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Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: February 29, 2016
February 29, 2016

Washington Week on Human Rights: February 29, 2016

Top News

Guantanamo Last week the Pentagon sent Congress the Obama Administration’s plan to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The plan includes the accelerated transfer of Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It also mandates an expedited review, pursuant to administrative Period Review Board (PRB) hearings, of those 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 not to exceed 60, according to the plan—will be relocated to one of thirteen stateside detention facilities. This will result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 91 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $4.8 million per detainee. Thirty-six of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 41 are eligible for PRB review. The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.” On Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Human Rights First will bring together military leaders, national security professionals, government officials, and legal experts to discuss the president’s plan, key obstacles to closing Guantanamo, and what can be done to overcome these challenges before President Obama leaves office. To attend this event, RSVP here.

Global Refugee Crisis Today, Human Rights First will release a new report calling on the United States to take a bold lead in providing safety to refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq. The report is based on findings from a trip last month to Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. Human Rights First found that Syrian refugees are increasingly at risk across the region as they face a lack of access to protection, border closures, and severe backlogs in the resettlement process, driving many to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe. The recommendations and findings come just hours after Macedonian police fired tear gas and stun grenades at several hundred Iraqi and Syrian refugees trying to cross into the nation from Greece, a passage that is blocked by gates. Reportedly, there are more than 22,000 total refugees currently stuck in Greece, including approximately 6,500 camped near the scene of today’s clash. This week, European Union leaders plan to hold a special summit with Turkey to discuss ways to coordinate a better solution to the current refugee crisis.

Call for Nominations Human Rights First is seeking nominations for the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award. The 2016 award will go to an individual or organization outside of the United States who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to human rights advocacy in areas such as human trafficking, religious freedom, LGBT rights, refugee protection, and defense of civil society, among others. The winner will be selected by a distinguished jury and will receive a trip to the United States to engage in advocacy and a $25,000 prize. Nominations for the 2016 award are due by March 10.

Quote of the Week

"With this plan, we have the opportunity, finally, to eliminate a terrorist propaganda tool, strengthen relationships with allies and partners, enhance our national security, and, most importantly, uphold the values that define us as Americans. I’m absolutely committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo."

—President Obama as he announced his plan to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo

We're Reading

The New York Times examined President Obama's plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Human Rights First's Raha Wala supported moving remaining detainees into the United States if that would lead to its closure.

General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and Major General Michael R. Lehnert (ret.) wrote an opinion piece for USA Today calling on Congress and the administration to work together to close Gitmo. Lehnert, who was the first commander of the site, also made the case for closure in U.S. News & World Report.

Human Rights First's Brian Dooley wrote in Defense One about what post-conflict politics may look like after the cessation of hostilities in Syria. He urges civil society activists to think of the future now, even though peace may by still yet be in the distant future. 

The Associated Press published an article examining where captured militants will be sent if they are moved from the Gitmo detention facility.

In an article quoting Human Rights First's Annick Febrey, Business Insider  discussed a new law banning the import of goods produced by forced labor into the United States. 

We're Watching

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell why he supports closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On the Hill

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Member Day – National Defense Priorities from Members for the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act.” 10:00 AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building 

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) will hold a briefing on “The Demand Factor in the Global Sex Trade: Human Trafficking as a Human Rights Crisis.” Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill; Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes; Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women; Ernie Allen, founder of Allen Global Consulting; Kubiki Pride, advocate and mother of survivor; Rev. Marian Hatcher, human trafficking coordinator at the Cook County, Ill. Sherriff’s Office; and Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, survivor advocate, will testify. 10:30 AM, 2255 Rayburn House Office Building    

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on World Wide Threats.” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Air Force Maj. Gen. James Marrs, director for intelligence (J-2) of the Joint Staff, will testify. 10:00 AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building  

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on "Who We Really Are: A Conversation with Syrian Refugees in America." The event will feature Taha Bali, assistant in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital (Homs, Syria); Kassem Eid, activist for Syria and Syrian refugees (Damascus, Syria); Qutaiba Idlbi, activist for Syria (Damascus, Syria); Mariela Shaker, concert violinist (Aleppo, Syria); and Robert McKenzie and Leon Wieseltier, Brookings fellows. 3:30PM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Saul/Zilkha Room, Washington, D.C.

Around Town

Monday, February 29, 2016

The American Foreign Policy Council will hold a debate on “The Executive Branch vs. Congressional Prerogatives in National Security Decisions.” 11:00 AM, 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building 

Georgetown University will launch its Center for Jewish Civilization and hold a conference on modern anti-Semitism in Europe. 8:00 AM, Georgetown University, 37th and O Streets NW, Hariri Building, Lohrfink Auditorium, Washington, DC  

Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs will host a discussion on “Radicals, Religion and Peace: Global Security in an Age of Terror.” 12:15 PM, Georgetown University, 37th and O Streets NW, Copley Formal Lounge, Washington, DC  

The Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) will hold a discussion on “A 21stCentury Refugee Crisis: What are the Stakes of Resettlement,” focusing on Syrian refugees. The event will feature former Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich,; Alberto Fernandez, vice president of the Middle East Media Research Institute; Jordan Bloom, opinion editor at the Daily Caller; and Candice Malcolm, fellow at SFS. 6:30 PM, SFS, 509 C Street NE, Washington, DC   

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New America will host a discussion on “Palestinian Refugees in an Increasingly Tumultuous Middle East.”  The event will feature Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency; Khaled Elgindy, fellow for the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; and Zaha Hassan, Middle East fellow for New America. 12:30 PM, New America, 740 15th Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced Studies (SAIS) will hold a lecture on “The Russia Challenge in 2016.”   Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Celeste Wallander will be the featured speaker. 6:00 PM, SAIS, Rome Building, 1619 Massachusetts Ave NW, Room 806, Washington, DC  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Human Rights First will bring together military leaders, national security professionals, government officials, and legal experts to discuss key obstacles to closing Guantanamo and what can be done to overcome these challenges before President Obama leaves office. The event will feature Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino; Paul Lewis, Department of Defense Special Envoy for Guantanamo Detention Closure; Lee Wolosky, Department of State Special Envoy for Guantanamo Detention Closure; Major General Michael R. Lehnert, USMC (Ret), First commander of the detention facility at Guantanamo; Cliff Sloan, Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and former Department of State Special Envoy for Guantanamo Detention Closure; and Alberto Mora, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Costs & Consequences of Torture Program and Former General Counsel, U.S. Navy. Carol Rosenberg, Military Affairs Correspondent for The Miami Herald, will serves as moderator.  A light breakfast and lunch will be served. 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM, 20 F Street Conference Center, 20 F Street NW,Washington, DC 20001 RSVP

The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “Human Rights Abuses in Putin’s Russia.” The event will feature Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill,; Robert Berschinski, deputy assistant secretary of State in the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy; Paula Dobriansky, senior fellow at Harvard University’s JFK Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; and John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center. 2:30 PM, Room TBA, Dirksen Senate Office Building 

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