Washington Week on Human Rights: January 11, 2016

Top News

Guantanamo Over the weekend, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough reaffirmed President Obama’s promise to shutter Guantanamo before the end of his final year in office. McDonough told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that the president feels “an obligation to the next president. He will fix this so that they don’t have to be confronted with the same set of challenges.” McDonough’s remarks come as President Obama prepares to deliver his last State of the Union address on Tuesday. The president plans to reiterate his commitment to shutter Guantanamo and may preview portions of the plan he has pledged to deliver to Congress. Within the past week, four detainees were transferred out of Guantanamo, two to Ghana, one to Kuwait, and one this morning to Saudi Arabia. News reports have indicated that the administration plans to transfer another 13 Guantanamo detainees out of the facility by the end of this month, a move that would bring the detention facility’s population to 90 and bring it below 100 for the first time since Guantanamo opened in January 2002. Forty-five of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 46 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) review. Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo is outlined in its latest Blueprint: How to Close Guantanamo.

Antisemitism and Extremism in France On the one-year anniversary of the kosher supermarket attack in Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls vowed to fight antisemitism in France and decried the notion of Jews leaving the country. Noting that “France without Jews is not France,” Valls said, “For these enemies who attack their compatriots, who tear apart the contract that unites us, there can be no worthy explanation.” Last week, Human Rights First released “Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France,” a major report on antisemitism and extremism in France. The report comes as antisemitism, the rise of the far right, and Islamic extremism are converging in a vicious cycle to fuel intolerance and violence in France. As November’s tragic terrorist attacks in Paris exemplify, indiscriminate and violent acts of extremism pose a threat to the people of France regardless of ethnicity, race or religious conviction. Human Rights First’s new report focuses on ways that U.S. government leaders can work with their French counterparts to prevent future attacks, as well as craft a path forward that upholds our shared commitment to human rights as an integral part of national security.

Quote of the Week

“Obviously, preventing human trafficking, unlike some of the issues we wrestle with which are defined by nuance or by some complexity, this is not. This is not complex and there’s no nuance. This is absolutely an issue of extreme moral clarity. And it is about also our collective security, and the interaction between this multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise, which is what it is, not only is a corrupting factor in the capacity of countries to live up to the standards that we want them to and to meet many needs across the board.

“So whether it is shining a light on our own procurement practices or working to ensure that forced labor is not providing the labor for illicit activities, that is why we are working across the board with faith leaders, with the private sector, with government agencies in order to try to up our capacity to be able to enforce the laws and to, obviously, diminish the impact of this scourge.”

—Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks at the Annual Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

We’re Reading

Religion News Service and JTA featured a new Human Rights First report, citing a rise of antisemitism and extremism in France.

Marking the anniversary of the horrific Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Financial Times noted the alarming trend of Jews who are leaving France in response to an increase in antisemitic attacks.

The Hill reported on the Obama Administration’s transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainee to Kuwait, noting that the pace of transfers will need veto increase to meet the president’s promise to shutter the facility.

Voice of America reported on recent arrests in Bahrain on terrorism allegations, noting that the regime has a history of arbitrary arrests used to distract from the political instability and lack of reform in the country.

We’re Watching

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough previewed President Obama’s final State of the Union speech during his interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Around Town

Monday January 11, 2015

New America will hold a discussion on “Guantanamo Bay: Year 14.” The event will feature Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham University’s Center on National Security; Close Guantanamo co-founders Thomas Wilner and Andy Worthington; and Peter Bergen, vice president of New America. 3PM, New America, 740 15th Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, January 12, 2015

The George Washington University (GWU) Elliott School of International Affairs will hold the Sixth Central Asia Fellows’ Seminar on “Social Marginalization in Central Asia.” The event will feature Marlene Laruelle, associate director of the GWU Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies. 4PM, GWU Elliott School, 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602, Washington, D.C.

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Outside Views on the U.S. Strategy for Iraq and Syria and the Evolution of Islamic Extremism.” Michael Morell, former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Michael Vickers, former Defense undersecretary for intelligence; and Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, will testify. 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

Wednesday, January 13, 2015

The National Press Club Newsmaker Program will hold a news conference with House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. 1PM, National Press Club, 14th and F Streets NW, Holeman Lounge, Washington, D.C.

The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “Reflections of a Former Secretary of Defense.” The event will feature former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, distinguished statesman and Atlantic Council International Advisory Board member; and Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. 5PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, January 14, 2015

The American University (AU) School of International Service will hold a discussion with State Department Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Daniel Fried. 1:30PM, AU, 3400 Nebraska Avenue NW, Abramson Family Founders Room, Washington, D.C.

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center will host a discussion on “National Security and World Order.” 3PM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Friday, January 15, 2015

The Brookings Institution will host a book discussion on “The Arab Spring Five Years Later: Toward Greater Inclusiveness.” The event will feature author Hafez Ghanem, nonresident senior fellow at Brookings; Shinchi Yamanaka, director general for the Middle East and North Africa at the Japanese International Cooperation Agency; Masood Ahmed, director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East Department; Sanjay Pradhan, CEO of the Open Government Partnership; Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy; and Kemal Dervis, director for global economy and development at Brookings. 10:15AM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

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Published on January 11, 2016

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