Washington Week on Human Rights: March 23, 2015

Top News

GUANTANAMO Retired Marine Corps Major General Vaughn Ary has stepped down from his post overseeing the military commissions at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His resignation came just weeks after a military judge said Vaughn had overstepped his authority when he ordered that military judges overseeing military commission trials at Guantanamo be required to relocate to the base. Vaughn said that he felt the step was necessary to support the pace of litigation needed to bring the military commission prosecutions to a conclusion. Vaughn’s post will temporarily be filled by Paul L. Oostburg Sanz, general counsel for the Department of the Navy. There are currently 122 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.

GHANI’S U.S. VISIT Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is visiting the United States this week. Yesterday, he met with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to discuss the planned U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan over the next two years. Ghani has expressed concerns about the Afghan forces’ capabilities to address problems stemming from the Taliban and other national security concerns, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). President Obama has requested a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL. Human Rights First has called for a narrowly tailored AUMF that would sunset the 2001 AUMF. That call has been echoed by a nonpartisan group of top national security lawyers who signed a statement of principles designed to advise lawmakers as they consider the president’s AUMF request. Several members of this group have since provided further guidance to Congress on the administration’s draft bill.

Quote of the Week

“I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day. I didn’t because at that time, as you’ll recall, we had a bipartisan agreement that it should be closed; my Republican opponent had also said it should have been closed. And I thought that we had enough consensus there that we could do it in a more deliberate fashion. But the politics of it got tough and people got scared by the rhetoric around it. And once that set in, then the path of least resistance was just to leave it open, even though it’s not who we are as a country. It is used by terrorists around the world to help recruit jihadists. So instead, we’ve had to just chip away at it, year after year after year. But I think in that first couple of weeks we could have done it quicker.”

—President Obama’s response to seventh grade student Laura Winfrey’s question about what advice he would give himself if he could go back to the first days of first and second terms.

We’re Reading

POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton reported on comments made by President Obama Wednesday, when he said that he should have closed the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay immediately after taking office.

​In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer called on the United States to address the largest refugee crisis since World War II by increasing resettlement aid and championing border access for Syrian refugees.

In a piece for The New York Times, Princeton professor Kim Lane Scheppele investigated the political environment in Hungary, questioning whether the Fidesz party may be working with the extremist antisemitic party Jobbik.

According to POLITICO, Congress has stalled on efforts to pass a new authorization for the use of force against ISIL. Human Rights First has advocated for a narrowly tailored AUMF and provide an expiration date for the 2001 AUMF.

We’re Watching

Retired Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss his new memoir and his experience coming out as a gay lawmaker on the Hill.

On the Hill

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. Middle East policy. Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; Kenneth Pollack, senior fellow for foreign policy in the Brookings Institution’s Center For Middle East Policy; retired Army Col. Derek Harvey, director of the University of South Florida’s Global Initiative for Civil Society and Conflict; and Dafna Rand, deputy director of studies and fellow at the Center for a New American Security, will testify. 9:30AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Securing the Border: Assessing the Impact of Transnational Crime.” Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; John Torres, former acting director and former deputy assistant director for smuggling and public safety at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Elizabeth Kempshall, executive director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area; Benny Martinez, chief deputy sheriff of Brooks County, Texas; and Bryan Costigan, director of the Montana All-Threat Intelligence Center in the Montana Department of Justice’s Division on Criminal Investigation, will testify. 10AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “A Global Battleground: The Fight Against Islamist Extremism at Home and Abroad.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.; retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former director of the National Security Agency; Philip Mudd, senior fellow at the New America Foundation; and Brian Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation, will testify. 10:30AM, 311 Cannon House Office Building The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the State Department and Agency for International Development Funding Priorities for the Western Hemisphere.” Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson of the Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs; and Elizabeth Hogan, acting assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, will testify. 11AM, 2255 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “After Paris and Copenhagen: Responding to the Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism.” Ronald Lauder, president of World Jewish Congress; Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France; and Dan Rosenberg Asmussen, president of the Danish Jewish Community, will testify. 2:30PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Securing the Border: Understanding and Addressing the Root Causes of Central American Migration to the United States.” 10AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the FY2016 budget for agencies under its jurisdiction. 2PM, 2358-C Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The House Appropriations Committee’s Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Homeland Security Department budget. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify. 9AM, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. Central Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Special Operations Command programs and budget in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2016 and the Future Years Defense Program. 9:30AM, G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Securing the Border: Defining the Current Population Living in the Shadows and Addressing Future Flows.” 10AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “The Administration’s Strategy to Confront ISIS.” General John Allen, USMC (Ret.), Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, U.S. Department of State; and Brigadier General Michael Fantini, USAF, Middle East Principal Director, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, will testify. 8:30AM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday March 23, 2015

Human Rights First will host a Hill briefing on the business of trafficking. The event will feature Lisa Prager, Partner, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; Francine Della Badia, Retail Executive, former President Coach, North America Retail; and Ernie Allen, Founder and Former President and CEO of International Center for Missing and Exploited Children and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Human Rights First has partnered with prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state, and local government, and the civil rights community to launch a major public education and advocacy effort to disrupt the business of human trafficking. The group of ambassadors is co-chaired by former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis J. Freeh. Human Rights First has also issued a blueprint, “How to Disrupt the Business of Human Trafficking,” that outlines steps the United States can take to weaken the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business. 1:30PM, Cannon 441

The Foreign Policy Initiative and American Action Forum will hold a briefing on “Will Congress Provide for the Common Defense? National Security Priorities in an Increasingly Dangerous World.” 11AM, 902 Hart Senate Office Building

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) will host a discussion on “Can Tunisia Be an Island of Stability and Democracy in the Middle East North Africa Region?” The event will feature former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., director, president and CEO of WWC; and Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi, co-founder and president of the Ennahda Party in Tunisia. 9:30AM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske will deliver remarks at the Customs and Border Protection “State of the Agency.” 9:30AM, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street NW, Washington, D.C.


Published on March 23, 2015


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