Washington Week on Human Rights: November 17, 2014

Top News

Immigration During a Saturday panel at the Reagan Presidential Library, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson confirmed that President Obama is expected to issue a series of executive orders on immigration reform. Sources say the executive orders will be announced in late November or early December and will allow millions of undocumented migrants—many from Central America—to avoid deportation. The orders are also expected to allow parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to stay in the United States. Congressional Republicans largely oppose the executive orders and are likely to raise them on Tuesday when the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee holds a hearing on unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

ISIS The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to examine the administration’s approach to combatting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Senators are expected to probe the Obama Administration’s decision to seek new war authorities to fight ISIS. 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. Tuesday’s hearing comes just days after ISIS extremists released a video showing the beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger.

Bahrain This Saturday, Bahrain will hold its first parliamentary elections since pro-democracy protests took place in 2011. In mid-October, five opposition groups, including the al Wefaq movement, announced they would boycott this weekend’s elections, calling the vote an attempt to establish “absolute rule in Bahrain.” Shortly after that announcement, a Bahraini court issued a three-month suspension of al Wefaq for allegedly failing to comply with rules about holding general meetings. Earlier this year, senior U.S. State Department official Tom Malinowski was expelled from Bahrain after he met with al Wefaq leaders. Bahrain has said that international observers are not necessary for the November 22 election.

Quotes of the Week

“The United States was founded on the principle of respect for the dignity of the individual, and no crime offends human dignity more than torture. The prohibition of torture and cruel treatment is part of our Constitution, and it binds our federal government and all 50 of our states. We believe that torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment are forbidden in all places, at all times, with no exceptions.”

Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

“Anti-Semitic attacks are not only a threat to the Jewish community; they are a threat to the larger project of European liberalism and pluralism – and should be treated as such. Anti-Semitism threatens the core principles upon which a peaceful and stable Europe has been built.”

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, during last week’s OSCE Berlin conference on antisemitism

We’re Reading

In a piece for Reuters, Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino discussed the Obama Administration’s declaration last week that it interprets the U.N. Convention Against Torture as applicable beyond U.S. borders, Massimino made the case that this is an important step forward while also highlighting how the language leaves some areas – such as whether it applies to CIA black sites – open to interpretation. She also argued that this ambiguity makes it even more critical that the administration ensure the quick release of the Senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s post 9/11 torture program.

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung wrote about Obama Administration’s endorsement of provisions in the U.N. Convention Against Torture, an international treaty banning torture and treatment of prisoners. This step would reverse a 2005 interpretation in the George W. Bush Administration that it did not apply to detainees oversees.

The Washington Post published an op-ed from legal scholars Jack Goldsmith, Ryan Goodman, and Steve Vladeck, in which they suggest five principles that should guide any authorization of force related the United States’ campaign against ISIS. These recommendations are based on a statement of principles from top national security legal experts.

Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar wrote for The Hill, stating the threat of ISIS presents an opportunity for the United States to develop a wiser counterterrorism strategy, beginning with a new narrowly-tailored congressional authorization for the use of military force against ISIS. Read more here.

The Advocate released a new infographic today that displays the state of LGBT equality in Africa. The graphic and corresponding article draw upon a report issued earlier this year by Human Rights First titled, “The State of Human Rights for LGBT People in Africa.”

Crain’s New York spotlighted Human Rights First’s COO Zachary Silverstein, highlighting how his unique set of skills and experience contributes to to the organization’s growth.

We’re Watching

CNN’s State of the Union featured former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) discussing the need for immigration reform legislation.

On the Hill

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a full committee hearing on “Countering ISIL in Iraq and Syria.” 10AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Unaccompanied Alien Children: Pressing the Administration for a Strategy.” Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; Elizabeth Hogan, acting assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean; and Robert Kaplan, president and CEO of the Inter-American Foundation, will testify. 2PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Next Steps for U.S. Foreign Policy on Syria and Iraq.” Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Stephen Ford, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute; Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, will testify. 2:30PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will host a full committee hearing on the nomination of Anthony Blinken to be Deputy Secretary of State. 2:30PM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Around Town

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will host a discussion on “Mastering the Endgame of War.” The event will feature Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College. 12:30PM, SAIS, Rome Building, 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Room 812, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will host a book discussion on “National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear.” The event will feature author David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of the FP Group; and Shirin Tahir-Kheli, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute. 5:30PM, SAIS, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Kenney Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) will hold a symposium on “Understanding Hungary’s Political Path.” The event will feature Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital; Stefania Kapronczay, executive director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union; Andrej Nosko, program manager of the Think Tank Fund of the Open Society Foundations; and Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at CEIP. 12:15PM, CEIP, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Center for New American Security will host a conference on “Civil-Military Divide and the Future of the All-Volunteer Force.” 9AM, Willard Intercontinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) will hold its 68th annual conference on “Navigating the Storm: The Middle East in 2015.” 9AM, MEI, Boardman Room, 1761 N Street NW, 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 17, 2014

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