Washington Week on Human Rights: July 11, 2016


Global Refugee Crisis

This week, the House Committee on Appropriations will markup the Fiscal Year 2017 State and Foreign Operations Bill. In its current form, the bill proposes a decreased budget for refugee resettlement in 2017. Human Rights First is urging committee members to reject such a decrease and instead increase resources to aid resettlement of refugees.

This week’s markup comes less than a week after world leaders gathered in Warsaw for the NATO summit to address pressing issues such as how to best address the migration of refugees across the Central Mediterranean. Prior to the summit Human Rights First urged the Obama Administration to champion the rights of refugees by standing firmly against European efforts to reject refugees and return them to their point of departure, and to increase the pace of resettlement of refugees into the United States.

During the summit, world leaders established a Sea Guardian operation in the Central Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, but it remains unclear how the group will handle intercepting refugee and migrant ships bound for Europe. Human Rights First continues to urge a policy that is consistent with international humanitarian and refugee law.


As Republican and Democrat leaders begin to gather to finalize their respective party platforms, Human Rights First is urging these leaders to heed the call of 62 of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals who recently urged the Republican and Democratic Platform Committees to unequivocally reject the use of torture. The GOP convention is set to begin on July 18 and core party members arrive this week to start finalizing the official positions of the party. Democratic Party members will do the same prior to their convention that begins on July 25.


Today the Obama Administration announced the transfer of two detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Serbia. The transfers follow yesterday’s transfer of Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman, a Yemeni detainee, to Italy for resettlement.

Seventy-six detainees now remain at Guantanamo, including 27 who have been unanimously cleared for transfer by six national security and intelligence agencies. These most recent transfers come less than a month after the Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which makes it nearly impossible for President Obama to close the detention facility. Both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA would extend unnecessary bans on transferring detainees to the United States until after President Obama leaves office. The bills also extend country-specific transfer bans, with the Senate version expanding the number of prohibited locations, as well as cumbersome overseas transfer restrictions that make it more difficult, but not impossible, for the administration to transfer detainees.

The provisions are out of step with guidance from national security leaders from across the political spectrum who have urged the president and Congress to make shuttering this facility a top priority. Earlier this year, the Pentagon released the administration’s plan for closing Guantanamo, which includes the transfer of all cleared detainees. It also mandates expedited review, pursuant to administrative Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings, of the remaining detainees who are not facing trial to determine if they can be cleared for transfer. In other news, later this week pre-trial hearings in the case against Hadi al-Iraqi, an alleged al-Qaeda commander, resume at Guantanamo.


On July 17 a Bahraini court is set to decide whether to dissolve the kingdom’s leading opposition group, Al Wefaq, which was suspended in mid-June as part of an alarming crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful dissent. The court hearing was originally scheduled for September, but it was moved up at the request of the justice minister.

A verdict officially dissolving Al Wefaq would be a major step back for the kingdom’s self-proclaimed commitment to respect human rights and a more inclusive political system in Bahrain. Also this week, on July 12, prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab will face a court hearing over charges related to tweeting and re-tweeting critiques about Bahrain’s treatment of prisoners and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to hold its ally accountable for human rights abuses, including real consequences for the recent acceleration in the kingdom’s human rights backslide. The organization also urges members of Congress to support bipartisan bills that would limit the U.S. government’s complicity with the Bahraini regime by imposing a ban on small arms sales until Bahrain implements human rights reforms.


“Compassion for people displaced by persecution and calamity is a core American ideal. For more than two centuries, oppressed people seeking liberty have been drawn to the idea of America, and ensuring that they receive protection is part of what makes us who we are. That is why the Statue of Liberty welcomes the world’s ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ and why President Reagan envisioned our nation as ‘shining city on a hill,’ ‘a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness toward home.'”

—General Michael V. Hayden (Ret.) and Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) in the Miami Herald


General Michael V. Hayden (Ret.) and Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) write in the Miami Herald about the need for the United States to lead efforts to combat the ongoing global refugee crisis.

The Global Post reports on asylum seekers that are being forced to raise their children in immigration detention.

Foreign Policy writes on the troubling backslide in terms of human and civil rights in some European countries, which coincides with increased incidents of antisemitic hate crimes.

Mother Jones reports on the recent surge towards reaching the U.S. government’s goal of resettling at least 10,000 Syrian refugees.


President Obama spoke at a news conference after meeting with NATO allies in Warsaw, Poland. The president shared his thoughts on a wide spectrum of topics, including defense, the global refugee crisis, and the recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas.


MONDAY JULY 11, 2016

The National Immigration Forum holds a discussion on “The State of Refugee Resettlement in 2016,” focusing on Middle East resettlement in the United States and Canada. The discussion will feature Canadian Parliamentary Secretary of Immigration Arif Virani; Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense; Billy Canny, executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Migration and Refugee Services; and David Rennie, Washington bureau chief of The Economist. 9:45 AM, 2226 Rayburn House Office Building.

TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2016

The House Foreign Affairs Committee holds a hearing on “Human Rights Under Siege Worldwide.” The hearing will feature testimony by Mark Lagon, president of Freedom House; Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute; Amanda Schnetzer, director of the George W. Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative; and Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality. 10:00 AM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on “Religious Liberty and HR 2802, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).” 10:00 AM, 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on “Review of the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report.” The hearing will feature testimony by Susan Coppedge, State Department ambassador-at-large in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. 10:15 AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The House Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee holds a hearing on “Accountability Over Politics: Scrutinizing the Trafficking in Persons Report.” The hearing will feature testimony by State Department Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Susan Coppedge. 2:00 PM, 2200 Rayburn House Office Building.


MONDAY, JULY 11, 2016

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) holds a discussion on “Immigration Reform: Campaign Politics, SCOTUS and the Path Forward.” The discussion will feature John Feehery, president of QGA Public Affairs; Jon Feere, legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies; Kerri Talbot, partner at VENG Group; and Theresa Brown, director of immigration policy at BPC. 10:00 AM, BPC,1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.

The Brookings Institution holds a discussion on “Orlando, the Middle East, and the US Election,” focusing on American attitudes towards the Middle East. The discussion will feature Shibley Telhami, nonresident senior fellow at Brookings; Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy; and William Galston, senior fellow for governance studies at Brookings. 2:00 PM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The Center for Global Development (CGD) holds a discussion on “Survival Migration: New Models to Address the Global Crisis of Migration and Displacement.” The discussion will feature Marta Foresti, managing director of the Overseas Development Institute; Sayre Nyce, executive director of Talent Beyond Boundaries; Ratna Omidvar, visiting professor at Ryerson University; and Michael Clemens, senior fellow at CGD. 2:30 PM, CGD, 2055 L Street NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C.


The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland: ISIS and the New Wave of Terror.” The hearing will feature testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson; FBI Director James Comey; and Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 10:00 AM, 311 Cannon House Office Building.


Published on July 11, 2016


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