Washington Week on Human Rights: August 3, 2015

Top News

EGYPT Over the weekend the United States resumed formal security talks with Egypt, as part of the U.S.–Egypt Strategic Dialogue. The bilateral relationship has been strained over human rights concerns since July 2013, when Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was removed from power. The last security dialogue took place six years ago; this one comes just days after the United States delivered eight F-16 fighter jets as part of a new military aid package that the Obama Administration claims will make Egypt a stronger partner in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Egyptian officials to embrace policies that allow for peaceful dissent, noting that security measures designed to to defeat terrorists will mean nothing if they do not “distinguish between those who use violence to achieve their ends and others who seek peacefully to participate in a political dialogue, even if what they say sometimes may make people uncomfortable.”

GUANTANAMO The U.S. Navy is investigating whether carcinogens at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are linked to cancer diagnoses in at least seven civilians and military personnel who worked on military commissions at the site. Several individuals have reportedly been diagnosed with cancer of the brain, appendix, colon, and lymph nodes. Three of them, ranging in age from 35 to 52, have died in the last 13 months. According to a Reuters report, those working on the military commissions live and work on land that was once used to dispose of jet fuel. During the past decade, approximately 200 prosecutors, defense lawyers and other court personnel have worked on the base. In addition, dozens of reporters and other observers, including staff from Human Rights First, have stayed on the based during proceedings. Human Rights First notes that findings of carcinogens there are just one more reason to shut the prison facility down. About half of the 116 detainees remaining at Guantanamo have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. Human Rights First has issued a blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo,” detailing steps the administration should take to meet the president’s goal of shuttering the facility.

Quote of the Week

“Now, we all know that defeating terrorism requires a long-term strategy. Border security and law enforcement actions are a significant part of the equation, but the even the larger imperative is to persuade and prevent young people from turning to terror in the first place. Otherwise, no matter how many terrorists we bring to justice, those groups will replenish their ranks and we will not be safer. We will be involved in a round robin, circular, repetitive process.”

“This means that our comprehensive strategy has to earn the support of religious authorities, educators, and citizens who discredit hateful doctrines and who are ready and willing to build stronger and more resilient communities. The success will depend on building trust between the authorities and the public, and enabling those who are critical of official policies to find a means of voicing their dissent peacefully, through participation in a political process. The more united and proud of their institutions the citizens of a country are, the more effective those institutions will be in resisting and fighting back against the agents of terror. This is, we have found inevitably through history, the imperative nexus between human rights and security.”

—Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo, Egypt on August 2, 2015

We’re Reading

According to The New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry raised human rights concerns in Egypt over the weekend, warning that space for peaceful dissent is necessary for combating terrorism.

Writing for The New Yorker, Emily Gogolak reported from the family detention center in Dilley, Texas where women and their children who have been locked up for months are waiting to see how the California court decision overturning family detention will impact their futures.

A San Francisco Chronicle editorial argued that the United States should honor the California court decision and finally end its cruel practice of locking up mothers and their children in immigration detention.

In a letter to The Washington Post, Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino argues that human rights are essential to achieving lasting security in Ethiopia and Kenya.

The Washington Examiner and Deutshe Welle reported on the State Department’s decision to upgrade the Trafficking in Persons report rankings for Cuba and Malaysia, likely for political reasons.

Writing to The Washington Post, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer makes the case that the creation of “safe-zones” in Syria will not provide adequate protection for refugees fleeing violence.


As summer travel season continues, CNN’s Freedom Project featured a story about how the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is helping travelers who pass through the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta to learn more about human trafficking.

Around Town

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Cato Institute will host a discussion on “The Fight with ISIS: One Year (and Counting) of Unauthorized War.” The event will feature Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virgnia). 9:00 AM, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue NW, F.A. Hayek Auditorium, Washington, D.C.


Published on August 3, 2015


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