Wednesday, June 29 marks the one-year anniversary of the State Department’s decision to resume security assistance to Bahrain and remove some holds on arms sales originally imposed following Bahrain’s 2011 crackdown on peaceful protestors calling for reform. The anniversary comes a week after the State Department released its Congressionally-mandated report on Bahrain’s progress toward implementing the 26 recommendations detailed in the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) that was designed to strengthen the kingdom’s human rights protections. Although the report should have gone further in its criticism of the lack of progress in Bahrain it confirmed that the kingdom is on the wrong path. Human Rights First continues to urge members of Congress to support the bipartisan bills in the House and Senate that would impose a ban on small arms sales to Bahrain’s security services until all 26 of the reforms promised in the BICI report have been implemented. A recent Human Rights First blueprint outlines recommendations for the U.S. government to support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights.


Last week, Guantanamo detainee Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi was transferred to Montenegro, the first of what is expected to be a new set of transfers from the detention facility. Al Rahabi was cleared for transfer in 2014. He spent a total of 14 years at Guantanamo Bay, though he was never formally charged with a crime. Earlier this year the Pentagon released the administration’s plan for closing Guantanamo, which includes the transfer of detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. 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 remaining detainees who will not be transferred in the near term—a number unlikely to exceed 60 — would be relocated to one of 13 stateside detention facilities, pending congressional approval. This would result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 79 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $5.5 million per detainee. Twenty-nine detainees have been unanimously cleared for transfer by six national security and intelligence agencies.

Targeted Killing

Last week NBC News reported that the Obama Administration is preparing to soon release casualty data from nearly five hundred drone strikes outside areas of active hostilities since 2009. The upcoming disclosure, importantly, would not include data from any targeted killing activity in Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan. NBC News claims that the data will report approximately one hundred civilian casualties resulting from the strikes, a number far lower than some non-governmental organizations have predicted. The administration is also expected to soon issue an executive order mandating annual disclosures of the data. Earlier this year Human Rights First released 10 Steps to Improve Transparency and Accountability for Drone Strikes and Targeted Killing, including the recommendations that the administration routinely release civilian casualty data, ensure that this data is meaningful, by disclosing the criteria used to conduct the assessment and to classify individuals as combatants, disaggregate the data by strike location and date, and specify the organized armed group to which any individuals classified as combatants are alleged to belong. Human Rights First also called on the administration to provide meaningful transparency about its targeted killing program to enable more informed public debate about the lawfulness and effectiveness of lethal strikes.

Quote of the Week

“Today, we commemorate the spirit and strength of refugees worldwide and the dedication of those who help them on and after their journeys.  Protecting and assisting refugees is a part of our history as a Nation, and we will continue to alleviate the suffering of refugees abroad, and to welcome them here at home, because doing so reflects our American values and our noblest traditions as a Nation, enriches our society, and strengthens our collective security.”

—President Obama, on World Refugee Day, Monday, June 20, 2016

We’re Reading

The Philadelphia Inquirer writes about the future of immigration detention centers in the United States.

Reuters and Associated Press report on Bahrain’s crackdown on its Shiite population, including the country’s top Shiite cleric, and last week’s release of the long-awaited State Department report on Bahrain’s efforts to implement political and human rights reforms.

The New York Times writes about the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program, which is in danger of being discontinued.

Nicholas Kristof writes about desperate Central American refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, and the tough policy that denies them refuge, at the risk of their own lives .

Brian Dooley writes in Politico on the failures of U.S. policy on Bahrain in the aftermath of the recently released report on political and human rights reforms in the Middle East nation.

We’re Watching

On World Refugee Day Human Rights First’s Scott Cooper discussed the relationship between refugees and veterans on CNN with Brooke Baldwin.

We’re Listening To

NPR features a new song in honor of refugees released by Grammy award-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter and the Oscar-winning hip hop artist Common.

Around Town

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 

Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Sen. Tammy Baldwin will hold a discussion entitled, “In Celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.” 11:00 AM, Labor Department, 200 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 

The Arab Center will hold a discussion entitled, “The Impact of the Presidential Elections on U.S. Middle East Policy.” The discussion will feature remarks by Ellen Laipson, president emeritus of the Stimson Center; Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives at the Wilson Center; Manal Omar, vice president of the U.S. Institute for Peace’s Center for Middle East and Africa; and Shibley Telhami, professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland. 10:00 AM, National Press Club, 14th and F Streets NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, June 30, 2016 

The Henry L. Stimson Center will hold a forum on U.S. intelligence, foreign policy and national security policy. The forum will feature former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich.; and Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., chairman of the board of directors at the Stimson Cente12:30 PM, Stimson Center. 1211 Connecticut Ave NW, Eighth Floor, Washington, D.C.

On The Hill

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Global Efforts to Defeat ISIS.” The hearing will feature testimony by Brett McGurk, the State Department’s special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. 10:00 AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing oentitled, “One Year After Enactment: Implementation of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.” The hearing will feature testimony by Jill Steinberg, national coordinator for child exploitation prevention and interdiction at the Justice Department; and Greta Goodwin, acting director of justice and law enforcement issues in the Government Accountability Office’s Homeland Security and Justice Team. 10:00 AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.