Washington Week on Human Rights: September 15, 2014

Top News

Congressional ISIS Hearings Members of the House and Senate will hold a series of hearings this week on the administration’s plan to address the threat posed by ISIS. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry and the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing featuring testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen. On Thursday, Secretary Kerry will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will testify before the House Armed Services Committee.

Secretary Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris today to meet with French President Francois Hollande, as well as European and Arab foreign ministers. The meetings come as Secretary Kerry wraps up a week-long trip that included stops in Baghdad, Amman, Jeddah, Ankara and Cairo, where he held diplomatic talks designed to garner support for a coalition plan to defeat ISIS. In addition to military action, that plan will also seek to disrupt ISIS’s access to money and foreign fighters. Meanwhile, Secretary Kerry has tapped retired Marine General John Allen to serve as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS. General Allen will coordinate the international effort to defeat ISIS, bringing together the nearly 40 nations around the globe that have agreed to participate in the effort.

Poroshenko to Address Congress On Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will address a joint meeting of Congress. He is expected to deliver remarks about Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to oust pro-Russian militants. House Speaker John Boehner extended the invitation to Poroshenko, noting it is “another signal of our steadfast commitment to the aspirations of his people.” Last week, Poroshenko announced that Russia is slowly moving its forces from the eastern region of Ukraine. Following his appearance before Congress, Poroshenko will meet with President Obama.

Bahrain Tomorrow, prominent human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja returns to court after completing the 10 day detention extension ordered earlier this month by a Bahraini judge. Maryam was arrested more than two weeks ago as she entered Bahrain to visit her father, who is on hunger strike while serving a life sentence for his peaceful part in 2011 protests. Last week, Maryam began her own hunger strike demanding that authorities permit her to see her father.

Quote of the Week

“The United States doesn’t ever trade its concern for human rights for any other objective. It is always a concern. It’s an honest concern.”

– Secretary of State John Kerry

We’re Reading

In a piece for The Hill Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley called for a thorough interagency review of the U.S. approach to Bahrain as the Senate considered the nomination of William Roebuck to the post of ambassador of Bahrain. Read more here.

MSNBC’s Emma Margolin and Michael Lavers of The Washignton Blade reported on the passage of a new anti-gay law in The Gambia. The law, which awaits presidential approval, is similar to the discriminatory law that was recently struck down in Uganda. Read more here.

McClatchy’s Ali Watkins reports on the latest battle between the CIA Director John Brennan and the Senate intelligence committee over the committee’s report on the post-9/11 CIA torture program. The agency, which has been accused of spying on Senate computers, has been holding up release of the report with excessive redactions. For more information, see Human Rights First’s work to release the report.

We’re Watching

Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation to discuss the administration’s plan to build a coalition to address the threat posed by ISIL.

On The Hill

September 16, 2014

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testify. 9:30AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

The Brookings Institution will host a discussion on “Syrian Displacement: Views from the Region.” The event will feature Carol Batchelor, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Turkey; Brian Hansford, Washington spokesman for UNHCR; Andrew Tabler, senior fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy; and Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-London School of Economics Project on Internal Displacement. 10AM, Brookings Institution. 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, Washington, D.C.

The Project on Middle East Democracy, the Center for International Policy, and the Security Assistance Monitor will hold a discussion on “U.S. Counterterrorism Assistance: Challenges & Opportunities from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.” The event will feature Dafna Rand, deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security; Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America; and Lesley Anne Warner, Africa political-military analyst. 12:30PM, G-11 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Georgetown University will host a lecture delivered by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman on “U.S. Policy in the Middle East: Present Course, Future Direction.” 7PM, Georgetown University, 37th and O Streets NW, Hariri Building, Lohrfink Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

September 17, 2014

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland.” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson; James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will testify. 10AM, 311 Cannon House Office Building

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the nominations of Sarah Saldana to be assistant Homeland Security secretary for immigration and customs enforcement; Russell Deyo to be Homeland Security undersecretary for management; and Mickey Barnett to be a governor of the U.S. Postal Service.10AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on “United States Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” Secretary of State John Kerry will testify. 2:30PM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

September 18, 2014

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “The Administration’s Strategy for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will testify. 11:15AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing “The ISIS Threat: Weighing the Obama Administration’s Response.” Secretary of State John Kerry will testify. 11:30AM, 2172 Rayburn House 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; and Elizabeth Hogan, acting assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, will testify. 3PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

September 16, 2014

The Brookings Institution will host a discussion on “Syrian Displacement: Views from the Region.” The event will feature Carol Batchelor, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Turkey; Brian Hansford, Washington spokesman for UNHCR; Andrew Tabler, senior fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy; and Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-London School of Economics Project on Internal Displacement. 10AM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, Washington, D.C.

The Project on Middle East Democracy, the Center for International Policy, and the Security Assistance Monitor will hold a discussion on “U.S. Counterterrorism Assistance: Challenges & Opportunities from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.” The event will feature Dafna Rand, deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security; Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America; and Lesley Anne Warner, Africa political-military analyst. 12:30PM, G-11 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Georgetown University will host a lecture delivered by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman on “U.S. Policy in the Middle East: Present Course, Future Direction.” 7PM, Georgetown University, 37th and O Streets NW, Hariri Building, Lohrfink Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

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Published on September 15, 2014

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