Washington Week on Human Rights: May 12, 2014

Top News

#BRINGBACKOURGIRLS The search for more than 200 missing girls taken from their school on April 14 continues today as their captors, members of terrorist group Boko Haram, released a video featuring some of the girls. U.S. security experts are on the ground in Nigeria to assist in the search and, on Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa Affairs will hold a hearing to examine U.S. offers of assistance to Nigeria. It will include testimony from the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense. Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan resolution calling for the girls’ immediate return and urging the United States to participate in their rescue. All 79 women in the House of Representatives signed a letter condemning the kidnapping and calling for the United States to push the United Nations Security Council to add Boko Haram to the Al Qaeda Sanctions List. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the United States will do “everything possible” to free the girls and “counter the menace of Boko Haram.”

ELECTIONS & EXTREMISM The Greek Supreme Court will allow candidates from the far-right Golden Dawn party to run in elections this month. Golden Dawn, known for its antisemetic rhetoric and violent attacks against minorities and migrants, is currently under investigation. Six of its party leaders are in jail on charges that include murder, arson, and extortion.

UKRAINE Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr V. Turchynov denounced a weekend referendum vote in eastern Ukraine in favor of the region’s secession. While Russia is saying that it “respects the will of the population” and would like to see a dialogue about how to implement the results, the United States and the European Union are tightening sanctions against Russia and calling for it to not disrupt Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election.

SYRIA Syria’s first multi-candidate presidential election campaign kicked off over the weekend, though there is little doubt that President Bashar al-Assad will win the June 3 vote that many are calling a sham. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department designated for sanctions the Syrian Minister of Finance and five other Syrian cabinet ministers, as well as Russian-based Tempbank that appeared to be dealing with the Assad regime. The U.S. State Department also pledged $27 million in non-lethal aid to the opposition group led by President Ahmad al-Jarba.

Quote of the Week

“This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls. And I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home. … These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world… and we are committed to standing up for them not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long haul.”

First Lady Michelle Obama during her White House Weekly Address on May 10, 2013

We’re Reading

As the search continues for the more the 230 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by extremist group Boko Haram, Heather Hurlburt explains the reality of the complicated situation in World Politics Review, urging the United States to focus on counterterrorism efforts that promote long term stability and human rights in the country. The Globe and Mail provides additional background on this story.

As Greece prepares to hold local and parliamentary elections this month, Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron explains in the Los Angeles Times how the rise of antisemitic far-right political parties in Europe is leading to violent attacks against minorities. Read more here.

The release of the Senate report on the post-9/11 CIA torture program has stalled during the White House declassification review. McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay writes about the Senate intelligence committee’s growing frustration with the Obama Administration’s handling of the report. Read more here.

In an opinion article for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord urges Secretary Kerry and other world leaders to shine a light on human rights abuses in Belarus as the world watches the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships beginning in Minsk this week. Read more here.

As today marks International Nurses Day, in an article for Global Post, Rula al Saffar draws attention to oppressive governments targeting nurses and other medical personnel during times of conflict. Saffar herself was arrested, tortured, and prosecuted for aiding injured protesters during the 2011 uprising in Bahrain.

We’re Watching

This week’s Face the Nation on CBS featured David Ignatius, Michael Crowley, and Margaret Brennan discussing Russia’s motivations in the crisis in Ukraine.

On Mother’s Day, First Lady Michelle Obama issued a video condemning Boko Haram’s kidnapping of Nigerian school girls.

On the Hill

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Alice Wells to be ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Cassandra Butts to be ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. 3:30PM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Around Town

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Hospitality Under Pressure.” The event will feature State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Program Officer Joseph Livingston; Daryl Grisgraber, senior advocate at Refugees International; Burcu Erdogdu, political counsellor at the Embassy of Turkey; and Brookings Senior Fellows Elizabeth Ferris and Kemal Kirisci. 3PM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, Washington, D.C.

The New America Foundation (NAF) will host an event on “Meet the Syria Opposition.” The event will feature Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator and secretary general of Political Committee of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces; Monzer Akbik, chief of staff in the Office of the President of the Syrian Coalition; Rime Allaf, adviser to the president of the Syrian Coalition; and Adnan Zulfiqar, fellow at the Truman National Security Project.

3PM, NAF, 1899 L Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will hold a discussion on “Where Have All The Leaders Gone? The Role of Leadership in Preventing and Healing Violent Conflict.” The event will feature Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Jerry White; and Susan Collin Marks, senior vice president at Search for Common Ground. 9:30AM, SAIS, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Kenney Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a discussion on “Mitigating Religious Conflict in Nigeria.” The event will feature Zuhdi Jasser, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF); Tiffany Lynch, USCIRF senior policy analyst; and Richard Downie, deputy director and fellow in the Africa Program at CSIS. 10AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Ninth Floor, Board Room, Washington, D.C.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will deliver a National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon address. 12:30PM. National Press Club, 14th and F Streets NW, Ballroom, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) will hold a discussion on “The Consequences of Inaction,” focusing on President Obama’s foreign policy record. The event will feature Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI. 8:30AM, AEI, 1150 17th Street NW, Wohlstetter Conference Center, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) will hold a discussion on “The Success and Failures of the Arab Revolutions.” The event will feature Gilles Kepel, chair of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris; William McCants, fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; and Karim Sadjadpour, senior associate in the Middle East Program at CEIP. 12:30PM, CEIP, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) will hold a discussion on “A World of Instability: Drivers of Conflict, Levers of Peace.” The event will feature USIP Chairman of the Board Stephen Hadley; and David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent at The New York Times. 5PM, USIP, 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Brookings Institution, George Mason University and City University London will host a discussion on “Religion and Foreign Policy: A Transatlantic Dialogue.” The event will feature Shaun Casey, special adviser to the secretary of State; Merete Bilde, senior adviser in the External Action Service at the European Union; Sara Silvestri, senior lecturer at City University London; Peter Mandaville, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University; and William Galston and E.J. Dionne Jr., Brookings senior fellows. 10AM, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Second Floor, Root Room, Washington, D.C.

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “The Big Picture: What Does Egypt’s Presidential Election Mean for its Future?” The event will feature Michael Wahid Hanna, senior fellow at the Century Foundation; H.A. Hellyer, nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution (via Skype from Cairo); Yussef Auf, Egyptian judge and nonresident fellow in the Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council; and Amy Hawthorne, senior fellow in the Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. 12:30PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.


Published on May 12, 2014


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