Washington Week on Human Rights: June 23, 2014

Top News

CRISIS IN IRAQ Secretary of State John Kerry is in Iraq to meet with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s foreign minister, as well as the country’s Shiite and Sunni leaders. Kerry is expected to express the United States’ commitment to supporting stability in Iraq and to discuss the possibility of forming a new government in line with Iraq’s “constitutional timeline.” Reports this morning say that at least 70 percent of Anbar province is now under control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Last week, the Obama Administration announced that 300 U.S. military advisors will soon arrive in Iraq and additional military personnel have been dispatched to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

CHILDREN AT THE BORDER In separate hearings this week, the House Homeland Security Committee, House Judiciary Committee, and House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee will hold hearings on the surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The Obama Administration announced on Friday that it will send government lawyers and judges to the U.S. southern border and spend $254 million to address the surge. Last week, the administration also announced that it will spend $9.6 million to help Central American governments repatriate citizens who have crossed into the United States illegally.  Human Rights First recently traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border and has issued a set of recommendations on how the administration should deal with families and children crossing the southern border.

WHITE HOUSE WELCOMES LGBT LEADERS On Tuesday, several LGBT leaders from around the world will gather at the White House to discuss how the administration can help advance the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women. The meeting is expected to focus on the implementation of President Obama’s memorandum directing “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.” The gathering comes less than a week after the administration announced a series of steps against Uganda in response to President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sign into law a bill that imposes harsh penalties for same-sex relations.

EGYPT This morning, three Al Jazeera English journalists were convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and received sentences ranging from seven to 10 years. The rulings are the latest in a series of Egyptian court convictions drawing scrutiny from the international community and calling into question the country’s ability to move toward a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law. Secretary Kerry today said this is “a deeply disturbing set-back to Egypt’s transition.” The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the issue of U.S. military aid to Egypt in its mark-up on Tuesday.

Quote of the Week

“What we can’t do is think that we’re just going to play whack-a-mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up. We’re going to have to have a more focused, more targeted strategy and we’re going to have to partner and train local law enforcement and military to do their jobs as well.”

President Obama addressing the ongoing crisis in Iraq (June 19)

We’re Reading

The Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola explores the rise of new antisemitism in France rooted in factors that reportedly include hard economic times, the growing strength of far-right nationalists, a deteriorating relationship between black Europeans and Jews, and increased tensions with Europe’s growing Muslim population. Learn more here.

Suzanne Gamboa for NBC News reported on the efforts of the Obama Administration to stem the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. southern border. The piece noted that increased detentions may have a negative effect on these children and be unnecessarily costly. Read More about the crisis at the border here.

Today, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights opens its doors in Atlanta, taking visitors on a journey from the American civil rights movement to the struggle for human rights around the world today. Human Rights First is one of five official partners and contributed to the exhibit titled “Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement,” which includes a video on the global problem of human trafficking narrated by Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. Learn more here.

McClatchy reported on new penalties the White House is imposing on Uganda in response to its discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act which was enacted earlier this year. The penalties, which include visa bans for Ugandan officials who have been involved in human rights abuses, send an important message to the Ugandan government that targeting LGBT people is a violation of basic human rights.  Learn more here.

Last week, Rep. David Cicilline introduced the Global Respect Act, according to The Advocate. The bill, if passed, would  instructs the State Department to deny U.S. entry visas to individuals from other nations who are found to be egregious violators of the human rights of LGBT people. Learn more about the bill here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib, Ali A. Nabhan and Matt Bradley report on the latest developments in Iraq and preview Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to the nation.

We’re Watching

CNN tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who journeyed to the United States to seek asylum from the threats of deadly gangs and violence in Honduras.

On the Hill

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a full committee hearing on “Dangerous Passage: The Growing Problem of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border.” 10AM, 311 Cannon House Office Building

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee will markup the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. 10AM, 138 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Appropriations Committee will markup the FY2015 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. 10AM, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Catherine Russell, ambassador at large for global women’s issues at the State Department; Susan Markham, senior coordinator for gender equality and women’s empowerment at the U.S. Agency for International Development; Gary Barker, international director of Promundo, Washington, D.C.; and Jacqueline O’Neill, director of the Institute for Inclusive Security, Washington, D.C., will testify. 10AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Afghanistan’s Transition.” State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins will testify. 10AM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.” 2PM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Children Migrating from Central America: Creating a Humanitarian Crisis.” Mark Lopes, deputy assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, will testify. 2PM, 2255 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Subcommittee will hold a hear on “Reviewing the Administration’s FY2015 Budget Request for Europe and Eurasia.” Daniel Rosenblum, coordinator of U.S. assistance to Europe and Eurasia in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Jonathan Katz, deputy assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia; and Denise Rollins, acting assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Asia, will testify. 2PM, 2200 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday June 23, 2014

