Washington Week on Human Rights: January 25, 2016

Top News

Egypt Today on the fifth anniversary of the mass Tahrir Square protests calling for democratic reform in Egypt, Human Rights First released a new blueprint that examines conditions in Egypt, the strengths and shortcomings of the U.S. response to instability and human rights challenges in the country, and provides recommendations for how the U.S. government can support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights. The blueprint titled: “How to Navigate Egypt’s Enduring Human Rights Crisis,” draws on dozens of interviews with Egyptian human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, academics, families of detainees, lawyers, government officials, and others conducted during a research trip in January 2016. On Wednesday, Human Rights First will host a panel discussion about the report and its recommendations.

Global Refugee Crisis Last week, the Senate voted against a motion to proceed on the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (H.R. 4038), a bill that would have effectively shut down the resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq and severely handicap the United States’ future ability to protect vulnerable refugees fleeing horrific violence in the Middle East. The motion was defeated by a vote of 55-43; 60 votes were required for the motion to pass. National security experts said the bill, which passed the House late last year, would have exacerbated the current refugee crisis by burdening our already strained allies in the Middle East. Twenty of these leaders, including Henry Kissinger, General David Petraeus (Ret.), Michael Chertoff, Madeleine Albright, and Leon Panetta recently reminded Congress that rejecting refugees “would be contrary to our nation’s traditions of openness and inclusivity, and would undermine our core objective of combating terrorism.” Human Rights First notes that these refugees are already the most stringently vetted group entering the United States, a process detailed here.

Guantanamo Last week, the administration transferred two more detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a move that brings the facility’s population to 91. The transfers come as Congress continues to wait for President Obama’s plan to shutter the facility by the conclusion of his final year in office. Guantanamo costs nearly $400 million per year to operate, approximately $4.4 million per detainee. Thirty-four of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 44 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.

Quote of the Week

“Some people say at least Egypt isn’t as bad as Syria, but this is how Syria started – with silencing liberal dissent.”

—Prominent human rights defender Dr. Ahmed Abdullah told Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. Abdullah narrowly escaped being scooped up last week in the latest wave of arrests. He left a coffee shop just before security forces hunting for him arrived.

We’re Reading

Writing for U.S. News & World Report, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley describes the human rights challenges facing Egypt five years after Tahrir Square.

CNN and The Intercept reported on the Senate’s rejection of a bill that would have brought U.S. resettlement of vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi refugees to a grinding halt.

POLITICO examined the stance of presidential candidates on the issue of torture, noting that the recent passage of an anti-torture amendment by Congress will make sure that the United States does not return to the cruel and ineffective interrogation methods used after 9/11.

Vox investigated the administration’s confusing and sometimes contradictory policies toward Central Americans fleeing horrific violence in search of safety in the United States.

We’re Watching

On the fifth anniversary of the Tahrir Square uprising that eventually toppled Egypt’s Mubarak regime, TIME features the story of Ali Hassan, whose son Mohab was killed during the protest.

Around Town

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On the fifth anniversary week of the mass Tahrir Square protests against Egypt’s former President Mubarak that led to his resignation and unleashed a period of continuing political instability, Human Rights First will host a panel to coincide with the release of a new blueprint on how Congress and the Obama Administration should address the persistent human rights crisis in Egypt. The blueprint will set out recommendations for the U.S. government can more effectively use its influence to advance human rights in Egypt. It is rooted in ongoing in-country research and interviews with Egyptian human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, academics, lawyers, and government officials. The panel will address current conditions in Egypt, the strengths and shortcomings of the U.S. response, and potential opportunities for the U.S. government to more effectively support civil society and address human rights concerns. It will feature Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks (moderator) and Brian Dooley, POMED’s Amy Hawthorne, and TIMEP’s Nancy Okail. 3 p.m., Human Rights First, 805 15th Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, D.C.


Published on January 26, 2016


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