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Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: October 20, 2014
October 20, 2014

Washington Week on Human Rights: October 20, 2014

Top News

TORTURE Over the weekend, The New York Times’ Charlie Savage reported that State Department attorneys are urging the president to “officially abandon” the George W. Bush Administration’s stance on the United Nations Convention Against Torture, arecommendation that has been met with some skepticism by defense and intelligence attorneys, who say they need more time to consider implications of adhering to the torture treaty. The Bush Administration interpreted the treaty, which bans “cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment” of prisoners, as not applying to CIA and military prisons overseas. That position drew bipartisan ire and was opposed by then-Senator Barack Obama. The Obama Administration must make its final decision on the matter before it travels to Geneva next month to appear before the United Nations Committee Against Torture, which monitors compliance with the torture treaty.

PRO BONO WEEK This week is Pro Bono Week, a time to celebrate the contributions of pro bono attorneys in the United States and around the world. Human Rights First will spend this week recognizing the work of attorneys from top-notch firms across the United States who partner with our organization to represent refugees on a pro bono basis. In 2013, these pro bono attorneys provided services worth more than $33 million to more than 800 refugees seeking asylum and won more than 90% of their cases. Two of the firms providing pro bono services in partnership with Human Rights First, Latham & Watkins LLP and McDermott Will & Emery, will be recognized this week during the organization’s annual Human Rights First Award Dinner in New York City. Learn more about some of these attorneys and their refugee clients by viewing our Refugee Voices project.

BAHRAIN Yesterday, a Bahraini court refused to release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, whose trial began on Sunday and was quickly adjourned until October 29. Rajab is charged with insulting the Bahrain ministries of defense and interior with a Tweet posted on September 28 saying that the Bahrain security institutions are “the first ideological incubator” for Bahrainis joining ISIS. The plight of Nabeel and other human rights defenders in Bahrain is explored today in an opinion piece published in The Guardian by Maryam al-Khawaja, who was recently released from prison in Bahrain but continues to face charges for allegedly assaulting a police officer as she arrive in the Kingdom to visit her ailing father.

UKRAINE ELECTIONS Ahead of this coming Sunday’s legislative election in Ukraine, European Union leaders are urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to denounce a second election planned by pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and scheduled to take place on November 2. This coming weekend’s elections could be a tipping point for Ukrainians seeking a transparent, stable democracy. Last week, Human Rights First issued a blueprint showing how the United States can help Ukraine become a vibrant democracy as it works to address a series of challenges, including corruption, hate crime, and the struggle to develop civil society. The blueprint notes that democracy development and the rule of law must be dealt with simultaneously in Ukraine, where there is conflict in the east, a shaky economy, and energy dependence on a hostile Russia.

Quote of the Week

"What the attorney general said about our liability abroad, it was all wrong, and we need to wash it away. We shouldn’t have done it, and we need to send a signal to the world that we mean it, we should not have done this, we misinterpreted the convention. This is a really important worldwide ban that we need to get behind again.”

Abraham D. Sofaer, the State Department lawyer who negotiated the United States adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Torture for President Reagan, addressing the George W. Bush Administration’s interpretation of the treaty

We're Reading

In a piece for Foreign Policy, Elizabeth Winkler examines the eroding democracy in Hungary in the hands of Viktor Orban as the country faces removal from The Community Democracies.

Jay Michaelson for the Daily Beast reported the human rights activists and LGBT allies are taking to twitter to speak out against the use of social media by the Egyptian government to track down and arrest members of the LGBT community.

We're Listening

NPR’s David Welna checked in on the Senate intelligence committee’s CIA torture report. In the piece, he interviewed Glenn Carle, a former CIA interrogator, who spoke about the importance of the public seeing the committee’s findings. Carle was one of the 17 national security and intelligence professionals who recently signed a statement decrying torture is illegal, ineffective, counterproductive, and immoral.

We're Watching

In the run up to next month’s mid-term elections, a Meet the Press insider roundtable examines key congressional races around the nation and what it may mean on Capitol Hill.

Around Town

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Georgetown University Law Center will hold its 11th annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference. 9AM, Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Avenue NW, McDonough Hall, Hart Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Center on Global Interests (CGI) will host a discussion on "Ukraine Elections: An End to the Crisis?" The event will feature former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Green Miller, senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, co-chairman of the Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America and director of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation; Peter Voitsekhovsky, research director at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and former journalist for BBC, Radio Liberty and the Voice of America; and Konstantin Avramov, CGI program director. 2PM, CGI, 1050 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.
The Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program (WWC) will host a discussion on "The Rise of Global Anti-Semitism." The discussion will feature Walter Reich, professor of international affairs, ethics and human behavior at George Washington University; and Roya Hakakian, fellow, writer and journalist at the New York Times. 12PM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The National Immigration Forum will hold an "Immigration 2020 National Strategy Session." The event will feature Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin, president and CEO of the American Action Forum; Helen Aguirre Ferre, host of Zona Politica at Univision America Radio; Stephan Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief; Robert Klein, political director for ABC News; Donald Graham, CEO and chairman of graham Holdings; Ana Navarro, contributor at CNN and CNN Espanol; Egbert Perry, chairman and CEO of Integral; Juan Williams, correspondent for Fox News Channel; and Wendy Kallergis, president and CEO at Great Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association. 9AM, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Pavilion Room, Washington, D.C.

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