Washington Week on Human Rights: July 6, 2015

Top News

Guantanamo Over the weekend, six former British cabinet ministers joined a group of more than 80 prominent Britons to urge the Obama Administration to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In December 2001, Aamer was captured in Afghanistan and turned over to the United States in exchange for money. Two months later, he was transferred to Guantanamo, where authorities have said they have no intention of charging him. The letter noted, “It has not escaped our notice that, while the US is celebrating its foundation under the rule of law, the continuing detention of men at Guantánamo – largely without charge or trial – continues to undermine America’s notion of itself and its international standing.” British Prime Minister David Cameron has also raised Aamer’s case directly with President Obama. Aamer is one of 116 detainees remaining at Guantanamo, and about half of those remaining have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. Last week, the Obama Administration appointed Lee Wolosky as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure, a position that is key to the president’s plan to shutter the facility before the conclusion 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.

Family Immigration Detention U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) officials have confirmed that 250 children held at family detention centers were given adult doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. The dose administered was twice the recommended level for children. The error took place at the family detention center in Dilley, Texas. Outside monitors of the family detention centers in the United States, including representatives from Human Rights First, have long noted concerns about access to adequate health care. Human Rights First’s report “U.S. Detention of Families Seeking Asylum: A One-Year Update,” chronicles the problems faced by mothers and children held at family detention centers in the United States, including lack of counsel, barriers to asylum, and the negative health and mental health consequences. Human Rights First has pressed the Obama Administration to end the practice of putting families seeking asylum in immigration detention facilities. Immigration authorities can use more cost effective and humane alternatives to detention if needed. In addition, the organization has urged that those seeking asylum have access to counsel so that they have the opportunity for a fair consideration of their asylum claim.

Quote of the Week

“The message at the heart of these reports is that countries do best when their citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled. This is not just an expression of hope. This is a reality, and it is proven out in country after country around the world. After all, we live in a time when access to knowledge and openness to change are absolutely essential. And in such an era, no country can fulfill its potential if its people are held back, or more so if they are beaten down by repression.” “A couple of centuries later, we have made ourselves into a big, bold, dynamic, and diverse country. We are of all races, we come from all places, we practice all faiths, and believe in all sorts of different ideas. But our allegiance to this declaration – this idea – is the creed that binds us together. It’s what, out of many, makes us one.”

—President Obama’s Weekly Address on July 4, 2015

We’re Reading

The New York Times reported on Homeland Security’s first steps in ending family detention, stating that women and children with credible fear will be offered lower release bonds.

AFP and Al Jazeera reported that the United States is resuming military aid to Bahrain, noting that major human rights concerns persist.

Al Jazeera America’s Bruce Wallace described how severe backlogs in immigration court proceedings are complicating the asylum system for refugees, who often have to wait years for their court hearings.

Writing for pressed Business Insider, David Weinberg explains the danger of Gulf regime’s support of radical extremist clerics highlighting how this counters efforts toward human rights reform. For more information read Human Rights First’s recent pressed blueprint on Saudi Arabia.

We’re Watching

A new video on pressed The Huffington Post featuring retired military leaders and interrogators Mark Fallon, Michael Lehnert, Tim Nichols, and Albert Shimkus makes the case for swiftly closing the detention facilty at Guantanamo Bay.

On the Hill

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Counter-ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) Strategy.” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter; and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will testify. 9:30AM, G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “The 2014 Humanitarian Crisis at Our Border: A Review of the Government’s Response to Unaccompanied Minors One Year Later.” 10AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Appropriations Committee will host the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee markup of the “State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act for FY2016.” 3PM, 116 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 9:30AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a full committee markup of the “State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act for FY2016.” 10:30AM, 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Around Town

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “Changing America’s Approach to Middle East Security.” The event will feature Bilal Saab, resident senior fellow for Middle East security in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security; Barry Posen, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program; and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. 12PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, July 8 2015

The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “America’s Role in the World.” 10AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.


Published on July 6, 2015


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