Washington Week on Human Rights: April 4, 2016

Top News

Guantanamo Today two detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were transferred to Senegal. The transfers come as the Pentagon continues to advocate for the administration’s plan to close the detention facility. The plan includes the accelerated transfer of detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It also mandates expedited review, pursuant to administrative Period Review Board (PRB) hearings, of those remaining detainees who are not facing trial to determine if they can be cleared for transfer. The remaining detainees who will not be transferred in the near term—a number not to exceed 60—will be relocated to one of thirteen stateside detention facilities, pending Congressional approval. This will result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million per year compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 89 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $5 million per detainee. The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.” 

Global Refugee Crisis President Obama will meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington, D.C. today to discuss ISIS, the upcoming NATO summit, and the continuing global refugee crisis. The two will meet just hours after Greece deported the first 202 refugees to Turkey under a new European Union plan to address the migration crisis. Last year more than one million refugees and migrants—about half of them Syrians—fled by sea to Europe, and NATO has now launched a mission to counter the smuggling operations that transport people to Europe’s shores. The United States should ensure that NATO actions do not violate the human rights of refugees and migrants, including right of refugees to flee persecution and seek asylum. UNHCR has cautioned that NATO’s mission—which Secretary Kerry stated is to “close off a key access route” used by refugees and migrants in order to “stem this tide” should not “undermine the institution of asylum for people in need of international protection.” Human Rights First’s report “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership” details the deteriorating conditions facing Syrian refugees across the region, the backlogs hampering U.S. progress toward meeting its commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees this year, and the impact of the failure to effectively address the refugee crisis on the stability of front-line refugee hosting states.

Human Trafficking Last week a nonpartisan coalition founded by experts in the anti-trafficking movement launched Generation Freedom, a new effort to drive greater American leadership in the fight against human trafficking. Coordinated by the United Way Center on Human Trafficking & Slavery, the coalition boasts nearly 70 member-organizations, including Human Rights First. Drawing together political will from both sides of the aisle, Generation Freedom aims to increase resources to make anti-trafficking efforts more commensurate with the size of the problem. Even though it is the world’s leader in funding international anti-trafficking programs, the U.S. government spent more money in a single month fighting illegal drug trafficking than it spent fighting modern slavery domestically and internationally over the past 15 years. Members of the coalition hope to ensure that the next president will address this disparity and embrace a renewed effort to end modern day slavery. To learn more about Human Rights First’s work, please watch our bankrupt slavery video.

Bahrain U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Bahrain this week to meet with Gulf foreign ministers in preparation for the Gulf Co-operation Council summit in Saudi Arabia on April 21. The visit comes as Mahdi Abu Deeb, leader of the Bahrain Teachers Association, was released today on completion of a five year prison term. Abu Deeb played a prominent role in the widespread 2011 pro-democracy protests in the country and was convicted after being tortured into making a false confession. He is a lead figure in Bahrain’s civil society and, like many others, was silenced for speaking out against the regime’s failings. During his trial, representatives of the U.S. government were in attendance but remained publicly silent on an unfair process. Human Rights First is urging Secretary Kerry to speak out against Bahrain’s continued targeting of peaceful dissidents during his trip.

Quote of the Week

“The world must step up, with concrete actions and pledges. All countries can do more. Syria’s children, Syria’s future, are counting on everyone here today to be generous, to show solidarity, to ease their suffering and end their plight.” 

—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling on the global community to share responsibility in the aid of Syrian refugees.

We’re Reading

Writing for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Annick Febrey discusses the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, its upcoming reauthorization, and how it can more effectively increase accountability for traffickers.

The Associated Press examines the improving situation for the LGBT community in the Dominican Republic. Activists on the ground say that the presence of U.S. Ambassador Wally Brewster, the first openly gay U.S. diplomat in the region who was the focus of a New York Times piece, has helped drive a cultural shift on the human rights of LGBT people in the country.

In the Huffington Post, Brian Dooley calls for the inclusion of members of civil society in the process of creating a new Syrian constitution. The worse case scenario, the article argues, would be for political elites to dictate how a post-conflict Syria takes shape.

Yesterday’s New York Times featured a piece detailing the plight of Samey Honaryar, an Afghan interpreter who worked with the United States military and eventually fled to the U.S. to escape Taliban persecution. His initial asylum claim was denied, and Honaryar is currently in an immigration detention facility awaiting a retrial. He is unable to afford an attorney.

We’re Listening To

On NPR’s Morning Edition, David Welna discusses the shrinking detainee population at Guantanamo Bay and the prospects of the facility shuttering. The program features remarks by Special Envoys for Guantanamo Detention Closure Paul Lewis and Lee Wolowsky.

On the Hill

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Terror in Europe: Safeguarding US Citizens at Home and Abroad.” 10:00 AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Featuring James Woolsey, former CIA director.

Around Town  

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold a discussion entitled “Breaking New Ground: Preparing the Defense Department for the Future.” 2:00 PM EST, CSIS, 1616 Rhode
Island Ave NW, Washington, DC. Featuring Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will hold a discussion entitled “What is the Appropriate Way to Respond to and Ultimately Defeat Terrorism?” 4:00 PM, SAIS, Bernstein-Office Building, 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW, Room 500, Washington, DC

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion entitled “The European Refugee Surge: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities.” 9:00 AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15thStreet NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC

George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs will hold a discussion entitled “The Dark Web and Human Trafficking.” 12:00 PM, GMU,3351 Fairfax Drive, Founders Hall, Room 111, Arlington, VA

The American University Washington College of Law will hold a discussion entitled “Workers without Borders,” focusing on immigration, employment and labor laws. 12:30 PM, AU WCL, 4300 Nebraska Ave NW, Claudio Grossman Hall, YT 01-02, Washington, DC

The Hoover Institution in Washington will host a panel discussion, “What are the Ramifications of Current Foreign Policy for the Next Administration?” 5:00 PM, 1399 New York Ave NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC. Featuring Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The International Peace and Security Institute will hold a symposium entitled “Countering Violent Extremism, April 6-7.  9:00 AM, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The International Peace and Security Institute will hold a symposium entitled “Countering Violent Extremism, April 6-7.” 9:00 AM, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC

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Published on April 4, 2016


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