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Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: December 5, 2016
December 06, 2016

Washington Week on Human Rights: December 5, 2016

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National Security

Today the Obama Administration released a presidential report and memorandum, as well as supporting documents, detailing the administration’s policy and legal framework for counterterrorism operations. These include the use of force, capture, detention, interrogation, transfer, and prosecution in the counterterrorism context. The report describes key counterterrorism policy efforts that reflect an emerging consensus in favor of approaches that comply with human rights norms and the rule of law. As part of today’s release, the president also issued a memorandum that directs the National Security Council staff to update the report on an annual basis and make it available to the public.

Today’s release comes as President Obama prepares to travel to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida tomorrow to deliver his final counterterrorism policy speech, and as the current administration continues to brief President-elect Trump's transition team about the government's ongoing counterterrorism efforts.

Guantanamo

On Friday the Obama Administration transferred Yemeni detainee Shawki Awad Balzuhair from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Cape Verde. Balzuhair had been held without trial for more than 14 years. His transfer brings the total number of detainees remaining at the facility to 59, including 20 who have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Today the U.S. military commission continues proceedings in the case against the 9/11 co-conspirators, including accused mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammad. Human Rights First is on base to attend the motion hearings.

Trump Transition

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he has selected retired Marine General James Mattis to serve as the next secretary of defense. During recent conversations with President-elect Trump, General Mattis reiterated that he opposes torture because it is not a useful technique to bolster national security. Instead, he prefers proven methods long-supported by some of the nation’s top intelligence and interrogations experts, including approaches that foster trust and reward cooperation. In their meeting, General Mattis reportedly told President-elect Trump, “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better.”

Immigration Detention

Following a decision this weekend by a Texas judge to not issue licenses for family detention facilities in Karnes and Dilley, Texas Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released over 460 mothers and children from the Karnes and Dilley Family Detention Centers and from processing centers on the border.

The unexpected release of these families who are in various stages of seeking asylum in the United States comes in the wake of the recommendations put forth by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers to end its policy of detaining children and their families. DHS officials expect the number of people in immigration detention to reach a historic high in the coming months. By next summer ICE may be detaining as many as 47,000 immigrants. This unprecedented jump—more than 50 percent in less than a year—should cause concern even among fervent proponents of detention.

Register Now for the 2016 Human Rights Summit!

Next week Human Rights First will host its fifth annual Human Rights Summit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The December 13 afternoon event brings together activists and leaders from government, business, the military, and faith communities to discuss today’s most pressing human rights problems and challenges for American leadership. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Summit has become Washington’s premier celebration of Human Rights Day—a call to action for American leadership in defense of freedom and democracy, at home and around the world. We hope you will join the conversation in person or online via our livestream. This year’s program will also feature the awarding of the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the Democratic Republic of Congo. To view this year’s agenda and register to attend the 2016 Human Rights Summit, click here.

Quote of the Week

“Along with celebrations like these, the holidays also offer us a time for reflection and perspective. And over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago — a message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers; that we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other.  To let the light of our good deeds shine for all.  To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden. And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves.
“It’s a message that grounds not just my family’s Christian faith but that of Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, non-believers — Americans of all backgrounds. It’s a message of unity and a message of decency and a message of hope that never goes out of style. And it’s one that we all need very much today.”

—President Obama’s remarks at the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree

We’re Reading

The New York Times reported on the ballooning immigration court backlog, explaining how the system is failing and leaving asylum seekers in limbo for years at a time.

Stars and Stripes reported that an extension of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program, which allows interpreters and translators who worked with the U.S. military and are now at risk to find safety in the United States, is included in the final defense bill. Congress will vote on the bill this week.

The Times of Israel highlighted a new Human Rights First and Anti-Defamation League report finding that Organization for Society and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) members are failing to adequately report hate crimes.

