Washington Week on Human Rights: July 13, 2015

Top News

Extremism in Hungary This week on Capitol Hill, the Hungarian American Institute is lobbying with a delegation that includes Hungarian Member of Parliament Gabor Seaudt, a member of Hungary’s far-right extremist party Jobbik. Jobbik espouses antisemitic rhetoric and is now Hungary’s second-largest political party. Staudt was formerly a member of Magyar Garda, a Jobbik-connected nationalist paramilitary organization that was banned in 2009. Among those reportedly planning to meet with the delegation is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. Human Rights First’s report, “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care,” details the growing threat to human rights posed by the rise of Jobbik. It also documents the Hungarian government’s actions over the past four years that have violated religious freedoms, curtailed judicial independence and media freedom, and failed to combat a rising tide of violent antisemitism. These actions have led to a series of rebukes by the European Union, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and from Hungary’s own Supreme Court.

Guantanamo On Friday, a U.S. district court judge ordered the Obama Administration to publicly release eight videotapes showing the force-feeding of Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab. In her ruling, the judge ordered the administration to complete all national security-based redactions to the tapes by September 30. Dhiab’s attorneys say he was force-fed approximately 1,300 times during his 12 years at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. There are 116 detainees remaining at Guantanamo. About half of those remaining have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and security agencies, yet inexplicably remain imprisoned at Guantanamo. President Obama has repeatedly promised to shutter the facility before the end of his second term. Human Rights First has issued a blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo,” detailing steps the administration should take to meet the president’s goal.

Trafficking News reports indicate that the U.S. State Department plans to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking in the forthcoming annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The rise from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List would come as the Obama Administration negotiates the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal between the United States and 11 countries in the Asia Pacific region, including Malaysia. Congress recently passed legislation that includes a provision prohibiting fast-tracked trade agreements with countries ranked as Tier 3. Upgrading Malaysia to Tier 2 during the TPP negotiations without significant evidence that Malaysian authorities have improved national efforts to combat trafficking calls into question the validity of the upgraded ranking, potentially undermining the credibility of TIP rankings moving forward. The TIP report rankings are meant to provide an accurate accounting of global efforts to combat human trafficking and serve as a diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to improve their anti-traffiking efforts. The TIP Report issues a ranking of Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, or Tier 3 for each country. Malaysia received the lowest ranking, Tier 3, in the 2014 TIP report, which noted that the country had decreased its efforts to combat trafficking as evidenced by a rapidly declining rate of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions since 2012.

Immigration Detention U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) officials have announced that they plan to update guidelines regarding the care of transgender immigrants in U.S. custody. The updates follow a letter from 35 members of Congress to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, which called for an end to the immigration detention of transgender individuals. While the government will continue to place transgender individuals in immigration detention, the new guidelines include how detention personnel will identify, process, and treat individuals who identify as transgender.

Bahrain Yesterday, Bahraini authorities arrested leading opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif. Bahraini officials say he was arrested for comments made during a Friday speech, remarks they claim “encouraged the overthrow of the government and incited hatred.” Sharif’s arrest comes less than a month after his release from prison, where he had been for over four years, and just two weeks after the State Department cited Bahrain’s “meaningful progress on human rights reforms” as a reason to resume arms sales to the country’s military.

Quote of the Week

“Nations that empower citizens to decide their own destiny, that uphold human rights for all their people, that invest in education and create opportunities for their young people — those can be powerful antidotes to extremist ideologies. Those are the countries that will find a true partner in the United States.”

—President Obama during July 6 remarks on progress in the fight against ISIL

We’re Reading

In a piece for Roll Call, Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino reflected on the remarkable bipartisan victory of passing the Senate amendment to place a legislative ban on the use of torture by all U.S. agencies.

Reuters reported major human rights concerns resulting from news that the State Department is planning to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking in its annual Trafficking In Persons Report, without evidence that the country has taken significant steps to combat human trafficking during the past year.

Al Jazeera America highlighted the challenges facing asylum seekers caused by an overburdened and backlogged immigration court system.

The Washington Times’ Dave Boyer reported that Kenyan human rights activists and civil society are divided on how they hope the president will address human rights issues while he is in the country later this month.

We’re Watching

Human Rights First’s Olga Byrne shares what she saw while visiting the family immigration detention center in Berks, PA. This week, Human Rights First will return to the Berks facility to meet with asylum seekers currently held at center.

On the Hill

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The House Appropriations Committee will markup the FY2016 Homeland Security bill. 10AM, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the United States Department of Homeland Security.”Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify. 10AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Tunisia’s Fragile Democratic Transition.” Leslie Campbell, senior associate and regional director of the National Democratic Institute; Mark Green, president of the International Republican Institute; William Sweeney, president and CEO of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems; and Aaron Zelin, fellow in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, will testify. 2PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

“The Public Opinion, Transatlantic Relations, and the Use of Force,” an event at the German Marshall Fund, will featurePierangelo Isernia, Director of the Department of Social, Political, and Cognitive Sciences and Professor of Political Science, University of Siena; Respondent-Richard Eichenberg, Professor of Political Science, Tufts University; Moderator-Bruce Stokes, Director of Global and Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center. 12PM, The German Marshall Fund of the United States , 1744 R Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a discussion on “Policy Issues In Kenya and Ethiopia Ahead of President Obama’s Trip.” The event will feature former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Mark Bellamy, professor of international relations at Simmons College; E.J. Hogendoorn, deputy program director for Africa at the International Crisis Group; Terrence Lyons, associate professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University; Sarah Margon, Washington director of Human Rights Watch; and Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa Program at CSIS. 10:30AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, First Floor Conference Center, Washington, D.C.

The Georgetown University Law Center and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA will hold a discussion on “Legal Challenges Facing Central American Asylum Seekers.” The event will feature Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Clinical Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; Karen Lucas, associate director of advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association; Emily Robinson, co-director and clinical attorney in the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic at Loyola Law School Los Angeles; Hannah Sullivan, attorney in the Catholic Immigration Law Project at the Saint Louis University School of Law; and Daria Fisher Page, director of the Community Justice Project at Georgetown University Law Center. 2PM, Georgetown University Law Center, 120 F Street NW, Gewirz Student Center, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The Newseum will host a discussion on “Shame: HIV/AIDS and the Church in Jamaica. The event will feature Ghanaian-Jamaican writer and poet Kwame Dawes, executive director and founder of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative and the director of the University of South Carolina Arts Institute as well and the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival; and Andre Lambertson, New York-based photojournalist, teacher and filmmaker. 7PM, The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Knight Conference Center, Washington, D.C.


Published on July 13, 2015


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