Washington Week on Human Rights: February 23, 2015

Top News

WAR POWERS On Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on President Obama’s proposed authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). Ahead of that hearing, Human Rights First will host a Tuesday Hill briefing on the president’s proposal and the need for Congress to take steps to sunset the 2001 AUMF. The briefing will feature Harold Koh, Jen Daskal, Steve Vladick, and Sarah Cleveland, who are all part of a nonpartisan group of top national security lawyers who have signed a statement of principles designed to guide Congress as it considers the president’s AUMF request.

GUANTANAMO This week, the military commission proceedings against suspected U.S.S. Cole bombing mastermind Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri continue at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The proceeding comes just days after the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review vacated the military commission conviction of former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks, whose 2007 plea deal conviction for providing material support for terrorism permitted him to return home to his native Australia. 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 of shuttering the facility before the end of his second term.

TRAFFICKING The Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees will each markup human trafficking bills this week. Last week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commemorated World Day for Social Justice by highlighting the need for U.N. Member Nations to do more to identify and punish traffickers. Human Rights First has partnered with prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state, and local government, and the civil rights community to launch a major public education and advocacy effort to disrupt the business of human trafficking. The group of ambassadors is co-chaired by former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis J. Freeh. Human Rights First has also issued a blueprint, “How to Disrupt the Business of Human Trafficking,” that outlines steps the United States can take to weaken the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business.

Quote of the Week

“When people are oppressed, and human rights are denied — particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines — when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit. When peaceful, democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer available. … Violent extremists and terrorists thrive when people of different religions or sects pull away from each other and are able to isolate each other and label them as ‘they’ as opposed to ‘us;’ something separate and apart. So we need to build and bolster bridges of communication and trust.”

—President Obama during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

We’re Reading

The Los Angeles Times’ Carol Williams reported on a military court’s decision to vacate the 2007 Guantanamo Bay conviction of Australian David Hicks. With this ruling, four of the eight convictions under the military commission system have now been overturned on appeal.

​Gen. Charles C. Krulak, former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and former Director of the FBI Louis Freeh wrote for U.S. News & World Report on how to disrupt the business of human trafficking. Freeh and Krulak are ambassadors for Human Rights First’s public education campaign marking the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery in the United States. Learn more here.

As the White House wrapped up its summit on Countering Violent Extremism, the New York Times talked to Human Rights First President & CEO Elisa Massimino about how pressuring U.S. allies into supporting human rights and independent civil societies is crucial in the fight against violent extremism.

According to Defense One, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has been preparing for his new role by seeking counsel from sources outside the administration including Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino, who has urged him to make closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay a priority during the next two years.

We’re Watching

During a weekend appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson detailed possible repercussions of Congressional threats to not fund his department.

On the Hill

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Human Trafficking in the United States: Protecting the Victims.” 10AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “How is DOD responding to Emerging Security Challenges in Europe?” Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of Supreme Allied Command Europe and U.S. European Combatant Command; and Defense Undersecretary for Policy Christine Wormuth will testify. 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Advancing U.S. Interests in a Troubled World: The FY2016 Foreign Affairs Budget.” Secretary of State John Kerry will testify. 10AM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “The Unconstitutionality of Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration.” Attorney General of Nevada Adam Laxalt; Josh Blackman, assistant professor of law at the South Texas College of Law; Elizabeth Price Foley, professor at Florida International University College of Law; and Steve Legomsky, professor at Washington University Law School, will testify. 10:15AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the State Department budget. Secretary of State John Kerry will testify. 2PM, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a full committee markup of the “End Modern Slavery and Trafficking Initiative Act of 2015.” 2PM, S-116, U.S. Capitol

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee markup of S.178, the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015”; S.166, the “Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2015”; and to vote on the nominations of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general; Michelle Lee to be Commerce undersecretary for intellectual property and director of the Patent and Trademark Office; Alfred Bennett, George Hanks Jr. and Jose Rolando Olvera Jr., each to be a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Texas; Jill Parrish, to be U.S. district judge for the District of Utah; and Nancy Firestone, Thomas Halkowski, Patricia McCarthy, Jeri Kaylene Somers and Armando Omar Bonilla, each to be a judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. 9:30AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Outside Perspectives on the President’s Proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief of staff; Robert Chesney, associate dean for academic affairs and professor in law at the University of Texas; and Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow for governance studies at the Brookings Institution, will testify. 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “ISIL in America: Domestic Terror and Radicalization.” 10AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday February 23, 2015

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) will host a discussion on “Authorizing Military Action Against ISIL: Geography, Strategy and Unanswered Questions.” The event will feature former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., WWC director, president and CEO; retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, former first commander for Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan and senior fellow at the New American Security; Jeffrey Smith, former general counsel at the CIA and member of the Defense Department Legal Policy Advisory Board; Jim Scutto, CNN chief national security correspondent. 2PM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The American Security Project (ASP) will hold a discussion on “Obama’s National Security Policy: A New Assessment.” The event will feature Seyom Brown, adjunct senior fellow at ASP. 12:30PM, ASP, 1100 New York Avenue NW, West Tower, Seventh Floor, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “Unpacking the ISIS War Game: Preparing for Escalation.” The event will feature former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., R-Utah, chairman of the Atlantic Council; Julianne Smith, director of the Strategy and Statecraft Program at the Center for a New American Security; Gideon Rose, editor at Foreign Affairs; Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council; retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, chair in defense policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Atlantic Council Senior Fellows Bilal Saab and Julianne Smith. 12:30PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

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Published on February 23, 2015


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