Washington Week on Human Rights: August 1, 2016

Top News

Immigration Detention

This Wednesday, August 3rd the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Human Rights First will host a breakfast discussion on the impact of expedited removal and detention policies on individuals seeking asylum in the United States, as well as recommended reforms. The event will be held just weeks ahead of the September Leaders’ Summit, hosted by President Obama, that will address the global refugee crisis.

Wednesday’s event will highlight Human Rights First’s new report detailing the increase in asylum seekers held in U.S. immigration detention facilities and policy shifts that have led to a decrease in parole and longer-term detention as a result. “Lifeline on Lockdown: Increased U.S. Detention of Asylum Seekers” analyzes new data on the detention and release of asylum seekers and offers recommendations to the administration and Congress for how to abide by and improve existing policies and ensure compliance with U.S. international human rights and refugee protection commitments.

To attend the event RSVP here.

Jamaica Pride

Today begins a week-long celebration of Jamaica Pride, starting with a series of events that capture the diversity and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Jamaicans. Comprised of sporting events, entertainment, symposiums, community outreach, and a gala, it is a chance for participants to proudly stand up for who they are—both as members of the LGBT community and as Jamaicans.

Though rarely enforced, legislation on the books in Jamaica criminalizes all forms of intimacy between men. In combination with other discriminatory statutes, these laws form the foundation for marginalization of the community, and LGBT Jamaicans face threats and violence as well as discrimination in access to education, employment, healthcare, and other services.

Last year, Human Rights First released a report on the challenges facing LGBT Jamaicans and how the United States can best assist the country’s LGBT community as they strive to create a better, more inclusive future.

Olympic Refugee Team

For the first time ever, a team comprised of refugees will compete at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio, which begin this Friday. The ten athletes, who have fled violence and persecution in their home countries of Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will march under the Olympic flag in the opening ceremony.

Upon announcing the team, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said the team represents a “symbol of hope” and is “a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society.”

The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Over four million Syrians alone have fled their country due to conflict and persecution, with an additional 7.6 million displaced within Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. Human Rights First is pressing the U.S. government to demonstrate global leadership to improve access to protection for Syrian refugees by leading an effort to meet the United Nations humanitarian appeal and committing to significantly increase U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Guantanamo Bay

Last week a two-week period of pretrial hearings wrapped up in the case against the alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks at the Guantanamo Bay military commissions. Fifty-nine motions in the case were up for consideration, including a motion to dismiss the entire case because of the government’s alleged destruction of evidence at a CIA black site.

This week, the administrative Periodic Review Board (PRB) will hold hearings for two detainees to determine whether they can be cleared for transfer. Earlier this year, the Pentagon released the administration’s plan for closing Guantanamo, which includes the transfer of all cleared detainees, as well as expedited PRB hearings.

National security leaders including CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair have declared the need to close Guantanamo a matter of national security. Three dozen of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders recently urged Congress “to come together and find a path to finally shutter the detention facility.”

The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.” 

Quote of the Week

“Scripture tells us that ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ Captain Humayun Khan of the United States Army showed in his final moments that he was filled and motivated by this love. His name will live forever in American memory, as an example of true American greatness.

“…I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Remarks by Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, on U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who gave his life to stop a suicide car bomb attack in 2004

We’re Reading

Ethisphere shares a new special report on human rights, focusing on human trafficking.

Scott Cooper writes in The Hill that proponents of Islamophobia run counter to the spirit of America.

The New Yorker reporter Connie Bruck writes that Congress isn’t the only one to blame for the prison at Guantanamo Bay remaining open.

Emir Hadzi, a Marine who has served eight deployments, including combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, argues in the Philadelphia Inquirer that anti-Muslim rhetoric clashes with American values.

McClatchy reports on recent steps by the United States to ease the asylum process for Central Americans.

We’re Watching

Angeline Jackson of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica discusses the dangers faced by LGBT Jamaicans and what she is doing to push for inclusion.

Around Town

Wednesday, August 3

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Human Rights First will host a breakfast discussion entitled, Expedited Removal and Detention of Asylum Seekers — New Research and Reports. Wednesday, August 3, 9:00 AM, Jones Day, 300 New Jersey Avenue, Washington, D.C.



Published on August 1, 2016


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