Washington Week on Human Rights: February 13, 2017

Top Items

Ruling Upholds Stay on Muslim Ban

On Thursday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that upheld the suspension of President Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries for at least 90 days, suspending the refugee resettlement program for at least 120 days, and imposing an indefinite bar on refugees who have fled Syria. The Trump Administration continues to defend the ban, citing national security concerns despite widespread opposition from national security and military leaders who argue that the ban makes America less safe. Top White House aides have said that the administration is pursuing several options to reinstate the executive order, including by drafting a new executive order written to withstand legal scrutiny.

Russia Sanctions

Last week a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would make it significantly more difficult for President Trump to unilaterally lift certain cyber- and Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia. The legislation, introduced by Senators Graham (R-SC), Cardin (D-MD), McCain (R-AZ), Brown (D-OH), Rubio (R-FL), and McCaskill (D-MO), codifies existing sanctions, and requires that the president certify to Congress that the Russian government has ceased undermining the security of the Ukrainian state and ceased cyberattacks on the United States before reducing these sanctions. The legislation further restricts the president’s authority to ease restrictions by prohibiting such action if both houses of Congress disapprove following a 120-day review period. The bill’s introduction coincides with growing concern of close ties between members of the Trump Administration and the Russian government, as well as ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Thus far the Kremlin has not satisfied any of the requirements originally laid out for lifting existing sanctions, and it continues to contribute to significant rights violations both in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine and in Crimea.

Quote of the Week

“From our founding we have made these kinds of moral demands of our soldiers. It starts with the oath they swear to support and defend the Constitution, an oath made not to a flag, or to a piece of ground, or to an ethnically distinct people, but to a set of principles established in our founding documents. An oath that demands a commitment to democracy, to liberty, to the rule of law and to the self-evident equality of all men. The Marines I knew fought, and some of them died, for these principles.”

—Phil Klay, Veterans for American Ideals Leader, The New York Times.

We’re Reading

On KQED’s The California Report U.S. Air Force veteran and former Pentagon advisor Kelsey Campbell shares her concern that America is not upholding its promises to wartime allies.

Rob Berschinski writes in Foreign Policy that President Trump should praise Vladimir Kara-Murza—not Vladimir Putin.

The New York Times shares the story of Sana Mustafa, a Human Rights First client and Syrian refugee living in New York’s Hudson Valley. Now a college graduate, Mustafa worries for her mother and sister who are stuck in a border town in Turkey.

The Hill publishes an editorial by human rights leaders that call for the West to send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The New York Times reports that following widespread outcry, the White House has chosen to not reopen CIA black site prisons.

Shawn Gaylord writes in The Advocate that President Trump’s recent executive orders are part of a divide and conquer strategy.

Newsweek reports on the recent appointment of Gina Haspel to deputy chief at the CIA. Haspel once operated one of the agency’s black sites in Thailand, where torture was used during interrogations.

We’re Watching

We’re watching the story of Ahmad Beetar, a Syrian journalist who escaped persecution to find asylum in the United States.

Around Town

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion entitled, “Challenges to the Yemeni Peace Process.” The discussion will feature H.E. Khaled Alyemany, UN Permanent Representative of Yemen; Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Nonresident Senior Fellow for the Project on Middle East Democracy; Mohammed Alyahya, Nonresident Fellow of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; Dr. Nabeel Khoury, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; Mirette F. Mabrouk, Deputy Director & Director for Research and Programs at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East10:00 AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center will hold an event entitled, “Moscow vs. Regional Media: The Case of Tomsk TV-2.” 10:00 AM, 5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Center for American Progress and the George Washington University Program on Extremism hosts a discussion on “Designating the Muslim Brotherhood.” The discussion will feature Sir John Jenkins, Executive Director of The International Institute for Strategic Studies; Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, Director of the GW Program on Extremism; Mokhtar Awad, Fellow at the GW Program on Extremism. 11:00 AM, George Washington University, Marvin Center,Room 302, 800 21st Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The United States Institute of Peace will hold an event honoring U.N. Human Rights Chief Ambassador Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on his ‘Impossible Diplomacy.’ The event will feature Nancy Lindborg, President of USIP; Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Distinguished Professor at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy; Frank Hogan, Chair at the Trainor Lecture Fund Endowment; Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Chair of the Board of Directors at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy; Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ambassador William Burns, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 4:30 PM, USIP, 2301 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

On the Hill 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Effective Counterterrorism Strategies.” The hearing will feature Professor Bruce Hoffman, Director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University; Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President of RAND Corporation; Ambassador Michael Sheehan, Distinguished Chair of the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point. 10:00 AM, Rayburn House Office Building 2118.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Defeating Terrorism in Syria: A New Way Forward.” The hearing will feature Hassan Hassan, Senior Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy; The Honorable Frederic C. Hof, Director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council; Melissa Dalton, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 2:00 PM, Rayburn House Office Building 2172.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing entitled, “Ending Modern Slavery: Building on Success.” The hearing will feature Ashton Kutcher, Co-Founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children; Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First. 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 419.


Published on February 13, 2017


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