Washington Week on Human Rights: June 15, 2015

Top News

Torture This week, the Senate is expected to continue consideration of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act that includes a bipartisan amendment introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to ensure that torture is never again the official policy of the United States. Some of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders and experienced intelligence and interrogation experts were in Washington, DC last week to lobby for passage of the amendment and to make clear their stance that torture is inconsistent with American ideals and harms U.S. national security. For more information visit Human Rights First’s website.

Guantanamo On Friday, six detainees were transferred from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to Oman. The detainees, all from Yemen, were the first to be transferred in nearly six months and their transfer came as the House defeated an amendment that would have barred funding for defense counsel at the facility. In addition, last week Ash Carter confirmed that he is working with the White House to craft a plan for closing the facility that will be shared with Congress. There are currently 116 detainees at Guantanamo, and about half of those remaining have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. 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 Today, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will visit the family immigration detention facility at Karnes City, Texas. The visit comes as the administration continues its policy of detaining women and children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border in order deter families in Central America from seeking protection in the United States. This week, Human Rights First will release a new report analyzing the consequences of family detention, as well as recommendations for a new way forward for the administration. 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.

Trafficking As the Obama Administration continues to discuss a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, the State Department is preparing to issue its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The TIP report monitors and reports on the progress of governments around the world to combat human trafficking, ranking each government as Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3 based on its anti-trafficking efforts. Malaysia, which would be party to a new TPP agreement, received the lowest TIP report ranking last year. Human Rights First has urged the administration to use the trade negotiations as an opportunity to press Malaysia and other trade partners to adopt stronger practices and enforcement mechanisms to combating human trafficking. The organization also continues to press the administration to uphold the integrity of the TIP report rankings by ensuring that rankings are not influenced by political leanings or diplomatic relationships.

Quote of the Week

“It’s true they give the children toys to play with. But they hear so much about court, about lawyers, that’s what their games are about. One little girl asks another, ‘Are you going to court? Are you getting out before me?’ Those are their games in here.”

—Y.R.V., who came to the United States with a 5-year-old daughter from Guatemala, told The New York Times

We’re Reading

The HillThe Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post reported on the amendment to the defense spending bill introduced last week by Senators McCain and Feinstein that would create a legislative ban on the use of torture.

The Washington Post highlighted the long backlog that Syrian asylum seekers face in U.S. immigration courts, slowing the number of refugees being resettled.

In a piece for Defense One, Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks argues that attaching human rights conditions to military aid for Egypt is necessary in the fight against violent extremism.

The New Yorker’s Connie Bruck wrote about Senator Dianne Feinstein’s tireless work to hold the United States accountable for torture through the release the findings of the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program and introduction of a legislative ban.

McClatchy reported on the absence of an authorization for military action against ISIL, noting that without a new authorization the legal basis for U.S. operations is questionable.

In an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez highlighted how the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision on whether to accept evidence based on torture is an important moment for the United States to demonstrate its leadership and stand up against torture.

We’re Listening

NPR’s David Welna reported on progress and challenges in the effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, interviewing former Navy general counsel Albero Mora on the importance of trying terrorism cases in federal courts.

On the Hill

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing “Advancing United States’ Interests at the United Nations.” U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power will testify. 10AM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee will markup the FY2016 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. 10:30AM, 138 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Subcommittee hearing on “Reviewing the Administration’s FY2016 Budget Request for Europe and Eurasia.” Susan Fritz, acting assistant U.S. Agency for International Development administrator for Europe and Eurasia Bureau; Alina Romanowski, coordinator of U.S. assistance to Europe and Eurasia in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia Daniel Rosenblum of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs; and Jonathan Stivers, assistant U.S. Agency for International Development administrator for the Bureau for Asia, will testify. 2PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “U.S. Policy and Strategy in the Middle East.” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will testify. 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Organization of American States (OAS) holds its 45th regular session of the General Assembly, June 15-16

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) will hold an event to kickoff the LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Advocacy Day by hosting migrants and former refugees meeting with members of Congress and policy makers to influence creation of pro-refugee policies. Robert Carey, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services; Shelly Pitterman, head of the Washington, D.C. office of UNHCR; Anne Richard, assistant secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration; and Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO, will deliver remarks. 9:15AM, National Press Club, 14th and F Streets NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Center for American Progress (CAP) will hold a discussion on “A Look at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asylum Seekers in the United States.” 10AM, CAP, 1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C.

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Published on June 16, 2015


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