Washington Week on Human Rights: February 9, 2015

Top News

GUANTANAMO This week, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will both take up the issue of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and proposed restrictions to transferring detainees from the detention facility in Cuba. The committee discussions come as the pre-trial hearings in the military commission trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four coconspirators resume today and as the Senate stands poised to confirm Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter, who will be charged with leading the administration’s plan to shutter the facility. 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.

TRAFFICKING The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on “Ending Modern Day Slavery: The Role of U.S. Leadership.” The Wednesday hearing will feature Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall. Human Rights First recently launched a campaign to disrupt the business of modern day slavery, an effort rooted in the organization’s 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.

REFUGEE PROTECTION The House Judiciary Committee will meet Wednesday to consider sweeping proposals that could weaken protections for refugees from all countries seeking asylum in the United States, as well as children and families seeking protection along the southern border. One piece of legislation would raise the asylum screening standards at U.S. airports and border areas, leading more refugees to be turned back to danger. Another would put more children at risk of trafficking by eliminating safeguards now included in anti-trafficking legislation. Human Rights First’s blueprint “How to Protect Refugees and Prevent Abuse at the Border” details steps the United States can take to protect refugees deserving of U.S. protection.

BAHRAIN Four years after the February 14 pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain, Human Rights First will release a new blueprint with recommendations about how the United States can help stabilize the Kingdom’s ongoing human rights crisis. On Wednesday, the organization will unveil its plan during a Hill briefing featuring, among others, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA2), Bahraini human rights lawyer Mohammed al Tajer, and Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley.

Quote of the Week

“Bahrain’s government has not only succeeded in defining the work of human rights defenders, journalists and political activists as terrorism under the law, it has done so with little opposition from its allies…”

—Sayed Alwadaei, Bahraini human rights defender

We’re Reading

The Washington Post’s Josh Hicks reported on the announcement that the State Department will appoint a special envoy for the protection of the rights of LGBT people later this month. Learn more here.

​In a piece for Al Jazeera America, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley challenged the United States and the international media to consider that the western education of Saudi Arabia’s new Deputy Crown Prince does not necessarily indicate that he will be a reformer.

The New York Times’ Editorial Board argued in favor of a two-pronged policy approach to the thousands of people, including women and unaccompanied minors, who are fleeing violence in Central America. These prescriptions include funding the Department of Homeland Security and over $1 billion in aid to Central American countries to help them stabilize and protect their citizens.

We’re Watching

CBS News aired “The forgotten children: Sex-trafficking in the America,” a broadcast examining sex trafficking within the United States.

On the Hill

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Strategy.” Eric Edelman, panelist on the National Defense Panel, and former Defense undersecretary for policy Michele Flournoy will testify. 9:30AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “The Situation in Afghanistan.” Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham; and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, dean and executive professor in Texas A&M University’s George Bush School of Government and Public Service, will testify. 9:30AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “The FY2016 Budget Request: A View from Outside Experts: ‘Alternative Budgets and Strategic Choices.'” Nora Bensahel, distinguished scholar in residence in American University’s School of International Service; Ryan Crotty, fellow and deputy director for defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, International Security Program; Thomas Donnelly, resident fellow and co-director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies; Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; and Jim Thomas, vice president and director of studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, will testify. 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “Countering Violent Islamist Extremism: The Urgent Threat of Foreign Fighters and Homegrown Terror.” Homeland Security Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Francis Taylor; Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s National Counterterrorism Center; and representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Department will testify. 10AM, 311 Cannon House Office Building

Human Rights First will release its blueprint and host a discussion titled, “After Four Years of Unrest, How Can the United States Help Stabilize Bahrain?” The event will feature the Honorable Jim McGovern, U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’ 2nd Congressional District; Staci Strobl, Associate Professor in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York; Mohammed al Tajer, Bahraini Human Rights Lawyer; Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights First. 11:30AM, 441 Cannon House Office Building

The House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on legislation to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to improve immigration law enforcement within the interior of the United States. The “Protection of Children Act” could provide for the expedited removal of unaccompanied alien children who are not victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and who do not have a fear of returning to their country of nationality or last habitual residence. The “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act” would modify the treatment of unaccompanied alien children who are in Federal custody by reason of their immigration status. 1PM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on “Ending Modern Day Slavery: The Role of U.S. Leadership.” Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall will testify. 2:15PM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee and Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing on “The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis: Four Years Later and No End in Sight.” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kelly Clements of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; and Thomas Staal, acting assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, will testify. 1:30PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Armed Services Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Update on Detainee Transfers from GTMO (Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility).” 3PM, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building

Friday, February 13, 2015

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “What Is The State of Islamic Extremism: Key Trends, Challenges, and Implications for U.S. Policy.” William Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism; retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of Defense Intelligence Agency; and Marc Lynch, professor at the George Washington University, will testify. 9AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s (WWC) Middle East Program will host a discussion on “Egyptian Women: Small Steps Ahead on a Very Long Journey.” The event will feature Moushira Khattab, chair of the Women in Foreign Policy Group at the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs. 12PM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The American Society of International Law, the George Washington University (GWU) Law School, and the American Bar Association Section of International Law will hold a discussion on “The Role of the Law in the Fight Against ISIL: Use of Force, Sanctions and Foreign Terrorist Fighters.” The event will feature acting State Department Legal Adviser Mary McLeod; State Department Office of Political-Military Affairs Assistant Legal Adviser Joshua Dorosin; State Department Office of United Nations Affairs Attorney Adviser David DeBartolo; State Department Office of Economic and Business Affairs Attorney Adviser Michael Gilles; State Department Office of Law Enforcement and Intelligence Attorney Adviser Samuel McDonald; and Susan Karamanian, associate dean for international and comparative studies at GWU Law School. 12PM, GWU Law School, 2000 H Street NW, Washington, D.C.

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Published on February 9, 2015


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