Washington Week on Human Rights: August 29, 2016

Top Items

G20 in China

As President Obama prepares to travel to China at the end of this week for his final G20 summit, Human Rights First urges him to prioritize human rights and speak out against growing civil society crackdowns in China and other G20 member nations. Specifically, President Obama should call for an end to laws restricting funding and cooperation from foreign NGOs, decry sweeping national security laws used to target and silence civil society activists, and call for the release of human rights activists who are unjustly imprisoned. The president should also meet with civil society leaders to better understand the growing hurdles they face.

The two-day G20 meeting will begin this Sunday, September 4 in Hangzhou, China, it is the first-ever summit hosted in the country. Human Rights First notes the gathering offers a unique opportunity for President Obama to weigh in on pressing human rights concerns both within China and throughout the G20.

Global Refugee Crisis

This week the United States will fulfill its pledge to resettle at least ten thousand Syrian refugees in Fiscal Year 2016. That figure, however, amounts to only about two percent of the 480,000 Syrian refugees in need of resettlement, and just 0.2 percent of the overall Syrian refugee population of over 4.8 million in the region around Syria.

The milestone will happen just days after Sunday’s DC Rally for Refugees on the National Mall and ahead of President Obama’s scheduled September 20 Leader’s Summit on Refugees at the United Nations. U.S. officials have stated that the administration seeks to work with other states to double the total number of resettled refugees and those afforded other legal channels of admission globally.  The U.S. ability to effectively lead at the September 2016 conference, and beyond, will be advanced by a strong commitment to Syrian resettlement.


This week the first of two Guantanamo detainees still eligible to appear for the Periodic Review Board (PRB) will have his hearing. The final PRB proceeding is scheduled to take place next week. In February this year the Obama Administration stated it plans to complete all initial PRB hearings and transfer all cleared detainees by the fall.

As the initial PRB hearings conclude, Congress’ armed services committees will soon recommence conference negotiations for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Within the NDAA is language that would, if enacted into law, make it nearly impossible for President Obama to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, despite the fact that national security leaders from across the political spectrum have urged the president and Congress to make shuttering this facility a top priority.

Recently, the Obama Administration transferred 15 Gitmo detainees to the United Arab Emirates in what is the largest transfer of detainees since President Obama took office, marking significant progress towards closing the facility by the end of his term.

Quote of the Week

“Thanks to careful coordination between the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, we are able to announce that in the next 24 hours we will have met President Obama’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States by the end of this fiscal year,

“The United States government is deeply committed to safeguarding the American public, just as we are committed to providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We do not believe these goals are mutually exclusive.”

—US ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells.

We’re Reading

Olga Byrne writes in The Washington Post on the detrimental effects of immigration detention on children.

Religion Dispatches reports on the dangerous environment for Belarus’ LGBT community.

The Guardian writes about the appearance of Abu Zubaydah, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a hearing on his potential release.

Mother Jones and The Guardian report on a group of immigrant mothers who went on hunger strike to protest indefinite detention in a Pennsylvania immigration facility. The women ended the protest after being threatened with removal to another facility away from their children.

The Washington Blade tells the story of Ayaz Shalal, a human rights activist from Kurdistan fighting for women and the LGBT community.


Published on August 29, 2016


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