Washington Week on Human Rights: November 10, 2014

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TORTURE This week, the United States will appear before the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva to describe its efforts to fulfill America’s obligation to comply with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Obama Administration is expected to clarify how it interprets the treaty, which the George W. Bush Administration said does not applying to CIA and military prisons overseas. That position drew bipartisan ire and was opposed by then-Senator Barack Obama. Former Nobel Peace Prize laureates and retired military officers are among those urging President Obama to make a clean break from the Bush Administration’s interpretation. Human Rights First will be in Geneva to monitor the United States’ appearance before the U.N. committee.

CHINA President Obama arrived in China today for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. He is also scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for broader talks that will likely include human rights, recent Hong Kong demonstrations and cybersecurity. Last week, after national security advisor Susan Rice met with U.S. and Chinese rights advocates, including Human Rights First President & CEO Elisa Massimino, the White House issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over China’s treatment of human rights defenders. The meeting with Rice followed a letter sent to the administration that was signed by nine human rights organizations, including Human Rights First.

COMBATING ANTISEMITISM This week, government representatives and civil society leaders will meet in Berlin to review the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s commitments on combatting antisemitism. The meeting, which marks the 10 year anniversary of the 2004 Berlin Conference on Antisemitism, will provide civil society leaders, including a delegation from Human Rights First, the opportunity to share their recommendations on combating antisemitism with OSCE government delegations.The rise of far-right, neo-Nazi extremist parties in Hungary and Greece was examined in Human Rights First’s recent report: “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care.

CONGRESS Members of Congress return to Washington, DC this week after mid-term elections that saw the Senate switch to Republican control. On Thursday, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Terrorist Financing and the Islamic State.” Last week, President Obama announced that he will ask Congress for new war power authorities to fight ISIS. House Speaker John Boehner has said that Congress should consider new war powers, but he believes the debate should not happen during the lame-duck session. Human Rights First is urging the White House and Congress to narrowly-define the legal authorities for use of force against ISIS and other terrorist threats.

EGYPT Today is the deadline for human rights groups in Egypt to register under a new law that many fear will restrict their work and give the government the same surveillance powers that it had before the 2011 uprising. Non-governmental organizations that fail to register could face criminal charges and long jail sentences. In recent months, the Egyptian government has led a campaign to quash political dissent through excessive use of force against protesters, imprisonment of thousands of political dissidents and several journalists, and unfair trials leading to harsh sentences. The crackdown has left more than 2000 protesters dead while tens of thousands more are in prison, many detained without charge for extended periods and subjected to torture and inhumane conditions.

Quote of the Week

“So this Veterans’ Day, and every day, let’s make sure all our veterans know how much we appreciate them. If you see a veteran, go on up and shake their hand. Look them in the eye. Say those words that every veteran deserves to hear: ‘Welcome home. Thank you. We need you more than ever to help us stay strong and free.’”

President Obama’s weekly address ahead of Veteran’s Day

We’re Reading

The Wall Street Journal’s Julian Barnes and Carol Lee write about the Obama Administration’s strategy for legal authorization in the fight against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria. This plan is said to include a new, narrowly-tailored authorization for use of military force that reflects the new threat in the region as distinct from the threat posed by al Qaeda. For a detailed set of recommendations regarding congressional authorization in the fight against ISIS, see Human Rights First’s fact sheet, “Gaining Global Legitimacy and Promoting the Rule of Law: Necessary Inclusions for an AUMF to Combat ISIS.”

As Bahrain hosted a conference of the international coalition to combat ISIS on Sunday, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley’s article for Al Jazeera America argued that the United States should make clear to Bahrain that the future of the bilateral relationship depends on whether the kingdom can support a transition to real democracy that respects human rights.

According to The Advocate, Latvia’s foreign minister came out on Thursday on Twitter. His public statement that he is “#ProudtobeGay” is an important encouragement to Latvia’s LGBT community at a time when the country’s lawmakers are considering discriminatory legislation. For more information go here.

We’re Watching

Yesterday, President Obama appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to discuss ISIS, immigration reform and the mid-term elections.

On the Hill

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Terrorist Financing and the Islamic State.” 10AM, 2167 Rayburn House Office Building The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on pending nominations. 11AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Around Town

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Happy Veteran’s Day!

The George Washington University (GWU) Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion on “Ukraine Elects Pro-European Parliament: Prospects for Reforms, Fight against Corruption and European Integration.” The event will feature Taras Kuzio, research associate at the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta. 4PM, GWU Elliott School, 1957 E Street NW, Suite 412, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host the fifth annual “Global Security Forum 2014.” 8AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) will hold a discussion on “Congress, the Presidency and Military Intervention.” The event will feature Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., director, president and CEO of WWC; and Jack Goldsmith, professor at Harvard Law School. 10AM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C.

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies will host a discussion on “The Role of Ultra-Nationalism in Conflict and Crisis: Russia, Ukraine and the EU (European Union).” The event will feature Marlene Laruelle, research professor and director of the Central Asia Program of the George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies; and Andreas Umland, senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kiev, Ukraine and former short-term WWC Kennan Institute grantee. 10AM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “Re-invisioning the Future: A Discussion with Central American Foreign Ministers.” The event will feature El Salvador Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Martinez; Guatemala Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Raul Morales Moscoso; Honduras Minister of Foreign Relations Mireya Aguero de Corrales; and Jason Marczak, deputy director of the Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council. 9AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The George Washington University (GWU) Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion on “Combating the ISIS Threat: A Path Forward.” The event will feature Stephen Biddle, professor of political science and international affairs at GWU; and Marc Lynch, professor of political science and international affairs at GWU. 12:30PM, GWU Elliott School, 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602, Washington, D.C.

Looking ahead

Human Rights First will hold its third annual Human Rights Summit in Washington, DC at the Newseum from December 9-10. The event brings together international civil society activists, American policymakers, military and business leaders to discuss today’s human rights challenges and affirm the importance of U.S. leadership on human rights. Register for this free summit or learn more here.

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Published on November 12, 2014

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