Washington Week on Human Rights: November 30, 2015

Top News

Torture Last week, President Obama signed into law an updated defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2016 that included a landmark provision reinforcing the United States’ ban on the use of torture. The legislation contained an amendment introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John McCain (R-AZ) to prevent any future administration from authorizing torture and other cruelty that violates domestic or international law. The provision, which had widespread bipartisan support, restricts the intelligence community—and the CIA in particular—to interrogation methods articulated in the Army Field Manual. It also requires that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided notification of and access to detainees held in U.S. custody.

France Reuters is reporting that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind behind recent terrorist attacks in Paris, also planned to target Jewish communities, schools, and public transportation. According to an anonymous witness, just two days after the Paris tragedy, Abaaoud told his cousin that “they would do worse (damage) in districts close to the Jews and would disrupt transport and schools.” Human Rights First’s Susan Corke, who was in Paris just before the November 13 attacks to meet with French officials and nongovernmental organizations working on extremism and antisemitism, visited France against last week to continue her research. After the Paris tragedy, Human Rights First issued a set of recommendations that stem from her ongoing work. Corke is finalizing a report about how the rise of extremism and antisemitism are converging to fuel intolerance and violence in France. The report will be released on January 7, the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks.

Global Refugee Crisis This week Congress will turn its attention to negotiating the budget before the December 11th deadline. The Omnibus spending package is likely to include provisions meant to severely handicap the ability of the United States to provide protection to vulnerable refugees fleeing horrific violence in the Middle East. Human Rights First urges the Senate to reject any proposals that would halt or pause the already slow and thorough process for resettlement of vulnerable Syrian refugee families who are fleeing violence and terrorism. Human Rights First notes that under the current system, Syrian refugees are more closely vetted than any other group allowed entrance to the United States and undergo a multi-step series of background checks and security screening. Last week, former Commissioners of Immigration and Naturalization (INS) Doris Meissner and James W. Ziglar urged senators to uphold America’s commitment to protecting the persecuted, particularly Syrian refugees. Earlier in the month, former Secretaries of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Michael Chertoff sent a letter to President Obama making clear that the current process for vetting refugees for resettlement in the United States is “thorough and robust and, so long as it is fully implemented and not diluted, it will allow us to safely admit the most vulnerable refugees while protecting the American people.” The White House has detailed that process in an infographic.

Human Rights Summit Please register today to join us at Human Rights First’s 4th annual Human Rights Summit scheduled for December 9 on the 7th floor of the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The Summit will tackle some of the most challenging human rights issues of our day, including the global refugee crisis, countering violent extremism, authoritarianism, combating human trafficking, and more. Among this year’s speakers are Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Alexander Aleinikoff, USAID’s Bama Athreya, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz, The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, and The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons. We hope you will join the conversation.

Quote of the Week

“The CIA’s use of torture after 9/11 not only undermined our core values as a nation, it did not make us safer. It wasted valuable time and money, created rifts with our allies and was used as a recruitment tool by terrorists. … Enactment of this legislation ensures the United States will never again violate its laws or moral code by using torture. I believe we can do more to implement the recommendations that resulted from the study, but banning so-called enhanced interrogation techniques is one of the most important steps.”

—Senator Dianne Feinstein praising the enactment of legislation to ban torture

We’re Reading

The Intercept’s Natasha Leonard examined the U.S. history of resettling refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict, noting that resettlement has already been extremely slow.

Catholic News Service reported on faith leaders calls for compassion for Syrian refugees.

VICE reported on the president’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a legislative ban on torture.

We’re Watching

In an interview on MSNBC, Syrian Refugee Hadeel Oueis shared about why she is thankful to have received asylum in the United States.

On the Hill

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the Executive Office of Immigration Review.” Juan P. Osuna, Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Department of Justice, will testify. 9:00 AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Around Town

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold a discussion on "Developmental Approaches to Countering Violent Extremism." The event will feature U.S. Agency for International Development Counselor Susan Reichle; Farooq Kathwari, chairman, CEO and president of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.; Shannon Green, director of the CSIS Human Rights Initiative; and Daniel Runde, director of the CSIS Project on Prosperity and Development. 11:00 AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) will hold a news conference on a new report "No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture." 9:30 AM, National Press Club, 14th and F Streets NW, Zenger Room, Washington, D.C.

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Published on December 2, 2015

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