Washington Week on Human Rights: July 18, 2016


Guantanamo Bay

There are 59 motions on the docket for consideration during the next two weeks as the military commission proceedings for the alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks resume. The proceedings at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba include hearings for a motion to dismiss the entire case because of government interference in the defense team’s functions, a motion requiring prosecution to release information about all locations in which defendants have been held and tortured, and several motions regarding the violation of attorney-client privilege.

National security leaders including CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair have declared the need to close Gitmo a matter of national security. Three dozen of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders recently urged Congress “to come together and find a path to finally shutter the detention facility.”

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.

The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.”


Following last week’s tragic attack in Nice, French President Francois Hollande announced that the national state of emergency originally put in place following November’s terrorist attacks in Paris will be extended for an additional three months. Human Rights First notes that the French government is right to take concrete steps to thwart security threats, but it should seek long-term solutions that create a future when a continued state of emergency—which may exacerbate existing tensions that can lead to further unrest—is not needed. Experts have already raised concerns that current emergency measures are being applied in France in an overly-broad and in some cases discriminatory manner. These observations are examined in a fact sheet released last week by Human Rights First, as well as Human Rights First’s report Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France.”


Yesterday a Bahraini court dissolved the country’s largest opposition group, Al Wefaq. The move is a devastating blow to Bahrain’s already frail politics, eliminating residual hopes that a solution to the kingdom’s civil and human rights crisis is likely to be negotiated. By dissolving Al Wefaq, the Bahraini regime has left itself with no partner to join in a political dialogue, closing off the last real remaining way for citizens to voice their discontent peacefully. Human Rights First expressed concern that the move will offer encouragement to those who are pushing for violent attacks against the government.

In response to the ruling, Secretary of State John Kerry noted, “We call on the Government of Bahrain to reverse these and other recent measures, return urgently to the path of reconciliation, and work collectively to address the aspirations of all Bahrainis. This is the best way to marginalize those who support violence, and bring greater security and stability to the region.”

Human Rights First is urging the Obama Administration to quickly consider a range of options, including to re-impose the ban on arms transfers to Bahrain’s military that the State Department lifted a year ago. The Untied States should also consider wide-ranging visa bans for Bahraini officials credibly linked to human rights violations.

Global Refugee Crisis

Last week, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Refugee Protection Act of 2016, legislation that reaffirms the United States’ commitment to refugees and strengthens legal safeguards for those seeking protection from persecution and violence. The bill would improve the efficiency, fairness and effectiveness of the U.S. asylum and resettlement processes, and strengthen protection for refugees.

Human Rights First notes that U.S. global leadership on the protection of refugees is crucial, as demonstrated by President Obama’s decision to host a world Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York City on September 20, and the U.S. asylum and resettlement systems should be a model for other countries. The Refugee Protection Act of 2016 fixes many of the areas in which U.S. laws and policies are not living up to the standards the United States has set for itself and, by extension, the bar it sets for the rest of the world.


“Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions…And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose. But Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values.…At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions.”

—President George W. Bush, Speaking at an interfaith memorial service for victims of the Dallas police shooting, July 12, 2016


The Atlantic reports on the United States’ progress towards meeting its goal of resettling at least ten thousand Syrian refugees by September 30, and The Wall Street Journal comments that with despite a slow start, that goal is now within reach.

Reuters reports on the recent postponement of the trial of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain.

PRI’s The World writes about refugee children in immigration detention facilities.


A new Human Rights First video details the progress made towards the Obama Administration’s goal of resettling ten thousand Syrian refugees by September 30, 2016.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The World Affairs Council (WAC) will hold a book discussion on “From Crisis to Calling,” focusing on the worldwide refugee crisis. The discussion will feature Author Sasha Chanoff, executive director of RefugePoint. 6:30 PM, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Horizon Ballroom, Washington, D.C.

The Intelligence and National Security Alliance will hold its 2016 Leadership Dinner. The dinner will feature remarks by CIA Director John Brennan 8:00 PM, Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, 1700 Tysons Boulevard, McLean, Virginia.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Inter-American Dialogue (IAD) will hold a discussion entitled, “Organized Crime and Migration.” The discussion will feature Ivan Briscoe, director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Crisis Group; Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the International Crisis Group; Adriana Beltran, senior associate for citizen security at the Washington Office on Latin America; and Michael Shifter, president of IAD. 9:30 AM, IAD, 1211 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 510, Washington, D.C.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold a discussion entitled, “Russia’s New Nationalism.” The discussion will feature Charles Clover, former Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times; Igor Zevelev, visiting fellow in the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program; and Olga Oliker, director of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program. 10:00 AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.


Published on July 18, 2016


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