Washington Week on Human Rights: June 9, 2014

Top News

CHIDREN AT THE BORDER Over the weekend, the Obama Administration began sending hundreds of unaccompanied children caught crossing the U.S. southern border to a makeshift holding center in Nogales, Arizona. More than 425 minors are thought to be at the facility, where they will be vaccinated and medically examined before being sent to other facilities in California and Oklahoma. This afternoon, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee may examine this development as part of its border security hearing. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely address the surge in unaccompanied children crossing the southern border during its oversight hearing featuring testimony from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Last week, Human Rights First issued a comprehensive blueprint detailing how lawmakers and policymakers can tackle challenges related to the increase in requests for asylum and protection along the U.S.-Mexico border.

HAGEL TO THE HILL On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will appear before the House Armed Service Committee to discuss the transfers of five Taliban detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The five were released in exchange for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan and held by the Taliban for five years.

SYRIA Today, just days after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected in Syria’s first presidential election in three years, he announced general amnesty for prisoners in the country. It is unclear how many will be released based on the decree or if it will apply to the tens of thousands of anti-government activists and opposition supporters who are jailed throughout Syria. In an interview with the Associated Press, Syrian lawmaker Issam Khalil said that the amnesty includes those who participated in the armed opposition movement.

EGYPT Today, an Egyptian court sentenced 112 supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi to one year in prison for allegedly assaulting citizens during January protests. This most recent mass sentencing comes one day after newly-elected Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was inaugurated and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab forms a new cabinet.

Quote of the Week

“How we treat those in need, particularly young people who must appear in immigration proceedings — many of whom are fleeing violence, persecution, abuse or trafficking — goes to the core of who we are as a nation.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a press statement announcing legal assistance for unaccompanied minors.

We’re Reading

Ramzi Kassem, an attorney for a Guantanamo Bay detainee, wrote in The New York Times over the weekend about the need to shutter the facility once and for all, arguing that indefinite detention at Guantanamo is increasingly becoming a “political spectacle,” subject to the whims of partisan politics rather than assessments from review boards and courts. For more information, see here.

As the world remembers and reflects on the horrific events of the Chinese government’s violent crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago, The Global Post published a story by a young Chinese man about the lasting effects of that day and the lengths to which the government goes to keep citizens from knowing the truth.

Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez, reporter for The Advocatehighlighted Human Rights First’s new campaign focused on protecting the human rights of LGBT people in Jamaica. Learn more about the campaign here.

Nikolais Michaloliakos, leader of the neo-Nazi Greek political party Golden Dawn, gave a hostile speech in front of the Greek Parliament last week as the chamber debated whether to strip him of his political immunity. The Guardian’s Helena Smith reported on the tirade, which came weeks after far-right parties made significant gains in European Parliament elections.

The Advocate reported on a new resolution passed by the African Commission on Human Rights that calls for national leaders to respect the human rights of LGBT people in the wake of a wave of discriminatory laws being enacted across the continent. The commission includes a representative from Uganda, which enacted the discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act earlier this year.

We’re Watching

CBS Evening News filed a story on the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children who have been sent to a detention facility in Nogales, Arizona. It is reported that the hundreds of children sent there by the Obama Administration have strained resources for the makeshift facility.

In a TV segment for Feature News, Human Rights First’s Jocelyn Dyer discusses some of the challenges of the asylum process for LGBT Africans who are fleeing a climate of persecution and violence to seek protection in the United States.

On the Hill

Monday June 9, 2014

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee hearing on “Border Security: Examining the Implications of S.1691, the ‘Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act of 2013’.” Ronald Vitiello, deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council; James Tomsheck, assistant commissioner in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Internal Affairs; and Adam Miles, deputy special counsel for policy and congressional affairs in the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, will testify. 3:30PM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The House Appropriations Committee will hold a full committee markup of the FY2015 Defense Appropriations Bill. 9:30AM, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “The State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau: Budget, Programs, and Evaluation.” State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Tina Kaidanow will testify. 2PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.             

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the May 31, 2014 transfer of five senior Taliban detainees. 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing on “Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify.

10AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “The Ongoing Struggle Against Boko Haram.” J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center; Emmanuel Ogebe, manager of Jubilee Campaign USA’s Justice for Jos Project; and Anslem John-Miller, representative to the U.S. for the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, will testify. 2PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday June 9, 2014

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and Mercy Corps will hold a discussion on “Youth and Violence: Engaging the Lost Generation.” The event will feature Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ann Richard; Maryanne Yerkes, senior civil society and youth adviser in the Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance at the U.S. Agency for International Development; Rebecca Wolfe, director of the Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Program at Mercy Corps; Marc Sommers, consultant and visiting researcher in the African Studies Center at Boston University; and Stephen Hadley, chairman of the board of USIP. 9AM, USIP, 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Freedom House, the American Interest and Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will hold a conference on “Re-thinking Democracy Promotion Amid Rising Authoritarianism.” 9:30AM, SAIS, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Kenney Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) will hold a discussion on “What to Do About Russia and Ukraine,” as part of the “What to Do About…” series.The event will feature Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States; Robert Kahn, senior fellow for international economics at CFR; Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies at CFR; and Richard Haass, president of CFR.  6:15PM, CFR, 1777 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) will host a discussion on “What Americans Want from Immigration Reform in 2014.” The event will feature Robert Jones, CEO and founder of PRRI; Stella Rouse, assistant director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland; Robert Costa, national political reporter at the Washington Post; and William Galston and E.J. Dionne, Brookings senior fellows. 10:30AM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the Heinrich Boll Foundation of North America will host a discussion on “The Federal Budget & Appropriations: Democracy & Human Rights in the Middle East.” The event will feature Lorne Craner, former president of the International Republican Institute; Cole Bockenfeld, POMED advocacy director; Amy Hawthorne, senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; and Stephen McInerney, POMED executive director. 12PM, 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Center for a New American Security will hold its eighth annual National Security Conference. 9AM, Willard InterContinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) will host a discussion on “Syria from the Inside.” The Former Office of the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria Mokhtar Lamani; and Randa Slim, director of the Initiative for Track II Dialogues at MEI.

12PM, MEI, Boardman Room, 1761 N Street NW, Boardroom, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold a conference on “The Burgeoning Human Crisis in Syria and Its Neighbors.” The conference will address the burgeoning human crisis inside Syria and in the surrounding region. As the Syrian war enters its fourth year, with no clear end in sight, there is increasing pressure upon humanitarian organizations to plan for the medium to long-term, and mounting pressures upon policy makers to press for improved security and access. The conference will spotlight the scope, burden, and complexity of the human crisis, both inside Syria and across the region; its future trajectory and long-term implications; ongoing efforts to improve humanitarian access and coverage, including efforts to advance UNSC resolution 2139; and future options for the United States and the international community9:15AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The CSIS Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program will host a discussion of: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the 21st Century:Building a Model Law Enforcement Workforce” The event will feature The Honorable Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Introduction by Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Senior Vice President, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and  Director, International Security Program, CSIS; Moderated by Adam Isles Senior Associate, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program, CSIS and Managing Director, The Chertoff Group. 10AM, CSIS 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW.

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Published on June 9, 2014


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