Washington Week on Human Rights: December 15, 2014

Top News

CIA TORTURE REPORT Last week, the Senate intelligence committee released the executive summary executive summary of its landmark report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. The report documents a program that was far more brutal and widespread than Americans were led to believe. It also documents that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not produce critical intelligence gains that had previously been claimed and that the CIA systematically misled the administration and Congress about the efficacy of the program. The report has widespread support widespread support from a full spectrum of political, national security, and intelligence leaders such as Republican Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

SPENDING BILL Over the weekend, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September 30, 2015. The bill includes a number of provisions that will impact human rights domestically and abroad, including new guidelines for civilian and military assistance to Egypt that allow the administration to waive human rights conditions on national security grounds. The waiver, which was not included in last year’s bill, eliminates the requirement for the secretary of state to certify that Egypt is “taking steps to govern democratically.” Separately, however, the omnibus legislation does include strong, specific human rights conditions attached to FY 2015’s $1.3 billion military assistance package. These include: carrying out free and fair parliamentary elections; implementing laws and policies to govern democratically and to protect the rights of individuals; uphold the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; enable independent civil society organizations and independent media to function; protect the rights of women and religious minorities; ensure the provision of due process of law for detainees; carry out investigations and prosecutions into incidents of excessive use of force by the security forces; and, release and dismiss charges against American citizens determined by the secretary to be political prisoners.

WAR AUTHORITY Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that is narrowly-tailored and officially sunsets the 2001 AUMF after three years. Among other key provisions, the new AUMF requires the president to report to Congress every 60 days on actions taken pursuant to the authorization, and that the president present a comprehensive strategy 30 days after the bill is enacted detailing specific objectives, the list of organizations targeted, the geographic scope, and measures taken to reduce civilian casualties, as well as contributions from coalition partners, humanitarian assistance, benchmarks toward achieving goals, a realistic exit strategy, and estimation of costs.

PRICIPLE 6 PROGRESS Last week during the 127th International Olympic Committee Session in Monaco, the IOC approved a proposal to include non-descrimination with regard to sexual orientation in Priciple 6 of the Olympic Charter. The move ensures that sexual orientation is explicitly listed in Principle 6 in both the Olympic Charter and host city contracts, eliminating ambiguity as to its applicability to laws and policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. During the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russian authorities arrested dozens of LGBT activists, allies, and journalists in an attempt to silence voices of dissent. Following the conclusion of the games, Human Rights First worked with nineteen members of the House of Representatives and a broad-based coalition of human rights organizations to urge the IOC to mandate equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, at future Olympic Games.

Quotes of the Week

“(T)he reason why I think came down and said that we should (release the report) is because that is what America is all about. We do things wrong, we make mistakes, we review those and we vow never to do them again.”

“It’s about us: what we were, what we are, and what we should be, and that’s a nation that does not engage in these kinds of violations of the fundamental basic human rights that we guaranteed when we declared our independence.”

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on CBS’s Face the Nation

We’re Reading

National security experts and former interrogators were out in full force last week against the use of torture. As former NCIS interrogator Mark Fallon wrote in Politico, “The self-defeating stupidity of torture might come as news to Americans who’ve heard again and again from Cheney and other political leaders that torture “worked.” Professional interrogators, however, couldn’t be less surprised.” Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino spoke to the New York Times urging CIA Director John Brennan to lead his agency against torture in the wake of the senate intelligence committee’s report. Former interrogator Eric Fair, who participated in the rendition and interrogation program at Abu Ghraib, wrote an opinion piece urging Americans not to forget the horrors that took place in their name. Read additional articles here.

Following a recent trip to Cairo, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley wrote a piece for the Global Post calling on the Egyptian government to end their systematic harassment of civil society groups. He writes that the United States has to act quickly with its allies to prevent the government of Egyptian President al-Sisi from worsening the country’s crisis. For more information see Human Rights First’s recently released blueprint: How to Prevent Egypt Slipping into a Deepening Crisis.

Last week the International Olympic Committee approved Proposal 14 of the Olympic Agenda 2020 to include non-discrimination with regard to sexual orientation in Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, a move Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord calls “a great step forward for the Olympics, and particularly for the athletes, spectators, and residents of host countries who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.” This victory comes as 2022 Olympic contender Kazakhstan considers anti-gay legislation. ​

We’re Watching

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation to detail his support for releasing the Senate intelligence committee’s CIA torture report. On CNN’s State of the Union, Colonel Steven Kleinman, a former interrogator with U.S. Air Force, discussed the inefficacy of torture and how it undermines national security.

Around Town

December 15, 2014

The Center for American Progress (CAP) will hold a discussion on “The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy. The event will feature James Mann, scholar-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies; Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute; Kim Holmes, fellow at the Heritage Foundation; Brian Katulis and Lawrence Korb, CAP senior fellows; and Vikram Singh, vice president for national security and international policy at CAP. 11am, CAP, 1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C.

December 16, 2014

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) will host a discussion on “THE BATTLE OF IDEAS 2.0: Combating ISIS Ideology at Home and Abroad.” The event will feature United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein (via video conference); Hedieh Mirahmadi, president of WORDE; Matthew Levitt, fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at WINEP. 12PM, WINEP, 1828 L Street NW, Suite 1050, Stern Library and Conference Room, Washington, D.C.

December 17, 2014

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the American Academy of Diplomacy will hold a discussion on “Diplomacy in Conflict: Improving on Special Envoys.” The event will feature former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., State Department special representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review; Princeton Lyman, senior adviser to the president at USIP, former U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and former assistant secretary of State for international organization affairs; Robert Beecroft, member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, former ambassador for the U.S. Foreign Service and former principal deputy assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs; Daniel Kurtzer, professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel; and David Abramowitz, vice president of policy and government relations at Humanity United. 9:30AM USIP, 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

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Published on December 15, 2014

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