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May 11, 2015

Washington Week on Human Rights: May 11, 2015

Top News

Gulf Leaders to the U.S. Gulf state leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman will meet with President Obama this week at Camp David. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry met with foreign ministers from the Gulf in Paris. He said the focus of this week’s talks will largely be on establishing a series of new security commitments between the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council designed to target terrorism. Last month, President Obama said he planned to have “tough conversations” with Gulf leaders about addressing internal challenges, including human rights abuses. On Tuesday, Human Rights First will host a briefing to discuss ongoing rights abuses in the Gulf region and how the United States should respond. Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley recently returned from the UAE and published a Huffington Post piece calling on the president to use this week’s talks to confront Gulf leaders on the use of terrorism laws and other spurious justifications to repress their citizens, including the jailing of peaceful dissidents. This week, Human Rights First will issue a new blueprint outlining recommendations for the United States to promote stability and human rights in the UAE. Human Rights First also recently issued reports on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Congress Takes Up Defense Authorization This week, both chambers of Congress will turn attention to the FY2016 defense authorization legislation. The House is scheduled to vote on its version of the legislation as members of the Senate Armed Services Committee continue to finalize their own bill during a closed-door markup. Among the key human rights issues under consideration are provisions related to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 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. For more information about the Guantanamo-related provisions in the defense authorization legislation, please see Human Rights First’s fact sheets “ The Walorski Gauntanamo Transfer Bill (H.R. 401),” “ Myth v. Fact: Proposed Guantanamo Transfer Bill and Guantanamo Risk Assessments,” and “ Guantanamo by the Numbers.” Human Rights First has also issued a blueprint, “ How to Close Guantanamo,” detailing steps the administration should take to meet the president’s goal.

Golden Dawn Trial Tomorrow, the trial continues in the case of Golden Dawn members charged with operating a criminal organization that has been accused of dozens of violent racist and political attacks. Last week, Human Rights First urged the U.S. Embassy in Greece to monitor the trial to encourage transparency, a fair trial, and adherence to the rule of law. The antisemitic, xenophobic, homophobic Golden Dawn party burst into Greek politics in 2012, winning 18 seats in the Greek Parliament. Its top leaders were arrested in September 2013, following the murder of an anti-fascist musician. The party nevertheless won more than 10 percent of the vote in the May 2014 European elections, gaining three seats in the European Parliament. Thirteen of the 18 Golden Dawn parliamentarians under indictment were re-elected to their seats in January 2015. The party’s rise is documented in a recent report by Human Rights First, “We’re not Nazis, but...The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care.”

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia Sunday will mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), a day when human rights advocates around the world will raise awareness of the ongoing struggle for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Human Rights First will commemorate IDAHO by hosting a May 19th Congressional briefing and reception featuring LGBT activists from the Caribbean, including Jamaican human rights defender Angeline Jackson. Jackson was publicly recognized for her courageous work by President Obama during his recent trip to Kingston.”

Quote of the Week

"Let’s make sure that we keep striving to fulfill our founding ideals—that we’re a country where no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, if we work hard and take responsibility, every American will have the opportunity to make of our lives what we will. Let’s stand united with our allies, in Europe and beyond, on behalf of our common values—freedom, security, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world—and against bigotry and hatred in all their forms so that we give meaning to that pledge: ‘Never forget. Never again.’”

— President Obama’s Weekly Address Honoring the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day

We're Reading

In a piece for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Annick Febrey urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to include increased funding for initiatives to combat modern slavery in the budget for the Department of Justice.

Helena Smith reported for The Guardian on the postponement of the trial of dozens of members of the Greek extremist Golden Dawn Party. Human Rights First has urged the U.S. Embassy in Greece to monitor the trial to ensure it meets international law standards.

The Washington Examiner reported on President Obama’s remarks on TPP trade negotiations that he gave at Nike headquarters on Friday, noting that the American business community can do much more to protect vulnerable workers and root out modern slavery from their supply chains.

We're Watching

Euronews examined the tension surrounding the trial of Golden Dawn leaders charged with operating a criminal organization that has been accused of dozens of violent racist and political attacks.

On the Hill

WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a closed markup of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act. 9:30AM, 222 Russell Senate Office Building (Closed)

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "A Pathway to Freedom: Rescue and Refuge for Sex Trafficking Victims." Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes; and Tim Ballard, founder and CEO of the Operation Underground Railroad, will testify. 2:30PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will hold a discussion on "opportunities for bipartisan achievement in the 114th Congress." The event will feature Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.; and Jason Grumet, president of BPC. 12PM, BPC, 1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.

The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW) will host a discussion on "The Camp David Summit: Redefining the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Relationship?" The event will feature Kristin Diwan, senior adjunct professorial lecturer in American University's School of International Service and visiting scholar in George Washington University's Institute for Middle East Studies; Bernard Haykel, professor of near eastern studies and director of Princeton University's Institute for Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia; Hisham Melhem, Washington Bureau chief of the Al Arabiya News Channel; Judith Yaphe, visiting professor of international affairs in George Washington University's Institute for Middle East Studies and non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington; and Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. 12PM, AGSIW, 1050 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1060, Washington, D.C.

TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015

Human Rights First will host a discussion on “The Tough Conversation,” a panel focusing on the Obama Administration’s promise to raise human rights concerns with Gulf region leaders during this week’s meetings. The event will feature Brian Dooley, Director of Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights First; Kristin Smith Diwan, senior adjunct professorial lecturer in American University's School of International Service and visiting scholar in George Washington University's Institute for Middle East Studies; Matar Ebrahim Matar, former member of the Bahraini Parliament and 2013 NED Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow; David Weinberg, Senior Fellow, Foundaiton for Defense of Democracies; and moderator Neil Hicks, Director of Human Rights Promotion, Human Rights First. 10AM, Human Rights First, 805 15th Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, D.C.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold a discussion on "Central Asia in a Reconnecting Eurasia: U.S. Policy Interests and Recommendations," focusing on the impact of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The event will feature Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal; State Department Executive Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe, Middle East and Africa Michael Lally; John Hamre, president and CEO of CSIS; and CSIS Fellows William Courtney; Andrew Kuchins, Martha Olcott and Jeffrey Mankoff. 9AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will hold a discussion on "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights: Locally Grown, Globally Protected."5:30PM, SAIS, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2015

The Heritage Foundation will hold its annual Colonel James D. McGinley Lecture on "The State of the World." The event will feature Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis; and James Jay Carafano, vice president of the Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at Heritage. 5PM, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Allison Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

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