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May 27, 2014

Washington Week on Human Rights: May 27, 2014

Top News

PRESIDENT OBAMA TALKS FOREIGN POLICY President Obama will discuss the administration's foreign policy and national security priorities during his West Point commencement address on Wednesday. The speech comes just days after he paid a surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan and reiterated his commitment to bringing that operation to a close by the end of this year.

FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS GAIN SEATS IN E.U. ELECTIONS European Parliament President Martin Schultz is calling Sunday's European Parliament elections "a bad day for the European Union." Far-right extremist parties made large gains in the vote that began last week. In Greece, where Human Rights First was on the ground to research the human rights implications of the rise of far-right parties in Europe, the Golden Dawn Party gained three European Parliament seats, winning 9.39% of the vote. That party, known for its antisemitic rhetoric, also now holds 16 total seats in the Greek Parliament. In another closely watched European Parliament election in France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front, won 26% of the vote. In contrast, far-right parties gained few votes in Ukraine's weekend elections, which were praised by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski.

JEH JOHNSON TESTIFIES Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The oversight hearing is expected to include human rights questions related to border security, immigration detention and unaccompanied minors entering the United States. Johnson could make the case for Congress to support the administration's request to reduce detention levels and support cost-efficient and more humane alternatives to detention, as well as to support the request for an increase funding for immigration courts, where case backlogs are causing a string of unintended consequences in the asylum process, putting those fleeing persecution into further jeopardy.

Quote of the Week

“…After more than a decade of war, we’re at a pivotal moment.  Last year marked a major milestone — for the first time, Afghan forces took the lead to secure their own country.  And today, you’re in a support role — helping to train and assist Afghan forces.  For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan.  And by the end of this year, the transition will be complete and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security, and our combat mission will be over.  America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end. 

- President Obama during his address to troops stationed in Afghanistan

We’re Reading

Following Greece’s local elections, Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron explained in the Los Angeles Times the implications of Golden Dawn’s rise to political power, arguing that the violent extremist group threatens to undermine Greek democracy, and is an ominous sign for the European Union and NATO. Read more.

Human Rights First’s Michael Quigley writes to the Washington Post on why Congress should scrap the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and have a clear debate on where, if anywhere, armed conflict authorization is the right approach for combating terrorism. Read more.

Reuters reported Saturday that Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released from prison after serving a two year sentence for his part in illegal gatherings. The release of Rajab who is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights will be a major test for Bahrain, where most leading human rights defenders are in prison, in exile, or facing charges for their work. Read more.

As the Egyptian elections continue today, Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks writes in the Huffington Post about why we should be skeptical of claims that the election of General Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi demonstrates a mandate by the Egyptian people through a free and fair democratic process. Read more.

We’re Listening

NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelsonfiled a story ahead of this weekend’s European Parliament elections investigating the popularity of Jobbik, Hungary’s far-right, antisemitic party. Many Hungarians feel animosity towards the European Union, making Jobbik’s brand of ultranationalism particularly appealing. For more information on Jobbik, see Human Rights First’s fact sheets, Antisemitic and Racist Statements by Hungarian Political Leadersand The 2014 Hungarian Elections and Human Rights.

On the Hill 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee will markup the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. 6PM, H-140, U.S. Capitol

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the State Department's response to the congressional investigation of the Benghazi attacks. Secretary of State John Kerry will testify. 2154 Rayburn House Office Building               

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "Oversight of the United States Department of Homeland Security." Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify. 10:30AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Woodrow Wilson Center's (WWC) Global Europe Program will hold a discussion on "After the European Elections: A Fresh Start for the EU (European Union) and the Transatlantic Relationship? The event will feature Antoine Ripoll, director of Congress' European Parliament Liaison Office; Jeffrey Anderson, director of the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University; Richard Rose, director of the Center for the Study of Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland; Paul Adamson, senior European policy adviser at Covington and Burling LLP; and Samuel Wells, former associate director of WWC.

11AM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Heritage Foundation will host a book discussion on "The Death of Deliberation: Partisanship and Polarization in the United States Senate." The discussion will feature author James Wallner, executive director of the Senate Steering Committee, and Ed Corrigan, group vice president for policy promotion at Heritage. 12PM, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Lehrman Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) will hold a discussion on "How the FBI Is Evolving to Meet Threats in a Changing Environment." The event will feature FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano. 12:30PM, WINEP, 1828 L Street NW, Suite 1050, Washington, D.C.           

The American Society of International Law (ASIL) will hold a discussion on "The Struggle to Uphold the Prohibition of Torture in Modern Times." The event will feature Claudio Grossman, chair of the UN Committee Against Torture; Juan Mendez, UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Michael O'Flaherty, professor of human rights law and director of the Irish Center for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway. 6PM, American Society of International Law, 2223 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Newseum Institute's Religious Freedom Center and Moment magazine will host a discussion on "Gay Rights and Religious Freedom: Is common ground possible?" The event will feature Jonathan Rauch, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Robin Fretwell Wilson, professor of law at the University of Illinois College of Law; Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Committee; and Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. 6:30PM, The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Knight Conference Center, Washington, D.C.

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