Washington Week on Human Rights: March 14, 2016

Top News

Targeted Killing Last week, the Obama Administration announced that it will publish civilian and combatant casualty assessments for lethal counterterrorism strikes outside areas of active hostilities. The administration will provide casualty assessments for strikes going back to 2009 and then going forward on an annual basis. Human Rights First notes that this information, including the data on past drone strikes, is essential for fully evaluating the the program. However, for data on the number of casualties to be meaningful, the administration must provide more than numbers. It should also provide information on how it defines and assesses who is a civilian and who is a combatant, which terrorist group the killed combatants were members of, and where the strikes occurred.

Bahrain Prominent Bahraini human rights defender Zainab Al Khawaja and her baby were seized from their home today by security officers. Reports indicate that security forces broke into Al Khawaja’s apartment around 3:45 p.m. local time today (8:45 a.m. EST). They took her and her 16 month old son, Hadi, to Al Hoora police station. Al Khawaja has been sentenced to over three years in jail for a series of non-violent protests against the dictatorship. She is the daughter of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence following his human rights activism during the 2011 pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. February 14, 2016 marked the fifth anniversary of the brutal government crackdown on mass protests calling for democratic reform in Bahrain. Human Rights First released a new blueprint, “How to Reverse Five Years of Failure on Bahrain,” that examines conditions in Bahrain, the strengths and shortcomings of the U.S. response, and potential opportunities for the U.S. government to support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights. The blueprint outlines key missteps in U.S. policy in Bahrain since the 2011 uprising, which include failing to back up rhetoric in support of human rights and civil society with action, and decisions to downplay these priorities in favor of short-term military objectives.

Global Respect Act Last Wednesday, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Global Respect Act into the Senate. The bill would direct the State Department to report gross violations of basic human rights against LGBT individuals in its annual Human Rights Report and to ban foreigners who have committed or incited these violations from entering the United States. The Global Respect Act was first introduced in the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and was reintroduced in the current session. This is the first time the legislation has been introduced in the Senate. The bill represents a strong U.S. commitment to protecting the human rights of LGBT people globally.

Join Us: Hill Briefing on the Syrian Refugee Crisis Tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Room G-11 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Human Rights First will host a briefing to discuss our recently released report “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership,”  and the leading role the United States should play to address the national security and humanitarian concerns of the Syrian refugee crisis. Based on a recent trip to the region, the report details the deteriorating conditions facing Syrian refugees, the backlogs hampering U.S. progress toward meeting its commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, and the impact of the failure to effectively address the refugee crisis on the stability of front-line refugee hosting states. The briefing will feature remarks by Matt Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and president and co-founder of IronNet Cybersecurity; Eric Schwartz, vice chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and former U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration; Michael Breen, executive director of the Truman National Security Project, co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project, and former U.S. Army officer and combat veteran; and Eleanor Acer (Moderator), senior director of the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First.

Please RSVP to attend.

Quote of the Week

“We know that not only is greater transparency the right thing to do, it is the best way to maintain the legitimacy of our counterterrorism actions and the broad support of our allies.”

Lisa Monaco’s Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations

We’re Reading

The Atlantic reports on the conviction of two human smugglers in Turkey who will each spend four years in prison for their involvement in the drowning deaths of five Syrian refugees, including three-year-old Alan Kurdi. In 2015, a photograph of Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach became a defining image of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.

The New York Times discusses President Obama’s plan to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and responses to it.

Newsweek reports on targeted killing and the Obama Administration’s decision to release an assessment of casualties from counterterrorism strikes. A number of civil and human rights groups are calling for transparency in the report.

In a piece for Time, Eric Schwartz, vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and former assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, critiques President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees.

The Washington Blade reports on the introduction of the Global Respect Act in the Senate. The legislation would bar those found to have committed gross human rights abuses against the LGBT community from entering the United States.

Human Rights First’s Olga Byrne writes in The Hill about recent remarks made by a U.S. Justice Department official who suggested that children as young as three years old can be taught immigration law.

The Associated Press reports on calls from human rights advocates and former interrogators to remove Appendix M from the Army Field Manual. Some experts believe the appendix leaves the door open to torture and inhumane treatment of detainees.

We’re Watching

The Los Angeles Times featured a critique of a recent statement by Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack Weil that young children can represent themselves in immigration court. In the video, attorneys ask their own children questions such as “Do you designate a country for removal?” and “What kind of relief would you like to seek?”

On the Hill

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Human Rights First will hold a discussion on “The U.S. Role in Syria Refugee Crisis.” The event will feature remarks by Matt Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Eric Schwartz, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, Michael Breen, executive director of the Truman National Security Project and co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project, and Eleanor Acer, senior director of the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First. 3:00 PM, Dirksen Senate Office Building Room G-11 RSVP

The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Members Day.” 9:00 AM, HT-2, US Capitol

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “The Security of US Visa Programs.” The hearing will feature remarks by Leon Rodriguez, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Sarah Saldana, director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and John Roth, inspector general of the Homeland Security Department 10:00 AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The House Armed Services Full Committee will hold a hearing on “The FY2017 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Military Departments.” The hearing will feature Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. 10:00 AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Judiciary Immigration and the National Interest Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “The Impact of High Levels of Immigration on US Workers.” 10:00 AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Full Committee Markup of HR 4678, to prohibit modification, abrogation, abandonment, or other related actions with respect to United States jurisdiction and control over United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without congressional action. 10:00 AM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday, March 14, 2016

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) will hold a discussion on “Legal Restrictions on Thought and Expression in Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand and Bahrain.” The event will feature former Bahraini member of parliament, Matar Ebrahim Matar. 12:00 PM, NED, 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800l, Washington, D.C.

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Diplomacy: Securing a More Inclusive Future.” The discussion will feature State Department Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry. 5:30 PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “Silencing Voices of Russian Opposition.” The event will feature Marina Litvinenko, co-founder of the Litvinenko Justice Foundation and widow of Alexander Litvinenko, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, coordinator and activist at Open Russia, among others. 9:00 AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The Brookings Institution will hold a forum entitled “From Homs to Hamburg: Refugee Movements from Syria to Europe and Beyond.” The forum will feature UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. 10:00 AM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Freedom House will host a discussion on “Impunity for Human Rights Violations in Crimea: The Last Two Years and the Road Ahead.” The event will feature Tetiana Pechonchyk of the Human Rights Information Center and Mark Lagon, president of Freedom House3:30 PM, Freedom House, 1850 M Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies will hold a discussion on “Divided They Fall: Social Atomization in Putin’s Russia.” Anna Arutunyan, a Moscow-based journalist will speak. 10:00 AM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Sixth Floor, Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy will host a forum on “Uncertain Borders: Fifty Years of US Ambivalence about Immigration Control.” The forum will feature White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz. 5:30 PM, University Club of Washington, 1135 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the Center for Study on Islam and Democracy (CSID) will hold an event on “The Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015? Implications for Egypt and the Region.” The event will feature South African Ambassador to the United States Ibrahim Rasool and Neil Hicks of Human Rights First 12:00 PM, National Press Club, Holeman Lounge, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C.


Published on March 14, 2016


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