Washington Week on Human Rights: September 2, 2014

Top News

Ukraine Tops NATO Agenda President Obama leaves today for a four-day trip that will include a high-profile meeting in Tallinn with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and the 2014 NATO Summit in Newport, Wales. According to the White House, this is “a two-pronged approach against Russian incursions into Ukraine.” The European Union, which includes 22 of NATO’s 28 member nations, has given Russia one week to withdraw from Ukraine or face economic sanctions. Russia has long believed that NATO poses a threat and has increased the number of troops it has in eastern Ukraine. During this week’s meeting, NATO’s leaders are expected to endorse a rapid-response force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe.

Golden Dawn Members Take Office On Friday, Ilias Kasidiares and Panagiotis Iliopoulos – leaders in the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn – were granted a temporary leave from prison to be sworn in as Athens city councilors. Kasidiares and Iliopoulos are awaiting trial for running a criminal organization, charges that followed Golden Dawn members’ alleged murder of rap artist Pavlos Fyssas. To protest the virulent antisemitism of the newly elected Thessaloniki city councilor Artemis Matthaiopoulos, Mayor Yiannis Boutaris wore a yellow Star of David badge to his own swearing-in ceremony. Read Human Rights First’s recent report about the rise of extremist parties in Hungary and Greece.

Bahrain On Friday, Maryam Al Khawaja was arrested by Bahraini authorities as she returned to the Kingdom for a visit with her family. She is being held for an initial seven days, and is charged with assaulting police officers when they grabbed her phone, which she denies. Further charges have been mentioned, but not officially pressed yet. Her lawyer told Human Rights First he was not allowed to talk to her before or during her questioning at the public prosecutor’s office. Khawaja, a dual Bahraini-Danish citizen, is one of the most outspoken and effective spokespersons against Bahrain’s ongoing human rights abuses. In 2012, Maryam accepted the Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty on behalf of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights during Human Rights First’s annual Human Rights Summit in Washington, D.C. Maryam’s father is prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence after peacefully protesting in 2011; his health has seriously deteriorated since he embarked on a hunger strike last week. Learn more about Bahrain here.

Senate Torture Report Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Justice Department delay its response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking release of the Senate intelligence committee’s torture report. Feinstein said the report, due for release this month, is not ready for public release yet due to ongoing negotiations between the committee and the administration over redactions. For more information about the report, click here.

Quote of the Week

“Hope is what gives us courage. Hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights and workers’ rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigration rights.”

– President Obama during his Labor Day address in Milwaukee, Wisonsin

We’re Reading

On Monday, the New York Times’ Charlie Savage published one of the most comprehensive articles yet about the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His piece explored current conditions at the facility and what may lie ahead for those who remain there. For more information about Guantanamo, click here.

Harold Hongju Koh, former legal adviser of the State Department, wrote an opinion piece for Politico about how the United States can lawfully address the threat posed by ISIS.

Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who was recently denied access to Bahrain with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), writes for The Hill about the country’s crackdown on dissent and civil society and why it deserves a stronger response from the U.S. government.

We’re Watching

Ahead of this week’s NATO summit, former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul appeared on Meet the Press to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Around Town

September 3, 2014

The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “A National Counterterrorism Center Threat Assessment of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and Al Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Beyond.” The event will feature Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Bruce Riedel, senior fellow and director of the Intelligence Project at Brookings. 11AM, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Root Room, Washington, D.C.

The Palestine Center (PC) will hold a briefing on “Iraq in Crisis: Understanding the Challenges Confronting the Nation.” The briefing will feature Raed Jarrar, policy impact coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee; Adil Shamoo, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine; and Sami Albanna, president and managing consultant of Albanna Business & Systems Consulting. 1PM, PC, 2425 Virginia Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

September 4, 2014

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) will host a discussion on “Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future,” focusing on the National Defense Panel review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. The event will feature Eric Edelman, fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; and Michele Flournoy, co-founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security. 2PM, USIP, 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The McCain Institute will hold a debate on “The Global War on Terrorism: Is it Time to Double Down?” The debate will feature Fran Townsend, former assistant to President George W. Bush for homeland security and counterterrorism; former Acting CIA Director Mike Morrell; former State Department Ambassador-at-Large Daniel Benjamin; former Deputy Director of the CIA Counterterrorist Center Philip Mudd; and former Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism Juan Zarate. 5:45PM, U.S. Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Burke Theater, Washington, D.C.

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Published on September 2, 2014

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