We’re Watching

CNN featured the story of a Syrian couple urging President-elect Donald Trump to take a “more humane approach” to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Around Town & On the Hill

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2016

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Emerging US Defense Challenges and Worldwide Threats.” General John Keane, USA (Ret.); Shawn Brimley, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at CNAS; Dr. Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow on the Project on International Order and Strategy at Brookings will testify. 9:30 AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2016

The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on “Examining the Costs of Overclassification on Transparency and Security.” 9:00 AM, 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

MONDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2016

The Institute for World Politics will host an event on “Islamic Jihad and the Role of National Security Law.” The event will feature Dr. Andrew McCarthy, Contributing Editor, National Review and Senior Fellow, National Review Institute; Sebastian Gorka, Professor of Strategy and Irregular Warfare, The Institute of World Politics; Mackubin Owens, Dean of Academics, The Institute of World Politics12:15 PM, Russell Senate Office Building, Room 385.

New America will hold a discussion on “Fighting for Humanity in War.” The discussion will feature Yves Daccord, Director-General, International Committee of the Red Cross; Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First; Mustafa Haid, Chairperson of Dawlaty Foundation & Yale World Fellow; Major General Paul Eaton (USA-Ret.); Rosa Brooks, Senior Future of War Fellow at New America1:30 PM, New America, 740 15th Street NW #900, Washington, DC 20005.

The George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs will host an event on “The Future of Immigration: Russian and German Perspectives.” The event will feature Dr. Marya Rozanova, Center for Civil, Social, Scientific and Cultural Initiatives. 4:00 PM, Elliot School of International Affairs, Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2016

The Atlantic Council will host an event on “Evaluating Western Sanctions on Russia.” It will feature Dr. Andrea Montanino, Director of Global Business and Economics Programs at the Atlantic Council; Dr. Sergey Aleksashenko, Senior Fellow at Brookings; Ambassador John Herbst, Director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center; David Aufhauser, Partner at Williams & Connolly LLP; Elizabeth Rosenberg, Director of Energy, Economics and Security Program at CNAS; Lynn Berry, Associated Press4:00 PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2016

The Council on Foreign Relations will hosts an event on “How Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution Advances Security Interests.” The event will feature Daniel Leaf, Former Director, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies; Alaa Murabit, Founder, Voice of Libyan Women. 9:15 AM, livestream on www.cfr.org.

The Council on Foreign Relations will hold an event on “Countering Violent Extremism by Engaging Women.” It will feature General John Allen, USMC-Ret., Brookings Institution; Jayne Huckerby, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Duke University; Adnan Kifayat, Head of the Global Security Ventures at Gen Next Foundation. 12:00 PM, livestream on www.cfr.org.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2016

The Center for American Progress will hold an event on “Ensuring Equality in 2017 – A Look Ahead at the Landscape for LGBT Rights at the State and Local Level.” The event will feature Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President, External Affairs, CAP; Governor Jack Markell, Delaware (D); Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield, District 3, Charlotte City Council; Lou Weaver, Transgender Programs Coordinator at Equality Texas; Laura E. Durso, Senior Director for LGBT Research and Communications Project, Center for American Progress. 12:00 PM, CAP, 1333 H Street NW, Washington, DC

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2016

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host an event titled “Combating Child Trafficking and Supporting Survivors through Strategic Development.” The event will feature Jean Geran, Co-Director of UW-STREETS Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Hillary Chester, Associate Director of Anti-Trafficking Program at USCCB. 1:00 PM, CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036

NEXT WEEK

2016 Human Rights Summit
On December 13 Human Rights First will hold its annual Human Rights Summit. The high-profile event brings together activists and leaders from government, business, the military, and faith communities to discuss today’s most pressing human rights problems and challenges for American leadership. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Summit has become Washington’s premier celebration of Human Rights Day—a call to action for American leadership in defense of freedom and democracy, at home and around the world. We hope you will join the conversation in person or online via our live stream.

This year’s program will also feature the awarding of the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To register for the 2016 Human Rights Summit visit humanrightsfirst.org.

Advocates and Allies in the Global Equality Movement: A Celebration of Human Rights Day
Join Human Rights First and Human Rights Campaign on December 12 to honor advocates and allies from around the world as we celebrate advances and mark continuing challenges facing LGBTQ communities globally. This year we will honor Caleb Orozco, executive director of United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) and lead plaintiff in the landmark case that overturned Belize's sodomy law, and Olena Hloba, co-founder of Parents Initiative Tergo, an ally organization of parents of LGBT people, Ukraine.

December 12, 2016 from 6:00-8:00 PM, Law Offices of Baker & McKenzie, 815 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Please RSVP here

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