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Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: June 22, 2015
June 23, 2015

Washington Week on Human Rights: June 22, 2015

Top News

Combatting Violent Extremism This week, from June 24-28, Kenya will host a regional conference on countering violent extremism. The gathering will bring together more than 300 participants from at least 21 African countries. Those attending will include representatives from the Obama Administration, renowned international security scholars, intelligence professionals, religious scholars, private sector representatives, as well as regional and international non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights First. The Kenya summit marks the fifth in an ongoing series of regional and gatherings following the White House’s February Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.

Torture Last week, the Senate voted 78-21 to pass an historic bipartisan amendment to ensure that the use of torture or cruel treatment is never again the official policy of the United States. The legislation was introduced earlier this month by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as an amendment to the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation was supported by dozens of intelligence and interrogation professionals, and retired generals and admirals, including former Director of the CIA Gen. David Petreaus. The Senate’s strong support of the amendment came just days before this week’s United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, a day designated to push for the eradication of torture around the world.

Family Immigration Detention On June 22 and 23, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives will visit the family detention centers in Dilley and Karnes, Texas, to examine whether the U.S.’s family detention policies are in line with the nation’s longstanding tradition of global leadership in the protection of refugees fleeing from violence and persecution. The visits come just two days after World Refugee Day, designated by the United Nations to honor the courage and resilience of those forced to flee their homelands because of violence, war, and persecution. Human Rights First marked World Refugee Day by releasing its new report, “U.S. Detention of Families Seeking Asylum: A One-Year Update,” chronicling the problems faced by mothers and children held at family detention centers in the United States, including lack of counsel, barriers to asylum, and the trauma of detention. Human Rights First has pressed the Obama Administration to end the practice of putting families seeking asylum in immigration detention facilities. Immigration authorities can use more cost effective and humane alternatives to detention if needed. In addition, the organization has urged that those seeking asylum have access to counsel so that they have the opportunity for a fair consideration of their asylum claim.

Bahrain On Friday, June 19, Ebrahim Sharif, leader of Bahraini liberal secular group Waad, was released from prison. His release has been hailed as an important step for Bahrain, where the Kingdom’s failure to reform since widespread pro-democracy protests broke out in February 2011 has resulted in years of instability. Sharif was tortured and convicted by a military court in 2011 with other peaceful opposition leaders in a violent government response to calls for reform. He was sentenced to five years in jail. A major international campaign has since called for his release, as well as the release of the dozen major figures jailed with him. Sharif’s release came just days after the prominent leader of Bahrain’s main opposition group al Wefaq was sentenced to four years in prison.

Quote of the Week

“I strongly support the extension of the provisions of the U.S. Army Field Manual that currently govern the actions of the U.S. military to all U.S. government personnel and contractors. Our Nation has paid a high price in recent decades for the information gained by the use of techniques beyond those in the field manual – and, in my view, that price far outweighed the value of the information gained through the use of techniques beyond those in the manual.”

—Gen. David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA, in support of the McCain-Feinstein anti-torture amendment

We're Reading

In a piece for The Global Post, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley highlighted Kenya’s crackdown on civil society, urging President Obama to demonstrate support for human rights defenders during his trip next month.

In a piece for The Houston Chronicle, General Don Guter (ret.) made the case that it’s time for a legislative ban on torture.

NPR’s David Welna spoke to Lt. Gen. Charles Otstott and Col. Steven Kleinman about the need for the McCain-Feinstein amendment to ensure that torture remains illegal for future administrations.

In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer argued for the need to end the cruel practice of detaining mothers and children in immigration detention facilities.

The released from prisonMiami Herald reported on new findings showing that LGBT asylum seekers have a better chance of winning their cases if they are not held in immigration detention.

The Guardian, Financial Times, and AFP reported on the sentencing of the leader of Bahrain’s main opposition group to four years in prison. This was followed two days later by the unexpected release of another Bahraini political prisoner, which was reported by the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

The Associated Press and McClatchy reported that the U.S. appeals court struck down that conviction of a top-level Guantanamo Bay detainee, demonstrating the need for these cases to be tried in federal courts instead of military commissions.

The Washington Post highlighted the appointment of veteran political strategist Maurice Daniel as the new senior director of government relations at Human Rights First.

We're Watching

In honor of World Refugee Day, Human Rights First launched a new installment of its video series Refugee Voices, which features the stories of pro-bono attorneys who partner with Human Rights First to represent asylum seekers who come to the United States to flee from violence and persecution. The most recent video features the story of CJ, a gay man from Peru who was physically abused for perceived “feminine” behavior, and his attorney, Audrey Powers, then an associate at Fish & Richardson P.C.

On the Hill

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2015

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Admitting Syrian Refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat." 10AM, 311 Cannon House Office Building

The House Armed Services Committee’s Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee hearing on "The Strategy to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL): Are We on the Right Path?" Linda Robinson, senior international policy analyst for the RAND Corporation; Brian Fishman, non-resident fellow in West Point's Combating Terrorism Center; and Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Military & Security Studies Program, will testify. 2PM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The Atlantic Council and Pew Research Center will hold a discussion on "America's Role in the World: How Others See Us," focusing on the new "U.S. Image and Balance of Power" survey. The event will feature Claire Yorke, visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council; Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at Pew Research Center; James Cunningham, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; Nora Bensahel, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; and Barry Pavel, director of the Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. 2PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The McCain Institute holds a discussion on human rights and democracy. 5:30PM, McCain Institute, 1777 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

THURSDAY, JUNE 25, 2015

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) will hold a hearing on "Civil and Political Rights in Uzbekistan and Central Asia: Implications for Post-2014 U.S. Foreign Policy." The hearing will feature Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia Daniel Rosenblum; Jeff Goldstein, senior policy analyst for Eurasia at the Open Society Foundations; Allison Gill, independent expert on Central Asia; and Sanjar Umarov, former political prisoner. 2PM, HVC-210, U.S. Capitol

Around Town

MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2015

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) will hold a discussion on "A New Foreign Policy for America." The event will feature Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; and Aaron David Miller, vice president of new initiatives at WWC. 12PM,WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C.

TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2015

The Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security will host an address on "A Strategy for America." The event will feature House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. 9AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Freedom House will hold a discussion on "Nations in Transit: Democracy on the Defensive," focusing on "democratic governance in Central Europe to Central Asia." The event will feature David Greene, co-host of NPR's "Morning Edition"; Will Englund, assistant foreign editor at the Washington Post; Tim Judah, reporter and political analyst at the Economist; Sylvana Habdank-Kolaczkowska, project director of Nations in Transit at Freedom House; and Mark Lagon, president of Freedom House. 12:30PM, Freedom House, 1850 M Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, D.C.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2015

The Atlantic Council and Pew Research Center will hold a discussion on "America's Role in the World: How Others See Us," focusing on the new "U.S. Image and Balance of Power" survey. The event will feature Claire Yorke, visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council; Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at Pew Research Center; James Cunningham, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; Nora Bensahel, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; and Barry Pavel, director of the Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. 2PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The McCain Institute holds a discussion on human rights and democracy. 5:30PM, McCain Institute, 1777 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

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