Washington Week on Human Rights: October 14, 2014
KERRY TO CAIRO Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo today to participate in an international conference of 50 nations pledging $5 billion to rebuild the Gaza Strip. He met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday to press the former military leader to adopt greater democratic reforms. Last week, Human Rights First urged Secretary Kerry to publicly raise concern over the Egyptian government’s ongoing human rights abuses during his visit and to leave no doubt that the United States expects the Egyptian government to end its widespread and counterproductive human rights violations. Instances of violence and terrorism in Egypt have increased since President Sisi took power and began a violent crackdown on political opponents, fueling radicalization and shutting down avenues for peaceful political dissent. and several other advocacy organizations signed a letter organized by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) that was sent to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security. According to reports from detainees, workers have allegedly taken mothers from their cells in the middle of the night to engage in sexual acts and have groped women in front of children. An ICE spokesperson said that the department has a zero tolerance for all forms of sexual abuse or assault and that the accusations will be investigated.
GUANTANAMO Last week, news agencies reported that the Obama Administration is considering a plan to override a congressional ban on bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States, a step that would allow the president to fulfill his pledge to shutter the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The White House denies the report, which drew quick scrutiny from Congress. In its statement, the administration said it is “continuing to work on transfers [of prisoners] and calling on Congress to lift restrictions.” Human Rights First has issued a comprehensive strategy for closing the facility and urges the administration to do so before President Obama’s second term concludes.
EXTREMISM IN HUNGARY Hungary’s antisemitic, anti-Roma Jobbik Party won control of the mayorship in 14 towns and villages in local elections on Sunday. The party also increased its strength on municipal councils, securing its position as Hungary’s second-largest political party. Other candidates, including from the ruling Fidesz Party, also ran overtly anti-Roma election campaigns, and are now expected to take a tougher line on administering education and welfare befits to vulnerable minorities. Jobbik won 20 percent of the vote for the national parliament in April and took three seats in the European Parliament in May. The rise of extremist parties in Hungary 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.”
BAHRAIN Over the weekend five opposition groups, including the Al-Wefaq movement, announced they will boycott November elections in Bahrain, calling the vote an attempt to establish “absolute rule in Bahrain.” The upcoming parliamentary elections are the Kingdom’s first since pro-democracy protests took place in 2011. Since then, Bahrain has continued to harass and jail civil society leaders. Prominent human rights activists Zainab Al Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab both face court cases this coming week.
Quote of the Week
“So this is a time for leadership. It’s a time for leaders to lead. And at a time when extremism, which offers no constructive vision for the future, is capitalizing on the vacuum, it is imperative for all of us to fill that vacuum with a prospect of peace. That’s what the people of our countries expect from us, and that’s what we must offer them – no less.”
-Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks from the Gaza Conference
The New York Times’ Benjamin Weiser examines the pattern of terrorists who speak openly and provide valuable, actionable intelligence during legal, non-abusive interrogations. For more information, see Human Rights First’s work on torture and federal prosecution of terrorism suspects.
Newsweek’s Jeff Stein reports on former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s memoir, in which he opines on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. Earlier this month, seventeen of the nation’s most respected retired national security and intelligence professionals signed a statement reaffirming their opposition to torture, which is illegal, ineffective, counterproductive, and immoral.
The conflict in Syria has forced over three million refugees to seek protection and shelter in other countries. In The Guardian, Lauren Gambino and Raya Jalabi delve into why the United States has accepted so few refugees into the country.
Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke writes for On Faith on how President Obama should work with regional partners to protect religious freedom and stave off extremism. As he writes, “The United States needs to do more to safeguard religious freedom in the world not only because it’s a fundamental human right and a linchpin of successful democracies, but because doing so will strengthen its own national security.”
Reuters reported that the United States is publicly pressing Kyrgyzstan’s parliament not to pass its proposed Russian-style anti-“propaganda” law. Learn more about the discriminatory bill here.
FiveThirtyEight detailed how the border crisis is continuing to wreak havoc on the immigration court system. According to Human Rights First’s Vanessa Allyn, “There’s absolutely no parity in the resources for removal versus the resources for actually adjudicating these cases.”
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will hold a discussion on “ISIS, the Kurds and Turkey: A Messy Triangle.” The event will feature Henri Barkey, professor of international relations at Lehigh University; Svante Cornell, research director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies; and Eric Edelman, co-chair of the Turkey Initiative at BPC. 10AM, BPC, 1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.
The Brookings Institution will host a discussion on “Prospects for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The discussion will feature Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence; Bruce Riedel, Brookings senior fellow and director of the Intelligence Project; Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings senior fellow and co-director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. 1PM, University of California Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
George Washington University (GWU) will host a book discussion on “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace.” The event will feature author Leon Panetta, former Defense secretary and CIA director; Steven Knapp, GWU president; and Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at GWU. 1PM, GWU, 805 21st Street NW, Morton Auditorium, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) will hold a discussion on “The U.S.-Afghan Partnership.” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich. and Stephen Hadley, chairman of the board at USIP. 9:30AM, USIP, 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
American University’s (AU) School of International Service (SIS) will host a discussion on “Fighting ISIS: The Future of American Foreign Policy in the Middle East.” The event will feature David Gregory, former moderator of NBC News’ “Meet the Press” and distinguished journalist-in-residence (moderator); David Ignatius of the Washington Post; Susan Glasser of Politico; Akbar Ahmed, SIS professor; and Jim Goldgeier, SIS dean. 3PM, AU SIS Building, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Atrium, Washington, D.C.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) will host a discussion on “The U.S. Deportation System: Trends from a Decade of Data,” examining Homeland Security Department data. The discussion will feature Rebecca Gambler, director of the Government Accountability Office’s Homeland Security and Justice Team; Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at MPI; and Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the Immigration Policy Program at MPI. 9:30AM, MPI Conference Room, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 300, Third Floor, Washington, D.C.
The Middle East Institute (MEI) will hold a discussion on “Terrorist Financing Networks in the Middle East and South Asia: A Comparative Assessment.” The discussion will feature Amit Kumar, fellow for homeland security and counterterrorism at the Center for National Policy and Marvin Weinbaum, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 12PM, MEI, Boardman Room, 1761 N Street NW, Washington, D.C.