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September 12, 2016

Washington Week on Human Rights: September 12, 2016

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Global Refugee Crisis

This Thursday the White House will host an event to celebrate the contributions of refugees resettled in the United States.  The event aims to share best practices and honor refugees who have already begun giving back to their new communities in the United States.

Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer will attend the event with Emir Hadzic, a Bosnian Muslim refugee and Marine veteran, along with former Human Rights First asylum clients Sana, a Syrian refugee now living in New Jersey, and Eric, a refugee from the Central African Republic.

The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Over 20 million refugees have fled their countries, including nearly 5 million Syrians.  We’re pressing the U.S. government to demonstrate global leadership to improve access to protection for Syrian and other refugees by leading an effort to champion the human rights of refugees and significantly increase U.S. resettlement of refugees. Human Rights First recently released “Respecting Rights and Securing Solutions,” a comprehensive plan detailing how the United States should address the global refugee crisis.

The White House event precedes the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants on September 19th and the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees hosted by President Obama on September 20th.

Antisemitism 

Today and tomorrow Human Rights First is co-hosting an historic forum for civil society, government, and tech companies in Paris to discuss countering online extremism and antisemitism in France. The #BetterTogether inaugural summit is a pilot initiative of bilateral collaboration. To that end, it is aimed at creating a sustainable space for exchanges at multiple levels, across civil society, the tech sector, and governments—to enhance mutually productive and long-term engagement. In response to growing antisemitic violence in Europe, Human Rights First released a fact sheet on antisemitism and extremism in Germany and issued a comprehensive report for how to combat the issue in France entitled, “Breaking the Cycle of Violence.”

Guantanamo

This week House Resolution 5351, the “Bar Guantanamo Detainee Transfers” bill, will likely come up for a vote in the House. Sponsored by Representative Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2), the bill would prevent any federal agency from using funds to transfer or release Guantanamo detainees until January 1, 2017, or the date the FY2017 NDAA is enacted, whichever comes first. The bill would apply to both foreign transfers and transfers to the United States—even though stateside transfers are already prohibited by law. In March, 36 retired generals and admirals wrote Congress urging it to work with the Obama Administration to remove the existing transfer restrictions and close Guantanamo.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon released the administration’s plan for closing Guantanamo, which includes transferring detainees who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It also mandates expedited review, pursuant to administrative Periodic Review Board hearings, of the remaining detainees who are not facing trial to determine if they can be cleared for transfer. The remaining detainees who will not be transferred in the near term—a number unlikely to exceed 60—would be relocated to one of 13 stateside detention facilities, pending congressional approval.

Majid Khan, the first high-value detainee to reach a plea deal with the U.S. government, faces a sentencing hearing at Guantanamo this week. Khan pleaded guilty to several charges back in 2012. Khan had political asylum status in the United States when he was arrested in Pakistan. During his detention he was tortured by CIA operatives, abuse that was detailed at great length in the Senate intelligence committee torture report released in 2014.

Special Envoy in Central Asia

This week U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry will travel to Central Asia to engage with officials, the diplomatic corps, and members of civil society in Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan as part of a four-country diplomatic mission. While in Astana, he will also participate in a teleconference with the four other Central Asian countries with LGBT issues as the theme.

In advance of Berry’s trip Human Rights First urged him in a public letter to address concerning reports of discrimination and acts of violence against the Kazakh LGBT community with the country’s leadership.

Kazakhstan has a troubling record of failing to protect the rights of its LGBT citizens. In May 2015, Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Court invalidated a bill titled “On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development.” Modeled after Russia’s infamous law, the bill would have introduced a ban on promoting “non-traditional sexual orientation.” Although activists report frequent incidents of harassment and violence against LGBT people, there was not a single prosecution in 2015. Sadly, victims of bias-motivated crimes rarely turn to the police out of fear of additional persecution and violence.

Quote of the Week

"Across our country today, Americans are coming together in service and remembrance.  We run our fingers over the names in memorial benches here at the Pentagon.  We walk the hallowed grounds of a Pennsylvania field.  We look up at a gleaming tower that pierces the New York City skyline.  But in the end, the most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America that we continue to be—that we stay true to ourselves, that we stay true to what's best in us, that we do not let others divide us."

Remarks by the President Obama at the 9/11 Memorial Observance Ceremony, The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia

We’re Reading

The New York Times writes about the brave migrant mothers that protested their continued detention in a Berks County, Pennsylvania facility.

Agence France Presse shares the story of a refugee family who lived in fear until they stood under the American flag on U.S. soil.

Quartz reports on the record half-million cases that are waiting to be heard in U.S. immigration courts.

The New York Times published a letter by Human Rights First's Melissa Hooper in response to an article on the danger of the Russian propaganda machine.

The Washington Times reports on President Obama making the case that the detention facility at Guantanamo is too costly for taxpayers.

Around Town

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Center on Global Interests will hold a discussion entitled, “What the 2016 Elections Mean for US-Russia Relations.” The discussion will feature M. Steven Fish, professor of political science at the University of California Berkeley; Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Igor Zevelev, fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. 10:30 AM, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Choate Room, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) will hold a discussion entitled, “Congress and National Security: My Perspective.” The discussion will feature remarks by Senator Angus King, I-Maine. 7:55 AM, Army Navy Country Club, 1700 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, VA.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC), Smithsonian Media, and Independent Diplomat will hold a discussion entitled, “Stateless but not Silenced: A Conversation on Refugees with Refugees.” The discussion will feature Maria Al Abdeh, director of Women Now for Development; Ibrahim Al Assil, president and co-founder of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement; Rouba Mhaissen, founder and director of Sawa for Development and Aid Lebanon; and Salim Salamah, director of the Palestinian League for Human Rights. 10:00 AM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.            

On the Hill 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016.

The House Rules Committee will hold a Full Committee Meeting to formulate a rule on House Resolution 5351, to prohibit the transfer of any individual detained at United States Naval station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 3:00 PM, H-313, U.S. Capitol.

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