Washington Week on Human Rights: February 17, 2015

Top News

White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism This week, the White House will a host a three-day “Countering Violent Extremism” summit to address “domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence.” Those in attendance will discuss ongoing efforts targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other terrorist groups. The gathering will include domestic and international stakeholders, including Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. Last week, Human Rights First and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies urged President Obama to make clear during the Summit that advancing human rights, accountability, and the rule of law must be at the heart of any sustainable and effective strategy to combat violent extremism.

Carter Assumes Top Pentagon Post Today, Ashton Carter will be sworn in as the 25th Secretary of Defense. Last week, the Senate voted 93-5 to confirm Carter, who assumes the top Pentagon post as the administration is doubling down on its plan to shutter the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are currently 122 detainees at Guantanamo, and about half of those remaining 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.

Bahrain Yesterday, Bahrain’s Ministry of the Interior announced it had “investigated recent statements by Al Wefaq on its website and twitter account that are considered crimes that can be penalized by the law” and that “Al Wefaq also made calls for illegal rallies and incited hatred against the Interior Ministry and a foreign country.” The ministry said it will “refer the case to the Public Prosecution.” Al Wefaq is a major opposition group in Bahrain that boycotted November’s parliamentary elections, citing an unfair process. In December 2014, its leader Ali Salman was arrested. He is now on trial, charged with various speech-related offenses. Although Al Wefaq’s supporters and officials have been harassed and intimidated for some years, yesterday’s announcement marks a new, apparently existential, threat to Al Wefaq. Last week, Human Rights First released “How to Bring Stability to Bahrain,” a new blueprint urging the U.S. government to take a series of steps that could help bring stability and reform to its military ally.

Quote of the Week

“I do not believe America’s interests are served by endless war, or by remaining on a perpetual war footing.”

—President Obama as he announced his request for a new authorization for use of military force from Congress.

We’re Reading

The Guardian discussed whether new information gained from the CIA torture report might have implications for the ongoing trials at Guantanamo Bay with Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar. Eviatar noted that the revelations do not represent “a sign of real progress or any new commitment to transparency by the military commissions.”

​In a piece for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley urged U.S. policymakers to take a new approach in their relations with the Bahraini regime, which has brutally cracked down on peaceful dissent for the past four years. For more information and recommendations for the U.S. government, see Human Rights First’s new blueprint, “How to Bring Stability to Bahrain.”

As Congress and the administration debate authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL, American University’s Steve Vladeck outlined for Reuters why a sunset of the 2001 AUMF should be included in current legislative language. These proposals have bipartisan support, including form a group of national security lawyers, who sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to include a sunset for the 2001 AUMF in the administration’s proposal for an ISIL AUMF.

Daily News Egypt reports on Human Rights First’s letter to President Obama ahead of the White House’s Countering Violent Extremism Summit. The letter, cosigned with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) asks the president to call on other countries to prioritize rights-respecting policies in the fight against violent extremism.

Around Town

February 17, 2015

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will host a discussion on “Countering Violent Extremism: What to Expect From the White House Summit.” The event will feature Zainab al-Suwaji, co-founder and executive director of the American Islamic Congress; Kristin Lord, president and CEO of IREX; and Frah Pandith, special representative to Muslim communities at the State Department. 3:30PM, National Press Club, 14th and F Streets NW, Washington, D.C.

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “The Future of the Fight Against ISIL.” The discussion will feature retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, State Department special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL; and Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. 4PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

February 18, 2015

The Center for American Progress (CAP) will host a discussion on “The Future of Defense.” The event will feature former Defense Secretary William Cohen, chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group; Rudy deLeon, senior fellow at CAP; and Katherine Blakeley, defense policy analyst at CAP. 10AM, CAP, 1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The White House will host a summit on “Countering Violent Extremism,” a summit designed to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence.

February 19, 2015

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a discussion on “Countering Violent Extremism,” as part of the CSIS-Schieffer Series Dialogues. The discussion will feature State Department Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith; Nancy Youssef, senior national security correspondent at the Daily Beast; former White House Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism Juan Zarate, senior adviser at CSIS; and Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent at CBS News and host of “Face the Nation.” 5:30PM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Second Floor Conference Room, Washington, D.C.


Published on February 18, 2015


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