Washington Week on Human Rights: March 28, 2016

Top News

Global Refugee Crisis In a move that would severely hinder the ability of the United States to provide protection for those fleeing violence in Syria, several members of Congress launched a new effort to remove language providing funding for the processing and resettlement of refugees from Iraq and Syria from the Department of Homeland Security’s budget. Human Rights First is calling for rejection of the proposals, noting that Syrian refugees undergo the most rigorous vetting and security clearance process applied to any person traveling to the United States. A December 2015 letter from a bipartisan group of 20 former U.S. national security advisors, CIA directors, secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security, confirmed this rigorous vetting and expressed that failing to provide refuge to those fleeing violence would undermine the United States’ core objective of combating terrorism.

Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit Lashttps://humanrightsfirst.org/library/national-security-leaders-oppose-halting-refugee-resettlement/t week leaders from the business sector, law enforcement, the military, and government called on Congress to increase resources appropriated to the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU). The call came in a letter to leadership on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, requesting $8.1 million to ensure the HTPU continues to keep pace with an increasing workload of complex human trafficking cases. The HTPU, which works with prosecutors and law enforcement to more effectively coordinate human trafficking investigations, also leads 12 Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams to enhance cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor. With this modest increase of $2.8 million in funding, the HTPU estimates it could increase the number of number of trafficking prosecutions by 49 percent over a two-year period. Signatories of the letter include Human Rights First Bankrupt Slavery Campaign Ambassadors General Charles C. Krulak USMC (Ret.), former commandant of the United States Marine Corps, and Louis J. Freeh, former FBI director.

Human Rights Defenders Resolution Last week, the United States added its support to a resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect human rights defenders working to promote economic, social, and cultural rights. The council adopted the Norwegian-led resolution on Thursday by a vote of 33-6, with 8 abstentions. The resolution calls on all states to take all measures necessary to ensure the rights and safety of human rights defenders, and condemns threats, violence, arbitrary detention, disappearance, and other retaliatory measures that hinder the work of defenders. It further calls on states to combat impunity and to enact legislative and policy frameworks to protect human rights defenders, in consultation with defenders, civil society, and relevant stakeholders. The states that abstained from voting on this resolution included key U.S. military allies in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

Quote of the Week“It takes courage for a society to address uncomfortable truths about the darker parts of its past.  Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people—that can be divisive and frustrating.  But it’s essential to moving forward; to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all of its citizens.

—President Obama’s Remarks at Argentina’s Parque de la Memoria

We’re Reading

The Editorial Board of the Houston Chronicle highlighted the need for more funding for Texas’ immigration courts. Between 2010 and 2016 backlogged cases ballooned roughly 460 percent from 6,423 to 36,136, a number that will continue growing without adequate funding to staff immigration courts.

Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino wrote in the Miami Herald about the dark stain on the past of U.S.-Argentine relations, applauding the administration for agreeing to release documents that may reveal what happened to victims of the military dictatorship during the country’s infamous Dirty War.

In a piece for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Rebecca Sheff commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Congressional Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, calling for continued focus on speaking out in condemnation of severe incidents, promoting regional approaches, and funding European civil society to better combat antisemitism abroad.

Jillian Kumaga of The Atlantic highlighted President Obama’s trip to Argentina and the administration’s decision to declassify documents related to the Dirty War.

We’re Listening To

NPR’s Michele Keleman featured a story about President Obama’s recent trip to Argentina. His visit coincides with the 40th anniversary of the 1976 military coup that began the country’s Dirty War. The president recently announced that military and intelligence documents from the period of the war will be declassified, perhaps allowing for a better understanding of the United States’ role in the Dirty War and, for the people of Argentina and the United States, a coming to grips with one of the darkest periods of their history.

On the Hill

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network’s CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project will hold a rally to call on the Obama Administration to put an end to the detention of immigrant families. 12:30 PM, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a Military Strategy Forum entitled “Meeting Today’s Global Security Challenges.” The event will feature Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford Jr. 10:00 AM, CSIS,  1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The Center on Global Interests and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute will hold a discussion entitled “Russia’s Domestic Outlook: An Inside Perspective.” 3:30 PM, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,  1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Choate Room, Washington, D.C.

The McCain Institute and Cultural Vistas will hold a discussion entitled “A Crisis on a Global Scale: How Cooperation Fosters Local Solutions to Human Trafficking.” 6:00 PM, Cultural Vistas,  1250 H Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Center for a New American Security will hold a discussion entitled “Security Tomorrow.” The event will feature Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and David Ignatius, columnist at the Washington Post. 9:30 AM, Washington Post,  1301 K Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Heritage Foundation will hold a discussion entitled “The FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act: A Policy and Process Preview.” 10:30 AM, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Allison Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

On The Hill

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Middle East Institute (MEI) will hold a briefing entitled “Regional Crisis and the War on ISIS: Rebuilding Stability, Defeating Terror Groups, and Challenges for US Policy.” 9:30 AM, HVC-215, U.S. Capitol


Published on March 28, 2016


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