Washington Week on Human Rights: January 12, 2015

Top News

Guantanamo News reports note that next week the Obama Administration plans to transfer five Yemeni detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a resettlement country that is yet to be named. The expected transfers would bring the number of detainees at the facility down to 122, and about half of the remaining detainees have been cleared by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. This month marks 13 years since the camp was established under the leadership of Major General Michael Lehnert, USMC, who is now retired. Today, he published an opinion article in Politico calling for the facility to be shuttered and encouraging the Obama Administration to double down on its plan to bring the number of Guantanamo detainees down to zero. Human Rights First has issued a blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo,” detailing steps the administration should take to meet the president’s goal.

Egypt Today, an Egyptian court acquitted 26 men who had been on trial for debauchery after they were arrested last month during a Cairo bathhouse raid. While the basis for the ruling remains in question, it marks the first time an Egyptian trial court has dropped charges against men accused of homosexuality in a high-profile case. Today’s news comes amid Egypt’s ongoing campaign to crack down on civil society groups and quash political dissent. The Egyptian government has continued to use excessive force against protesters, imprisoned thousands of political dissidents and several journalists, and held unfair trials leading to harsh sentences. Human Rights First’s new blueprint, “How to Prevent Egypt from Slipping into a Deepening Crisis” details specific recommendations for how the U.S. government should use its influence to persuade the Egyptian government of President Sisi to turn away from the authoritarian path.

Trafficking Yesterday was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Events throughout the country and around the globe marked the day with events featuring experts, policymakers and victims who know all too well the inside workings of this $150 billion criminal enterprise. This year marks the 150th anniversary of passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in the United States. Throughout the upcoming year, Human Rights First will press the U.S. government to honor this proud moment in the nation’s history by restoring its commitment to end slavery. More information about this effort and the organization’s work to weaken every link in the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business can be found in the Human Rights First blueprint “How to Disrupt the Business of Human Trafficking.”

Quote of the Week

“Closing Guantanamo is about reestablishing who we are as a nation. Terrorists caused us to turn away from the fundamental values that make this country exceptional. It’s time to reaffirm what America stands for: that we are still the shining city on the hill, and that we stand for the rule of law and respect for human rights. The goal of terrorists is to change us, to change what we say we stand for, and to make us live in fear. As long as Guantanamo exists, terrorists can legitimately say that they have accomplished their objectives. It is time for America to stop living in fear and to defeat terrorism with our most powerful weapon: American values. It is time to close Guantanamo.”

—Retired Major General Michael Lehnert, USMC, first commander of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

We’re Reading

McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay reported on a new bill recommended by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), former chair of the Senate intelligence committee that would close the door on torture by introducing new measures for every branch of the U.S. government to prevent the future use of cruel or inhuman treatment. Learn more here.

As reported by the Associated Press and The Guardian, the Russian government approved new regulations that would restrict transgender citizens from obtaining a driver’s license. The dangerous law leaves the door open for increased harassment, discrimination, and persecution of Russia’s transgender community. Learn more here.

Gen. Michael Lehnert, USMC (Ret.), the general who opened the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, writes for an opinion article in Politico about why the prison should be closed and steps the president and Congress should take to shutter the facility. Politico also features an article by Josh Gerstein examining the president’s plan and the challenges that lie ahead.

We’re Watching

General Charles Krulak, USMC (Ret.), spoke with ABC News about America’s responsibility to eradicate the criminal enterprise of modern day slavery.

As Congress kicks off its first full week of activities this week, Human Rights First is laying out its priorities for 2015. Watch the video here.

On the Hill

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The House Armed Services Committee will meet to organize for the 114th Congress. 11AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe and Center on Middle East Policy will hold a discussion on “Be Afraid. Be a Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq.” The event will feature Daniel Byman, research director in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings; Jeremy Shapiro, fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings; Daniel Benjamin, non-resident senior fellow at Brookings; and William McCants, director of U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings. 10AM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) will host a discussion on “A Debate over Executive Power: Obama’s Immigration Decision.” The event will feature William Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist at the New York Times; and Gary Schmitt, director of the Program on American Citizenship at AEI. 12PM, AEI, 1150 17th Street NW, Wohlstetter Conference Center, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The New America Foundation (NAF) will hold a discussion on “Leaving the Dark Side: Emptying Guantanamo and the CIA Torture Report.” The event will feature Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions; Thomas Wilner, lawyer with Shearman & Sterling LLP and counsel of record to Guantanamo detainees in the two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that established their right to habeas corpus and in the case that established their right to counsel; Andy Worthington, journalist and author of “The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison”; and Peter Bergen, director of the NAF International Security Program. 12:15PM, NAF, 1899 L Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold a discussion on “Fragile States, Vulnerable People: The Human Trafficking Dimension.” The event will feature Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Sarah Sewall; and Sarah Mendelson, director of the Human Rights Initiative at CSIS. 5:30PM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, First Floor Conference Room, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The McCain Institute will host a discussion on “Syria: Should the United States Do More?” The event will feature Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Mike Doran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson Center; Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies; and Elise Labott, global affairs correspondent at CNN. 5PM, Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.


Published on January 13, 2015


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