host “Hate Crime and Hate Speech Legislation in Russia: Lessons from Europe.” The event will feature Alexander Verkhovsky, Director, SOVA Center for Information and Analysis; Dmitry Dubrovsky, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy; moderated by Miriam Lanskoy, National Endowment for Democracy. 10:30AM, 1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004


Published on April 20, 2015


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