Washington Week on Human Rights: October 13, 2015

Top News

Guantanamo President Obama will soon decide whether to make good on his promise to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016. The legislation contains provisions that would make it difficult to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Last week the Senate adopted the bill that extends the absolute ban on transfers from Guantanamo to the United States—even for trial—until December 31, 2016.  The bill also includes unprecedented transfer bans to certain countries and reinstates a modified version of the old onerous overseas transfer certification requirements that made it extremely difficult for the president to transfer anyone out of the facility, even those unanimously cleared by all relevant national security and intelligence agencies. Human Rights First has urged the administration to veto the bill so that the president can keep his promise to shutter the facility by the end of his second term. There are currently 114 detainees remaining at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay and Shaker Aamer, a British national, is expected to be transferred soon. Fifty-three of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer and another 48 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings. Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo is outlined in its blueprint How to Close Guantanamo.

Global Refugee Crisis Last week Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced an emergency supplemental appropriations bill in the Senate that would provide funding to support an increase in U.S. humanitarian assistance and more robust resettlement of Syrian refugees. The legislation requires reporting on the security vetting processes used for resettlement of refugees and could support resettlement of up to 100,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. According to the United Nations, 7.6 million people are currently displaced in Syria and need immediate humanitarian assistance and over 4 million have fled due to conflict and persecution. The U.N. global humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees is only 38 percent funded, and food assistance has been cut. Without meaningful access to resettlement in other safe countries, many are turning to more dangerous routes to reach places of safety where they can rebuild their lives. So far, the United States has committed to increase its overall refugee resettlement for refugees from all countries for the year only by 15,000, and has committed only to resettle “at least 10,000” Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016. Human Rights First continues to urge the Obama Administration to lead a global effort to address the situation, including increasing the overall refugee ceiling to 200,000 to support a commitment to resettle at least 100,000 Syrian refugees during the next fiscal year.

Quote of the Week

“Whatever one may think about the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program, we should all agree that there can be no turning back to the era of torture. Coercive interrogation techniques do not work, they corrode our moral standing, and ultimately, they undermine counterterrorism policies they are intended to support.”

-Statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein, October 7, 2015

We’re Reading

In a piece for The Advocate, Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord warned of the widespread negative impact that could result from the passage of a pending anti-LGBT bill in Kyrgyzstan.

In a piece for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Adam Jacobson argued that the Obama Administration should veto the defense authorization bill in order to ensure he can close Gitmo by the end of his term in office.

The Independent reported on the trial of Bahraini opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif, describing the torture he has been subject to by the Bahraini authorities.

Writing for The Houston Chronicle, Stephen Brogan of Jones Day, the 2015 Human Rights First Frankel Award Winner, explains the vital importance of access to counsel for refugees seeking asylum.

We’re Watching

Last week, Human Rights First released a video looking back on President Obama’s promises to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and pressing the president to veto the 2016 defense authorization bill so that he can keep his promise to close the facility.

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Published on October 13, 2015

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