The Council for Global Equality will presents “Frontline Human Rights Defenders: Leveraging U.S. Diplomacy to Support LGBT Communities Globally,” a briefing that features six frontline human rights advocates, including LGBT leaders from Colombia, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Ukraine and Venezuela. Panelists will highlight the ways in which they are working together with U.S. embassies to stand firmly in support of fundamental freedoms for LGBT citizens globally. 2PM, Senate Russell Building Room 485

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will host a discussion on “Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint To Strengthen Our Democracy.” The event will feature Senators Tom Daschle, Trent Lott and Olympia Snowe along with Secretary Dan Glickman and Governor Dirk Kempthorne. They will announce a set of bipartisan recommendations on June 24. Over the past 18 months, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform, a group of thirty Americans from all political stripes, has engaged concerned citizens across the country to develop these reforms.10AM, Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Knight Conference Center, Washington, D.C.

The American Security Project (ASP) will host a briefing on “The 2014 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review: A Blueprint for State and USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development).” The event will feature Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom; USAID Assistant to the Administrator for Policy, Planning and Learning Alex Thier; former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., special representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review; and retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney CEO of ASP. 12:30PM, 902 Hart Senate Office Building.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Stimson Center’s Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy will release comprehensive and pragmatic recommendations to the Obama Administration on the future of US drone policy.  Co-chaired by General John P. Abizaid (US Army, Ret.), former Commander of US Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, former Counselor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the task force’s findings represent the most high-level recommendations on US drone policy to date. The task force was created in response to President Barack Obama’s major speech at National Defense University in May 2013, in which he pledged to “review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress.” The task force’s recommendations offer a holistic framework for US drone policy and urge the United States to use this evolving technology wisely. In doing so, the report outlines smart precedents for nations to follow in the future. 9:30AM, The White/Murrow/Lisagor Room; National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 20045

The American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights will host a discussion on “Mobilizing the Legal Community to Respond to the Global Crackdown on Civil Society.” The event will feature Carolina Henriquez-Schmit, formerly from Debevoise and Plimpton LLP; Joe Onek of the International Senior Lawyers Project; Michael Perlin, professor in the New York Law School and director of the Mental Disability Law Program; and Brittany Benowitz, director of the ABA Justice Defenders program. 12:30PM, ABA, 1050 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture will hold a discussion on “Exposing the Truth of U.S. Torture: Restoring Human Dignity,” focusing on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on post-9/11 CIA torture. The event will feature Azizah al-Hibri, founder and chairman of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights; and James Jones, co-chairman of the Task Force on Detainee Treatment at the Constitution Project. 6PM, 1420 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Human Rights First will host a panel discussion, “African Voices for Equality.”  Human rights activists have been watching events unfold in Africa with increasing alarm, particularly the passage of new legislation that will negatively impact already marginalized communities including sexual minorities.  Fortunately, these negative trends are also serving as a call to action for those human rights defenders and activists who are already engaged in creating a safe environment for all of Africa’s people.  Voices from throughout the continent are calling for an end to violence and discrimination and a new understanding about the situation of sexual minorities in Africa.  This panel will bring together a team of prominent African defenders who will share their expertise and their vision for an Africa that is open to all. 6:30PM, Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Meeting Room South

Friday, June 27, 2014

Human Rights First will host “How can the United States Support Civil Society Organizations in Africa?” This August, President Obama will host 47 African heads of state at the first ever U.S. Africa Leaders Summit. This panel brings together eight prominent African human rights defenders to share their expertise on the human rights and civil rights priorities for the Pan-African region and why it is crucial that the president include civil society voices and address human rights concerns during the Summit. In recent years, African activists and civil society leaders have often faced many obstacles to participation in multilateral meetings. The speakers will address pressures and restrictions on human rights defenders and activists across the region and how the United States can work to promote and protect human rights in their nations. 11:30AM, 20 F Street, NW Conference Center

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Published on June 23, 2014


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