Washington Week on Human Rights: July 20, 2015

Top News

KENYA President Obama will travel to Kenya this week to discuss economic development and entrepreneurism. Human Rights First urges President Obama to also use the trip to address pressing human rights challenges in Kenya, including concerns about the protection of civil society and minority communities, as well as the ongoing scourge of rampant government corruption. Though many of these issues were discussed at a regional conference for Countering Violent Extremism last month in Kenya, repression and corruption continue today. The Kenyan government has continued to harass prominent human rights organizations, including Muhuri and Haki Africa, under the pretense of counterterrorism efforts. These behaviors undermine the fight against extremism and should concern the United States as it seeks to strengthen its diplomatic ties with Kenya and promote stability in the region. Ahead of President Obama’s trip this week, Human Rights First is releasing a report that details finding and recommendations for the U.S. government based on the organization’s recent research trip to Kenya.

TRAFFICKING Tomorrow, Pope Francis will welcome mayors from around the world to the Vatican to discuss efforts to address human trafficking, sustainable city development, and climate change. Among those attending the event is Birmingham Mayor William Bell, who is a member of Human Rights First’s group of ambassadors focused on ending modern day slavery. Bell was also selected to offer remarks during the gathering. Human Rights First’s group of ambassadors is chaired by former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis J. Freeh. It includes prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state and local government, and civil rights community who have come together to launch a major public education and advocacy effort to disrupt the business of human trafficking. Human Rights First has issued a blueprint, “How to Disrupt the Business of Human Trafficking,” that outlines steps the United States can take to weaken the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business.

GUANTANAMO This week at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, proceedings in the military commission case against detainee Abd al Hadi al Iraqi are scheduled to continue. Observers and participants have already arrived at Guantanamo, but the proceedings that were scheduled to start today have been delayed until no sooner than Wednesday. Hadi is charged with a series of attacks from 2002-2004 that led to the deaths of at least eight American service members. While no trial date has been set for Hadi, proceedings over the next two weeks are expected to examine whether the Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination apply to those facing military commissions at Guantanamo. Human Rights First is at the base this week to monitor the proceeding. About half of the 116 detainees remaining at Guantanamo 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.

IMMIGRATION DETENTION Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began to release from immigration detention some of the women and children who fled violence and persecution in Central America and are seeking asylum in the United States. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified before Congress that “once a family has established a credible fear or reasonable fear of persecution or torture, long-term detention is an inefficient use of resources and should be discontinued.” While more than 200 children and their mothers were reportedly released more than 2,100 remained in immigration detention as of early last week, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigration authorities are continuing to send newly arriving families to detention to be held for at least for several weeks. As detailed in Human Rights First’s recent report, detention creates many obstacles for asylum-seeking families and negatively impacts the mental health and development of children. Rather than sending women and children seeking asylum into immigration detention, the Obama Administration should expand the use of community-based, case-management focused, alternatives to detention and support staffing for the immigration courts and asylum office, as well as legal counsel for asylum seekers and other immigration detainees.

Quote of the Week

“Most of our greatest national security threats come from places where people’s rights are being ignored.” … “The achievements that people working for democracy and human rights have made in the last year give us hope, even in this difficult period.”

—State Department Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 16

We’re Reading

USA Today reported on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s decision to release hundreds of women and children from immigration detention, noting that there is still work to be done to end the inefficient, inhumane practice of family detention.

Politico reporters talked with Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar about current negotiations between congressional Republicans and the Obama Administration to shutter the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In it, Eviatar urges President Obama to veto any legislation that would hamper his ability to close the facility by the end of his term in office.

In a piece for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke warned Congress not to validate Hungary’s antisemitic Jobbik party by meeting with any of its members in Washington.

The Guardian investigated U.S. border patrol’s deportation of thousands of unaccompanied migrant children in recent years, calling into question the process for determining if it is safe for these children to return home.

We’re Listening

Ahead of President Obama’s trip to Kenya, NPR featured a story about the reopening of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Two years ago, Somali militants carried out a terrorist attack at the mall.

On the Hill

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing “Oversight of the Administration’s Misdirected Immigration Enforcement Policies: Examining the Impact on Public Safety and Honoring the Victims.” 10AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Sanctuary Cities: A Threat to Public Safety.” 10AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will host a discussion on “Toward Productive Partisanship: Congress’ Mid-Year Review.” The event will feature former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center; former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center; former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center; and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 10:30AM, BPC, 1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.

The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington will hold a discussion on “Negotiating the Gulf: How a Nuclear Agreement Would Redefine Gulf Cooperation Council-Iran Relations.” The event will feature Suzanne DiMaggio, director of the Iran Initiative at the New America Foundation; Jamal Khashoggi, general manager of Al Arab News Channel; Nadim Shehadi, director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies in the Fletcher School at Tufts University; Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, fellow in the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University; and Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute 12PM, Arab Gulf Institute, 1050 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1060, Washington, D.C.

The American Constitution Society will host a discussion on “Thirteen Years and Counting: When Will We Close Guantanamo Bay?” The event will feature former State Department Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure Cliff Sloan, partner at Skaden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. 12:30PM, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, 700 14th Street NW, Room 11 A/B, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) will hold a discussion on “Arbitrary Justice in Saudi Arabia: How Activists have Organized against Due Process Violations.” The event will feature Sunjeev Bery, Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International USA; Abdulaziz Alhussan, visiting scholar in the Center for Constitutional Democracy at Indiana University; Hala al-Dosari, Saudi activist and women’s health researcher; and R. James Suzano, acting director of advocacy at ADHRB. 11:30AM, Open Society Foundations, 1730 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Seventh Floor, Conference Room A, Washington, D.C.

Freedom House will host a discussion on “Supporting Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Communities through U.S. Foreign Policy.” The event will feature Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.; State Department Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons Randy Berry; Arooj Arshad, associate director of equity and social justice at Advocates for Youth; Nikilas Mwanda of Uganda; Dmitri Chizevsky of Russia; Jean Freedberg, deputy director of Human Rights Campaign Global; and Mark Lagon, president of Freedom House. 4PM, 2226 Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Migration Policy Institute (MPH) will host a discussion on “Targeted Enforcement: Projecting the Effects of Executive Action on Deportations.” The event will feature Deputy Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for Immigration Policy Mary Giovagnoli; former Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Julie Myers Wood, CEO of Guidepost Solutions LLC; Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at MPI; and Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at MPI. 1PM, MPI Conference Room, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 300, Third Floor, Washington, D.C.


Published on July 20, 2015


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