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December 19, 2016

Washington Week on Human Rights: December 19, 2016

TOP ITEMS

Statement of Principles

As 2016 draws to a close and the next administration readies to take office, Human Rights First and a coalition of 20 of the nation’s largest human rights and faith organizations released a joint statement of principles regarding the eligibility of nominees for Senate-confirmed positions. The statement outlines key requirements of top administration officials that should be evaluated by the Senate during confirmation hearings, including adherence to the U.S. Constitution and adherence to the rule of law.

Vets on the Hill and on TV

Members of Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First, convened earlier this month in Washington to urge Congress and the administration to advocate for wartime allies, refugees, and those fleeing conflict. While the VFAI leaders spoke passionately and eloquently on behalf of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, they also extended their efforts to protect refugees in general.

During their time in D.C., members of the group were joined by Syrian refugees to discuss the importance of refugee protection for a taped television segment that will air tonight on TBS’s “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee." The irreverent comedy news show will feature the group’s take on the importance of America continuing to open its doors to those fleeing violence and persecution. The segment airs tonight at 10:30pm EST on TBS.

Torture

Last week the Obama Administration announced that it decided to archive the Senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. The move ensured that the report will be preserved and can be declassified in the future.

The Senate torture report is one of the most comprehensive and thorough oversight endeavors in congressional history. It allows for a hard look at past mistakes and offers guidance on what to avoid in the future. Some have recently called for a return to the torture program, despite evidence that torture was not useful at gaining actionable intelligence. The torture report is an essential tool for rebutting those claims and upholding the bipartisan consensus against torture.

The report’s findings enjoy widespread support from political, national security, and intelligence leaders, including Republican Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The report was also initiated, adopted, and submitted for declassification on three independent, bipartisan votes. A nonpartisan group of retired generals and admirals who stood with President Obama in the Oval Office as he signed an executive order banning torture advocated the report’s release.

France's State of Emergency

Last week France voted for the fifth time to extend the state of emergency put in place after the November 2015 Paris attacks. The measure, which passed in the National Assembly by a vote of 299 to 32, extends it until July 15 after next year’s elections. The Senate approved these measures on Thursday. Proponents cited heightened risk of attacks as France prepares for its 2017 elections. This extension will give the country the longest uninterrupted state of emergency since the Algerian War in the 1960s. The state of emergency law gives the government extraordinary powers.

Human Rights First warned in February and July about the risks of extending the state of emergency. Prolonging a state of emergency threatens human rights and creates a new normal–where expansive police powers become a more permanent fixture of daily life.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“So even in a season where the incredible blessings that we know as Americans are all around us, even as we enjoy family and friends and are reminded of how lucky we are, we should also be reminded that to be an American involves bearing burdens and meeting obligations to others.  American values and American ideals are what will lead the way to a safer and more prosperous 2017, both here and abroad."

—President Barack Obama, December 16, 2016

WE'RE READING

The Intercept tells the story of a mother and child caught in America’s immigration detention system.

Brian Dooley writes in the Huffington Post that Washington has a dilemma as Bahrain snuggles up to Putin.

The Texas Observer reports that activism, art, and architecture are shining a light on the immigration detention system.

PRI’s The World writes that 20 years ago, asylum seekers were not automatically put in immigration detention.

Brian Dooley writes in The Washington Times that Bahrain is no partner to the United States.

The Washington Times writes that Angela Merkel is turning on refugees as backlash boosts Germany’s far-right opposition.

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