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Election Day

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 8 is election day! In coming weeks, Human Rights First will offer analysis and recommendations for how the next administration can address the most pressing human rights issues.

Don’t forget to vote! Voting is a fundamental human right and the bedrock of our democracy.


On Tuesday the United Nations General Assembly will vote to decide whether to eliminate the newly-created position of Independent Expert to monitor violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The position was created last year and the first new independent expert, Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, was appointed last month.

The move comes at a time when LGBT communities around the world face immense challenges, a fact recently underscored in a speech delivered by National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In Kyrgyzstan, LGBT people face a pending propaganda law modeled after Russia’s notorious 2013 law that targets and jails LGBT individuals and their allies. In El Salvador, transgender people and other members of the LGBT community face high rates of bias-motivated violence and impunity.

In addition, a step to eliminate the United Nations independent expert mirrors concerning global trends harmful to the independence of human rights mechanisms, including the U.N. Human Rights Council.


This week two Guantanamo detainees, Yassim Qasim Mohammed Ismail Qasim and Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi, will have their Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings. Both detainees have previously undergone initial hearings and both were denied clearance for transfer from the facility. All initial PRBs were concluded in September of this year, making good on the Obama Administration’s plan to close Guantanamo. In order to shutter the prison for good, the administration still needs to honor the pledge to transfer all cleared detainees from the facility.

Congressional armed services committees will soon recommence conference negotiations for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Within the NDAA is language that would, if enacted into law, make it nearly impossible for President Obama to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, despite the fact that national security leaders from across the political spectrum have urged the president and Congress to make shuttering this facility a top priority.

Quote of the Week

“Eight years ago this administration began with a commitment to overhaul our immigration detention system ‘thoughtfully and humanely.’ This administration is ending its tenure with skyrocketing detention rates that have shattered all prior records, locking up more children and asylum seekers than ever before, and running an out-of-control detention system where for-profit prison titans are profiting at the expense of taxpayers and immigrants. On behalf of the men, women and children who remain needlessly behind bars, we urge you to take immediate action.”

—Letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson from a coalition of 230 organizations calling for an end to immigration detention

We’re Reading

The Hill unveils its annual list of Washington, D.C.’s top lobbyists, including Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino.

Vice reports on LGBT immigrants that came to America seeking refuge, only to end up in detention centers.

The Eagle writes that former ambassador Susan Rice is calling for work to be done to protect LGBT communities around the world.

Around Town

Monday, November 7

Women’s Foreign Policy Group will hold a discussion entitled, “US-Russia Relations and The New Cold War.” The discussion will feature Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies and professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown. 12:00 PM, The Wilderness Society, 1615 M Street NW, Washington, D.C.

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion entitled, “Is Islamic Law Compatible with Human Rights?” The discussion will feature Hauwa Ibrahim, Sharia and Human Rights scholar from Harvard Divinity School; Moataz El Fegiery, protection coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Front Line Defenders; Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council; Geneive Abdo, author of The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Shi’a-Sunni Divide. 12:30 PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th St NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, November 9

Brookings Institution will hold a discussion entitled, “Election 2016: Results and Implications.” The discussion will feature David Wessel, director of The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stuart Butler, senior fellow of Economic Studies at Brookings; John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management; Elaine Kamarck, founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management; Bruce Riedel, senior fellow for Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Center for Middle East Policy. 2:00, Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, November 10

CSIS will hold an event entitled, “Addressing Violent Extremism in the Sahel: The Role of Civil Society.” The discussion will feature Kemi Okenyodo, executive director of Partners West Africa – Nigeria; Dr. Adjaratou Aidara, executive director, Partners West Africa – Senegal; Chris O’Connor, program officer, NED; Jennifer Cooke, director of Africa Program at CSIS.2:30, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The Institute of World Politics will hold a discussion entitled, “Putin’s Propaganda Machine and Possible US Responses.” The discussion will feature Ambassador William Courtney, adjunct senior fellow at RAND and president of the US-Kazakhstan Business Association; Christopher Paul, senior social scientist with RAND and professor at Carnegie Mellon University. 4:00 PM, IWP, 1521 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Human Rights Summit

On December 13, 2016 Human Rights First will hold its annual Human Rights Summit. The Summit brings together activists and leaders from government, business, the military, and faith communities to discuss today’s most pressing human rights problems and challenges for American leadership. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Summit has become Washington’s premier celebration of Human Rights Day—a call to action for American leadership in defense of freedom and democracy, at home and around the world. We hope you will join the conversation in person or online via our live stream.

This year’s program will also feature the awarding of the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To RSVP for the Human Rights Summit click here.