On human rights, the United States must be a beacon. America is strongest when our policies and actions match our values.More
Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: January 26, 2015
January 26, 2015

Washington Week on Human Rights: January 26, 2015

Top News

GUANTANAMO The military commission trial of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi continues this week at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Human Rights First will observe the proceeding. Meanwhile, President Obama is doubling down on efforts to close the facility, noting in last week’s State of the Union Address, "It makes no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. It is not who we are. It is time to close Gitmo."There are currently 122 detainees at Guantanamo, and about half of those remaining have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. Human Rights First has issued a blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo,” detailing steps the administration should take to meet the president’s goal.

TRAFFICKING Today and tomorrow, the House will consider a dozen human trafficking bills targeting these modern day slavery crimes that generate approximately $150 billion annually. The debate in Congress comes just days before Human Rights First convenes a diverse group of government, military, business, non-profit, and civil rights leaders to develop a multi-sector strategy to combat human trafficking by disrupting the criminal networks that profit from this human rights scourge. The working group - co-chaired by General Charles C. Krulak (ret.), former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and The Honorable Louis J. Freeh, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – will come together in Washington, DC, for strategy sessions focused on building consensus around an action plan for the U.S. government and businesses to increase the risks and decrease the rewards for perpetrators and enablers of modern day slavery. The organization recently issued a blueprint, "How to Disrupt the Business of Human Trafficking,” that outlines steps the United States can take to weaken the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business.

LORETTA LYNCH CONFIRMATION On Wednesday and Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. Lynch, a career federal prosecutor who once served as a volunteer legal advisor to the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda, is poised to become the first female African American attorney general. Lynch is likely to face questions related to human rights issues such as immigration, human trafficking and our nation’s approach to terror.

PRESIDENTIAL TRAVEL Over the weekend, President Obama traveled to India, where he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As the trip began, Human Rights First and other human rights advocates urged the president to raise human rights concerns, including India’s vast human trafficking trade and laws that criminalize homosexuality, during his discussions with Modi. Tomorrow, President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia to pay respects to the family of King Abdullah, who died last week. Abdullah’s successor is King Salman, the Kingdom’s former defense minister and deputy prime minister.

Quote of the Week

“As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims, the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech and advocate for political prisoners and condemn the persecution of women or religious minorities or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do, but because ultimately, they make us safer.”

—President Obama, 2015 State of the Union Address

We're Reading

Newsweek's Lucy Westcott reported on last week's U.N. General Assembly session addressing the rise of antisemitism in Europe. Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino testified before the group saying, "the rise of antisemitism in Europe presents a daunting political challenge." Read her full testimony here.

​As President Obama headed to India on Sunday, The New York Times reported that groups including Human Rights First were urging him to publicly raise human right concerns with Prime Minister Modi during his visit.

Writing for VICE News, Major General Michael Lehnert (ret.) ​urged the president to renew his pledge to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay arguing that each delay in closing Guantanamo threatens our national security.

According to International Business Times, a Russian court has convicted and fined the founder of the LGBT support group Children-404 for violating the discriminatory propaganda law. Learn more about Russia's targeting of LGBT people here.

We're Watching

This week marks 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. CNN has launched “Voices of Auschwitz,” an interactive web experience featuring videos of interviews with holocaust survivors and articles detailing the experiences of survivors’ children.

On the Hill

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on global challenges and U.S. national security strategy. Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, former commander of the U.S. Central Command; retired Army Gen. John Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army; and retired Navy Adm. William Fallon, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, will testify. 9:30AM, G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Nigeria on the Brink?" Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs Robert Jackson; J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center; Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo, principal partner at Bonajo Badejo & Co.; Emmanuel Ogebe, manager of the Jubilee Campaign USA's Justice for Jos Project; and Chris Fomunyoh, senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa at the National Democratic Institute, will testify. 2PM, 2200 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet to organize for the 114th Congress. 2PM, 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the "Impact of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and Sequestration on National Security." Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno; Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Jonathan Greenert; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III; and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. will testify. 9:30AM, 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on "The National Interest: Articulating The Case For American Leadership In The World." Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., New York, N.Y., will testify. 10AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be U.S. attorney general. 10AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on global challenges and U.S. national security strategy. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., New York, N.Y.; former Secretary of State George Shultz, distinguished fellow in Stanford University's Hoover Institution; and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of the National Democratic Institute, will testify. 9:30AM, G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be U.S. attorney general. 10AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building

Around Town

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) will hold a policy forum on "Expanding Counterterrorism Partnerships: U.S. Efforts to Tackle the Evolving Terrorist Threat." The event will feature Tina Kaidanow, ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department. 12PM, WINEP, 1828 L Street NW, Suite 1050, Stern Library and Conference Room, Washington, D.C.

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) will host a discussion on "Beyond Survival," the campaign by the National Domestic Workers Alliance to end the human trafficking of domestic workers. 12:30PM, AFL-CIO, 815 16th Street NW, Room 7012, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The National Press Foundation will host an event on "Capitol Hill Issues Briefing: The Federal Budget." The event will feature Andrew Taylor, national staff writer at the Associated Press; Kathleen Peroff, founder of Peroff and Associates; Marilyn Geewax, senior business news editor at National Public Radio; and Steve Gettinger, deputy managing editor at CQ Weekly. 9AM, Woodrow Wilson Center, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will host a discussion on "U.S. Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East: Priorities and Problems." The event will feature Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson. 1PM, SAIS, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Kenney Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Heritage Foundation and the Project for the Common Defense will host a discussion on "Department in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities Facing Secretary of Defense Nominee Ashton Carter. The event will feature Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute; Bryan McGrath, deputy director of the Hudson Institute's Center for American Seapower; Jerry McGinn, president of McGinn Defense Consulting LLC; Michaela Dodge, policy analyst for defense and strategy policy at the Heritage Foundation; and Christopher Griffin, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative. 2PM, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Lehrman Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Women's Foreign Policy Group will hold a discussion on "Human Rights and National Security." The event will feature Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski. 12PM, Wilderness Society, 1615 M Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Sign Up for Washington Week