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August 04, 2014

Washington Week on Human Rights: August 4, 2014

Top News

CIA Torture Report On Friday, the Obama Administration sent the Senate intelligence committee its response to key portions of the committee’s 6,300-plus page CIA torture report. The committee is expected to release the report’s findings, conclusions, and executive summary as early as this week. President Obama has said that he unequivocally supports the release of the report, which is expected to set the record straight on the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11. Last week, as former and current government employees attempted to defend the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” program, 20 of the nation’s most respected retired admirals and generals urged President Obama to ensure the unhindered release of key portions from the report.

U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit This week, President Obama will convene the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on August 5-6, welcoming nearly 50 African heads of state and government to Washington for an unprecedented meeting focusing on trade, investment, and security in Africa. The meeting will also reaffirm America’s commitment to Africa’s stability, its democratic development, and its people. Last week, Human Rights First joined a broad based group of human rights organizations urging President Obama to include voices of civil society leaders working to protect human rights of all Africans in the summit. The groups noted the important role civil society can play in combating state-sanctioned discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Ugandan President Museveni will be in attendance, less than a week after a Ugandan court overturned the discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds.

Children at the Border Last week, before leaving for recess, the House passed a $694 million bill to address the surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill provided more than $400 million for additional border security and law enforcement efforts, and included a change to the 2008 anti-trafficking law in an effort to facilitate deportations of unaccompanied children back to their home countries. The Senate was unable to pass legislation before recess. President Obama, who is pushing for a $3.7 billion supplemental funding bill to address the surge, has said that he will act unilaterally if Congress fails to pass legislation to provide adequate resources to deal with the surge.

Quote of the Week

"When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques — techniques that I believe, and I think any fair-minded person would believe, were torture — we crossed the line. … In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks."

- President Obama during a White House Press Briefing on August 1

We're Reading

In a piece for the Albuquerque Journal, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer describes the conditions faced by migrant families inside a detention center in Artesia, NM, and urges the Obama Administration to provide a fair and humane process with timely removal hearings, legal representation and alternatives to detention. Learn more here.

In advance of the release of the CIA Torture Report findings, Human Rights First’s Michael Quigley makes the case in The Hill that torture is not only ineffective but is counterproductive to U.S. national security. Learn more here.

The Wall Street Journal reported on President Obama’s remarks Friday about the CIA Torture report, noting that the release of the report’s findings may present an opportunity for legislative action to prevent the use of torture in the future.

Emma Margolin from MSNBC reported on the invalidation of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act by the Constitutional Court last week.

As President Obama prepares to meet with African heads of state at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit this week, TIME and the Associated Press reported on a new report issued by Human Rights First and Human Rights Campaign urging the administration to include civil society leaders in the discussion. Read the report here.

We're Listening

NPR’s Gregory Warner describes what President Obama and the African heads of state will likely discuss at this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit for Morning Edition.

Around Town

August 4, 2014

Politico will host a Playbook Luncheon interview session on policy, politics and the inaugural U.S.-Africa Business Forum. The event will feature former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe; and Mike Allen, chief White House correspondent at Politic. 11:45AM, The Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

The Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a briefing on "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about National Security Law (But Were Afraid to Ask)." The event will feature Stephen Vladeck, professor at the American University Washington College of Law. 12PM, B-369 Rayburn House Office Building

Open Society Foundations will hold a discussion on "Resources for the Future: Partnering with Civil Society for Transparency and Accountability in Africa." The event will feature Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Deputy Undersecretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom; George Soros, founder and chairman of Open Society Foundations; Mo Ibrahim, co-founder and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Ali Idrissa, national coordinator at Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez Niger; Daniel Kaufmann, president of the Natural Resource Governance Institute; and Simon Taylor, co-founder and director of Global Witness. 12:30PM, illard Intercontinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

August 5, 2014

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) will hold an event on "Toward an Action Program for Democracy," an African civil society conference, August 5-6, 9AM, 345 Cannon House Office Building

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