Washington Week on Human Rights: September 22, 2014

Top News

U.N. General Assembly This week, as the United Nations General Assembly gathers in New York City, President Obama will address member nations on Wednesday and is expected to focus on issues such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Ebola crisis, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and climate change. That same day, President Obama will also chair a special session of the U.N. Security Council to discuss efforts to address militant groups in Iraq and Syria. He will seek support for a travel ban targeting foreign fighters seeking to enlist in overseas wars, as well as sanctions and other measures designed to cut off resources and weaken groups like ISIS.

Security & Human Rights Earlier today, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino delivered a keynote address during the opening session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Human Dimension Meeting in Warsaw. The convening will focus on efforts to defend human rights to promote security. More than 1,200 government representatives, human rights experts, and activists are gathered for the two-week conference.

Refugees More than 100,000 refugees fleeing from the threat of ISIS in Syria have crossed the border into Turkey, including 70,000 people in the past 24 hours. According to news reports, on Sunday, heavy fighting broke out in northeastern Syria. ISIS has attacked villages – as well as fleeing refugees – with tanks, artillery and rocket launchers. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said most of those coming into Turkey are Kurdish women, children, and the elderly. Prior to this surge, there were already 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, which is calling for increased international aid.

CBC Conference The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation will host its 44th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC from September 24-27. The gathering will include more than 70 policy sessions addressing pressing human and civil rights issues, including a panel titled “Protection from Persecution: The Flow of Asylum Seekers of African Descent.” That discussion, scheduled to take place on Friday at 3 p.m., will include insights from Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. For more information about the conference, click here.

Quote of the Week

“The solution to security challenges lies not in postponing action on human rights, but in doubling down on rights protection. The demonization or neglect of minorities, the failure to ensure the safety and political participation of women, the crackdown on civil society that works to protect the rights of the vulnerable – these factors are both symptoms of and lead to broader insecurity.”

– Human Rights First President & CEO Elisa Massimino at the OSCE Human Dimensions Meeting

We’re Reading

The New York Times previews President Obama’s U.N. agenda and efforts to garner support for measures to stop the flow of foreign fighters and weaken militant groups, including ISIS.

In a piece for CNN, former Ambassador to South Korea Donald P. Gregg spoke out in favor of release of the Senate intelligence committee’s report of post-9/11 CIA torture tactics. As he wrote, “Our resorting to torture after 9/11 has cost us dearly — we can no longer assert that we do not torture our enemies, leaving us in a much weaker position when urging our allies or our opponents to eschew such tactics.” For more information, see Human Rights First’s work to release the torture report.

In a piece for The Advocate, Jamaican human rights activist responds to the recent drop of a Supreme Court Case against Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, highlighting how difficult it is for LGBT Jamaicans to achieve justice through the legal system.

Associated Press reported that prominent Bahraini human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja has been released from detention. Although she has been allowed to go home, the charges against her remain and she is not permitted to leave Bahrain. More information here.

As Ukrainian President Poroshenko met with Congress and President Obama last week, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley wrote for The Hill that, “Ukraine can’t afford to win the war in the east but lose its shot at democracy.”

We’re Watching

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” to preview the administration’s United Nations General Assembly agenda.

Around Town

September 22, 2014

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) will hold a forum on “Defeating ISIS: From Strategy to Implementation.” The event will feature former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey James Jeffrey, visiting fellow at WINEP; Jean-Pierre Filiu, professor of Middle East studies at Sciences Po in Paris; and Michael Eisenstadt, senior fellow and director of the Military and Security Studies Program at WINEP. 12:30PM

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) will host a discussion on priorities at the Customs and Border Protection Agency. The event will feature Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske; and Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at MPI. 2:30PM, MPI Conference Room, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 300, Third Floor, Washington, D.C.

September 23, 2014

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will host a discussion on “Jihadist Terrorism: A New Threat Assessment Report,” focusing on “threats from ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist groups, cybersecurity concerns, and drone strikes and drone proliferation.” The event will feature author Peter Bergen, national security analyst at CNN; Mary Habeck, lecturer in strategic studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; and William McCants, director of the U.S. relations with the Islamic World Project at The Brookings Institution. 10AM, BPC, 1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund will hold a discussion on “The Role of Congress in the Fight Against ISIS.” The event will feature Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; former Gov. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, president of the CAP Action Fund and counselor to the Center for American Progress; and Ken Gude, senior fellow at the CAP Action Fund. 1PM, CAP, 1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C.

September 25, 2014

The Heritage Foundation will host a discussion on “The Legal Basis for Military Action against ISIS.” The event will feature Steven Bradbury, partner at Dechert LLP; Robert Chesney, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law; Steven Vladeck, professor of law at the American University Washington College of Law; and Charles Stimson, manager of the National Security Law Program at Heritage. 1PM, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Lehrman Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Save the Date

Human Rights First is partnering with the Thomson Reuters Foundation for its annual women’s rights conference Trust Women to be held in London on November 18-19. The Trust Women Conference will bring together global corporations, lawyers, and pioneers in the field of women’s rights to forge tangible commitments to empower women around the world and develop solutions to human rights problems. For more information visit www.trustwomenconf.com.

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Published on September 25, 2014

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