Washington Week on Human Rights: April 27, 2015

Top News

State Department Country Reports Early this week, the U.S. State Department is expected to release its 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The reports are released and submitted to Congress annually and highlight human rights violations perpetrated during the past year in all United Nations member states. Human Rights First will examine key issues included in the reports after they are made public, including abuses perpetrated by U.S. allies in the Middle East, the spread of discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation in central Asia, and the growth of antisemitism in Europe. The State Department’s assessments come just weeks before President Obama will host a Camp David meeting with leaders from the Persian Gulf, a gathering that is expected to include tough conversations about ongoing human rights abuses in countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Lynch Assumes Attorney General Post Today, Vice President Joe Biden will swear in Loretta Lynch as the 83rd attorney general and the nation’s first African-American woman to hold that post. Last week, five months after President Obama nominated Lynch, the Senate confirmed her by a vote of 56-43. As Lynch assumes her new position as head of the Justice Department, Human Rights First will press her to continue prosecuting terrorism suspects in U.S. federal courts, which are the venues best equipped to handle these complicated cases. For example, hundreds of suspected terrorism suspects have been successfully tried in the U.S. federal court system while only eight people have been prosecuted in the troubled military commission proceedings at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Trafficking On Wednesday, the Tom Lantos Commission will host a hearing on human trafficking in North Korea. The event comes less than a week after the Senate passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, legislation containing key provisions to enhance current efforts to disrupt the business of human trafficking. The bill passed by a vote of 99-0 and contains four measures that would enhance current efforts to combat the criminal enterprise of modern slavery: improvements to victim restitution and law enforcement reporting, increased victim empowerment in the context of criminal procedures, and further funding and implementation of law enforcement training. As 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in the United States, Human Rights First has joined together with prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state and local government, and the civil rights community to urge the U.S. government to develop common sense policies to disrupt the business of human trafficking.

Quote of the Week

“We have expressed faith in the greatest court system in the world and brought the toughest national security cases into that system and with unbelievable results. The notion that we’re still having a debate about whether or not cases ought to be brought in the Article 3 system or in military tribunals is over. It’s dead. And that’s because, again, of the great work that the prosecutors in various districts have performed in putting together wonderful cases and then successfully trying those cases.”

—Former Attorney General Eric Holder addressing terrorism prosecutions during his departure ceremony on April 24

We’re Reading

As reported by The Guardian and AFP AFP, last week the Senate passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which included key measures aimed at disrupting the business of human trafficking. Learn more here.

Foreign Policy’s Justine Drennen discussed what to expect from incoming U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch when it comes to prosecuting terrorism, noting that federal courts have been far more successful in prosecuting these cases than have military commissions.

U.S. News and World Report detailed the European Commission’s plans to address the migrant and refugee crisis following the deaths of more than 800 migrants off the coast of Libya last week, noting the need for increased protection measures for those fleeing violence and persecution in addition to proposed security measures.

We’re Watching

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in this term’s same sex marriage case, NPR’s Nina Totenberg provided listeners with a look

into the justice’s evolution on LGBT issues.

On the Hill


The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “United States Security Policy in Europe.” Retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law And Diplomacy; Ian Brzezinski, resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security; Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, will testify. 9:30AM, G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify. 10AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building


The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “The Homeland Security Department’s Budget Submission for FY2016.” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify. 9AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a full committee markup of H.R.1735, the “National Defense Authorization Act for FY2016.” 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.” William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management; Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress; and Kenneth Weinstein, president and CEO of the Hudson Institute, will testify. 2PM, 2255 Rayburn House Office Building

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing on “North Korea’s State-Sponsored Forced Labor Enterprise: Exposing the World’s Human Trafficking Marketplace.” 2:30PM (location TBD)

Around Town

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015

The National Press Club Newsmaker Program will hold a news conference on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda and actions. The event will feature Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. 10AM, National Press Club, 14th and F Streets NW, Bloomberg Room, Washington, D.C.


The University of Maryland (UMD) School of Public Policy will hold a symposium on “Obstacles and Opportunities: Emerging International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Policy Issues.” 12PM, UMD, 2517 Van Munching Hall, College Park, MD

The Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Program will host a discussion to preview the Aspen Security Forum. The event will feature former National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander; and former National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen 3:30PM, Aspen Institute, 1 Dupont Circle NW, Suite 700, Washington, D.C.

The Hudson Institute will host a discussion on “The Global Magnitsky Act: Ending Impunity for Human Rights Abusers.” The event will feature Kyle Parker, senior professional staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Bill Browder, author of “Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice”; and Charles Davidson, executive director of the Kleptocracy Initiative at Hudson. 5PM, Hudson Institute, 1015 15th Street NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C.


The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) will hold a discussion on “In the Shadows of Democracy: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer Rights in Uganda.” The event will feature Pepe Julian Onziema, program director of Sexual Minorities Uganda; Wade Mullen, staff attorney for Partners for Human Rights at RFK Human Rights; and Zerxes Spencer, fellow in the International Forum for Democratic Studies at NED. 4PM, NED, 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C.


Published on April 27, 2015


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