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Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: March 16, 2015
March 16, 2015

Washington Week on Human Rights: March 16, 2015

Top News

WAR AUTHORIZATION On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will appear before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss President Obama’s request for Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Human Rights First has called for a narrowly tailored AUMF that would sunset the 2001 AUMF. That call has been echoed by a nonpartisan group of top national security lawyers who signed a statement of principles designed to advise lawmakers as they consider the president’s AUMF request. Several members of this group have since provided further guidance to Congress on the administration’s draft bill.

TRAFFICKING This week, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, legislation introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), will continue to work its way through the Senate. The legislation includes improvements to victim restitution and law enforcement reporting, increased victim empowerment in the context of criminal procedures, and further funding for and implementation of law enforcement training. The bill is currently stalled because it also contains an amendment that blocks federal funding for abortions. Human Rights First has supported key provisions in the bill that increase risk and accountability for perpetrators as the organization has partnered with prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state, and local government, and the civil rights community to launch a major public education and advocacy effort to disrupt the business of human trafficking. The group of ambassadors is co-chaired by former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis J. Freeh. Human Rights First has also 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.

FAMILIES AT THE SOUTHERN BORDER Tomorrow, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on "Securing the Southwest Border: Perspectives from Beyond the Beltway." Among those testifying are a border patrol agent, a local sheriff and landowners.   Human Rights First’s fact sheet “How to Manage the Increase in Families at the Border” details steps the United States can take to protect families crossing the southern border fleeing violence and persecution.

Quote of the Week

“Employing a mix of creativity and chutzpah, the Obama administration nonetheless argues that ISIL falls within the 2001 AUMF, as a successor to al-Qaida... Only the executive and select members of Congress can know the identity of the enemies in this long — and, in many ways, secret — war. For a nation that prides itself on democratic accountability, this is an untenable situation.”

--Jennifer Daskal, assistant professor at Washington College of law and former counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice,  for The Roanoke Times.

We're Reading

In a piece for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Heather Brandon outlined three key questions that Congress should be asking the administration about the proposed authorization for use of force against ISIL.

The Guardian’s  Lauren Gambino reported on the slow pace of U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees, highlighting how the administration’s lack of guidance on applying the material support provision has barred many vulnerable Syrians from receiving protection.

As Sweden broke diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia last week over human rights concerns, Voice of America reported on new recommendations issued by Human Rights First for the U.S. government to press Saudi Arabia to combat extremism and respect human rights.

Newsweek features the story of El Mundo newspaper journalist Javier Espinosa, who was held captive by ISIS from September 2013 to March 2014. Over the weekend, Espinosa revealed that his captors held him in a facility designed to be the jihadist answer to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

We're Listening

NPR interviewed The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg about the rise of antisemitism in Europe, noting that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Jews to live free from discrimination and threats of violence. Learn more here.

On the Hill

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on "The FY2016 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Military Departments." Secretary of the Army John McHugh; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno; Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert; Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.; Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James; and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III, will testify. 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building     

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on "Securing the Southwest Border: Perspectives from Beyond the Beltway." Chris Cabrera, border patrol agent for the Rio Grande Valley Sector, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, representing the National Border Patrol Council; Mark Dannels, sheriff of Cochise County, Ariz.; Howard Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Arizona landowner; Othal Brand, farmer from McAllen, Texas; and Monica Weisberg-Stewart, chairwoman of the Texas Border Coalition's Committee on Immigration  and Border Security, will testify. 10AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on "The President's Proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against ISIL and the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense.” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter; and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, will testify. 10AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Does the President's FY2016 Budget Request Address the Crises in the Middle East and North Africa?" Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; and Paige Alexander, assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for the Middle East, will testify. 2PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Africa and Global health Policy Subcommittee hearing on "The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Seven Months Later: Progress and Setbacks." Ben Leo, senior fellow and director of the Center for Global Development's Rethinking US Development Policy Initiative; Karen Daniel, executive director, CFO of Black and Veatch, and member of the President's Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, Overland Park, Kan., will testify. 9:30AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Reining in Amnesty: Texas v. United States and Its Implications." 3:30PM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building 

The House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform will hold a second hearing to review the “Department of Homeland Security’s Policies and Procedures for the Apprehension, Detention, and Release of Non-Citizens Unlawfully Present in the United States.”  9:00a.m.,  2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a discussion on "Foreign Policy Hot Spots." The event will feature David Sanger, national security correspondent at The New York Times; Carol Lee, White House correspondent at The Wall Street Journal; James Rosen, chief Washington correspondent at Fox News; and Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent at CBS News and anchor of "Face the Nation.” 4:45PM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Second Floor Conference Center, Washington, D.C.

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