Washington Week on Human Rights: December 7, 2015

Top News

Extremism in France France’s far-right National Front party, spearheaded by Marine Le Pen, reportedly made major gains in yesterday’s regional elections. News sources say the party had a strong showing in six of France’s 13 regions, leading in four of those regions and pulling far ahead in another two. On January 7, the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket attacks in Paris, Human Rights First will release a report that examines how the rise of the far-right, Islamic extremism, and antisemitism are converging to fuel intolerance and violence in France. In the aftermath of last month’s tragic attacks in Paris, France’s far-right groups – including the National Front – have escalated their xenophobic and islamophobic rhetoric, and mobilized supporters to turn their anger against vulnerable minorities. Next Sunday a second round of voting will take place to determine the final results.

Global Refugee Crisis This week, Congress continues to negotiate the omnibus spending package that must be passed before December 11 to avoid a government shutdown. Congress is considering proposals to the budget that would severely delay or halt the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi families who are fleeing horrific violence in search of safety. Last week, 20 of the nation’s top national security leaders, former government officials, and former military leaders sent a letter to each member of Congress, urging them to reject such proposals, emphasizing that “America can and should continue to provide refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution without compromising the security and safety of our nation.”

Guantanamo Today, the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military commission proceedings for the five men accused of plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks will resume in a session closed to the public. On Friday, Army Col. James L. Pohl ruled that all five alleged 9/11 plotters will be tried together. The ruling reversed an earlier decision allowing Ramzi bin al Shibh a separate trial because issues in his case were delaying proceedings against the other four men. There are 107 detainees remaining at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Forty-eight of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer and another 49 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings. Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo is outlined in its blueprint How to Close Guantanamo.

Trafficking Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment that legally abolished slavery in the United States. The anniversary came as 20.9 million men, women, and children around the world remain trapped and exploited by human trafficking. Human Rights First notes that eradicating modern slavery, which is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, will require the full cooperation of business, government, and law enforcement along with an increase in resources available to combat this crime. To coincide with yesterday’s anniversary, Human Rights First released a video, How to Bankrupt Slavery, that breaks down the $150 billion human trafficking criminal enterprise and how government, business, and law enforcement can work together to end modern slavery.

Human Rights Summit This Wednesday, Human Rights First will hold its 4th annual Human Rights Summit on the 7th floor of the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Please register today to join us as we tackle some of the most challenging human rights issues of our day, including the global refugee crisis, countering violent extremism, authoritarianism, human trafficking, and more. Among this year’s speakers are Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), USAID’s Bama Athreya, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz, The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, and The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons. We hope to see you there!

Quotes of the Week

“Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism. Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the ISIS caliphate is their true home. We must make clear that the United States rejects this worldview by continuing to offer refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people, regardless of their religion or nationality.”

—December 1st letter to Congress from 20 of the nation’s top national security leaders, former government officials, and former military leaders

“The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless. And by drawing upon every aspect of American power.”

—President Obama’s address to the nation on December 6, 2015

We’re Reading

CNN, Associated Press, POLITICO, and The Washington Post all featured coverage of a letter signed by 20 top national security experts and military leaders who called on Congress to stop proposals that could deter the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States. The letter was signed by Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, David Petraeus, William Cohen, and 16 other notable leaders.

The Hill featured an opinion piece by former INS Commissioners James W. Ziglar and Doris Meissner, who noted, “Protecting vulnerable refugees and keeping Americans safe are not opposing concepts; they go hand in hand.”

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake examined the national consensus against torture and efforts to find the best path forward to protect it.

We’re Watching

On the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, Human Rights First released a new video, How to Bankrupt Slavery, that breaks down the $150 billion human trafficking criminal enterprise and how government, business, and law enforcement can work together to end modern slavery.

On the Hill

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Improving the Pentagon’s Development of Policy, Strategy and Plans.” Michele Flournoy, former Defense undersecretary for policy; Michael Vickers, former Defense undersecretary for intelligence; and retired Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Eggers, former special assistant to the president for national security affairs and former Navy SEAL officer, will testify. 9:30AM, G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., will hold a conference call briefing, beginning at 4 p.m., to discuss legislative attempts to block the admission and resettlement of Syrian refugees. The call will feature Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director John Sandweg; and Michael Breen, president and CEO of the Truman National Security Project and Truman Center for National Policy. Note: Call-in, 877-876-9176; password, REFUGEE

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. strategy to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria. 9:30AM, 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a meeting on “Roundtable – Strengthening the Visa Waiver Program After the Paris Attacks.” U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro; Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz; and Jim Crumpacker, director of the Homeland Security Department’s GAO-OIG Liaison Office, will testify. 11AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez will testify. 1PM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Fulfilling the Humanitarian Imperative: Assisting Victims of ISIS Violence.” Mirza Ismail, founder and chairman of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International; Bishop Francis Kalabat of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle in America; Patrick Kelly, vice president for public policy for the Knights of Columbus; and Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, will testify. 2PM, 2255 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Year in Review: U.S. Policy Toward a Changing Western Hemisphere.” Roger Noriega, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, former assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs in the State Department; Mary Beth Long, founder and CEO of Metis Solutions, former assistant secretary for international security affairs in the Defense Department; and Cynthia Arnson, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Latin American Program, will testify. 2PM, 2200 Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee’s National Security Subcommittee hearing on “Terrorism and the Visa Waiver Program.”9AM, 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday, December 7, 2015

Defense One will hold a briefing on “the spread of threats from the battlefield to the homefront and how the Homeland Security Department is working together with the Pentagon, intelligence community and other law enforcement agencies to fight the war on terrorism.” The event will feature Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. 8:30AM, District Architecture Center, 421 Seventh Street NW, Washington, D.C.

The George Washington University (GWU) Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion on “U.S. Strategy for the War Against the Islamic State.” The event will feature Stephen Biddle, professor of political science and international affairs at GWU.
12PM, GWU Elliott School, 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “Implementing Camp David: U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Security Cooperation Since the Summit.” The event wil feature Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki Al Saud; James Jones, chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Center on International Security; Nawaf Obaid, visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Barry Pavel, director of the Atlantic Council’s Center on International Security; and Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. 12:30PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Human Rights First will host the 2015 Human Rights Summit. The event will feature Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez; Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Alexander Aleinikoff, deputy high commissioner, UNHCR; Bama Athreya, senior specialist of labor and employment rights, USAID; Steve Clemons, The Atlantic; Michael Gerson, Washington Post; Eric Schwartz, former assistant secretary of State for population, refugees and migration, and others. 8AM, The Newseum, Knight Conference Center, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) will hold a discussion on “America Challenged: Foreign Affairs in 2016 and Beyond.” The event will feature former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Vuk Jeremic, president of the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development; Iva Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security; Martin Indyk, executive vice president of the Brookings Institution; Neera Tanden, president of CAP; and Vikram Singh, vice president for national security and international policy at CAP. 2PM, CAP, 1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Institute of Current World Affairs (ICWA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will hold a conference on “The Global Migration and Refugee Crisis: Challenges, Lessons and Opportunities.” 8:30AM, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

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Published on December 8, 2015


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