Human Rights on Capitol Hill Newsletter – November Edition

To view the PDF version click here: Human Rights on Capitol Hill November 2019

Human Rights on Capitol Hill   

published by Amnesty International USA  

 November 20, 2019  

 In this edition of Human Rights on Capitol Hill:  

1) This Month’s Feature – The Remaking of Northeast Syria in October 2019

Turkey/Syria – Amnesty International Demands that Turkey Suspend its Military Offensive in Northern Syria 

2) Major Middle East Developments 

a) Israel/Palestine – Secretary Pompeo’s Announcement on Israeli Settlements Violates Geneva Conventions and International Consensus on Illegality of Settlements 

b) Iran – Iranian Security Forces Must Stop Using Excessive Force on Peaceful Protesters 

c) Saudi Arabia Amnesty International Condemns Saudi Arabia’s Announcement Categorizing Feminism, Homosexuality and Atheism as Extremist Ideas 

d) Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces Must Stop Using Excessive Force on Peaceful Protesters 

e) Lebanon – Lebanese Authorities Must Stop Using Excessive Force on Peaceful Protesters 

f) Libya – Congress Should Pass the Libya Stabilization Act

g) Afghanistan – Congress Should Pass the Afghan Women’s Inclusion in Negotiations Act 

3) U.S.-Mexico Border  

a) Congress Must Provide Oversight to Dangerous Migrant Protection Protocols (“MPP”) Policy

b) New Interim Final Rule Seeks to Implement Asylum Cooperative Agreements Between U.S., Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador

c) Alejandra Barrera Urges Congress to End the Detention of Transgender Immigrants

d) Scott Warren Faces 10 Years in Prison for Giving Aid to Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border

4) China – Amnesty International USA Urges the House to Pass Legislation Holding Chinese Government Accountable for Detention of Over One Million Uyghurs

5) United Kingdom – Migrant Deaths Highlight Increasing Perils for Migrants in Europe

6) Jordan – Jordanian Authorities Must End Abusive Male Guardianship System

7) U.S. – Rather Than Ending Wars, the Trump Administration Has Made Them Far More Deadly for Civilians

 

What’s Coming Down the Pike? 

U.S.-Mexico Border – November 22, 2 pm: Amnesty International USA’s Americas Advocacy Director Charanya Krishnaswami will testify at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Remain in Mexico policy and humanitarian conditions at the U.S. southern border. 

Full November Newsletter  

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1) This Month’s Feature – The Remaking of Northeast Syria in October 2019 

Turkey/Syria – Amnesty International Demands that Turkey Suspend its Military Offensive in Northern Syria. On November 11, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director published an op-ed in the Washington Post on President Erdogan’s November 13 White House meeting with President Trump. Despite the Turkish government’s insistence that the military operation was necessary to stop terrorism and secure peace, it has devastated civilians. During the offensive in Syria, Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups committed serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that killed and injured civilians. As of November 11, up to 300,000 people were at risk of displacement. Erdogan has also made clear his intentions to repatriate up to 3.6 million Syrian refugees to the newly created so-called “safe zone” or “buffer zone” in Syria. Amnesty International demands that Turkey not deport Syrian refugees as it violates their human rights and international legal standards. For more information on Syria, contact Philippe Nassif at [email protected]. 

Turkish Authorities Arrest Nearly 300 Citizens in Crackdown Against Dissent. Since Turkey’s military offensive in Syria in October, Turkish authorities have detained 267 people and investigated 839 social media accounts for commenting or reporting on the incursionTurkish authorities have accused journalists, social media users and protesters of “terrorism” and subjected them tcriminal investigation, arbitrary detention and travel bansAmnesty International is calling on Turkish authorities to end the crackdown on dissenters. For more information on Turkey, contact Daniel Balson at [email protected]. 

Above: On November 13 President Erdogan met with President Trump at the White House following Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria. 

On October 31, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on “The Human Toll of Turkey’s Policy at Home and Abroad.” Amnesty International USA submitted a statement highlighting the rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis in Syria and how Turkey’s incursion into Syria constitutes war crimes. 

2) Major Middle East Developments 

a) Israel/Palestine – Secretary Pompeo’s Announcement on Israeli Settlements Violates Geneva Conventions and International Consensus on Illegality of Settlements.Secretary Pompeo’s November 19 announcement places the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank at increased risk by giving Israel the green light to continue with its settlement building and expansion policy which contributes to the human rights crisis in the area. The construction and maintenance of settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, breaches international law and amounts to war crimes. Amnesty International calls on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activity as a first step to dismantling all Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (“OPT”) and relocating Israeli civilians living in such settlements outside of the OPT. 

b)Iran – Iranian Security Forces Must Stop Using Excessive Force on Peaceful Protesters.As of November 19, Iranian security forces have killed at least 106 protesters in 21 cities. The death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed. Iranian security forces have committed unlawful killings and used excessive force to crush largely peaceful protests in more than 100 cities across Iran sparked by a hike in fuel prices on November 15. Iranian authorities must immediately end the brutal crackdown and ensure the rights to free assembly and expression are respected by ending the internet shutdown. 

c) Saudi Arabia – Amnesty International Condemns Saudi Arabia’s Announcement Categorizing Feminism, Homosexuality and Atheism as Extremist Ideas.  On November 12, Saudi Arabia’s state security agency announced that feminism, homosexuality, and atheism would be officially categorized as “extremist ideas.” This announcement is extremely dangerous and has serious implications for the rights to free expression. Amnesty International calls on the U.S. to pressure Saudi Arabia to protect free expression and to release jailed human rights defenders. 

d) Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces Must Stop Using Excessive Force on Peaceful Protesters. In late October, Iraqi security forces and anti-riot police opened fire on peaceful protesters with live ammunition and tear gas. As of November 11, violence from the protests killed 319 and injured 15,000 people. The U.S. must press the Iraqi government to investigate these events and ensure all those responsible are held accountable for their actions. 

e) Lebanon – Lebanese Authorities Must Stop Using Excessive Force on Peaceful Protesters. Since October 18, Lebanese security forces have used excessive force to disperse overwhelmingly peaceful protests, including by firing huge amounts of tear gas into crowds, chasing protesters down streets and alleys at gunpoint and beating them. On October 26, the Lebanese army open fired to disperse protests in northern Lebanon, seriously injuring at least two people. The U.S. must pressure the Lebanese government to protect protesters and their right to free expression. 

f) Libya – Congress Should Pass the Libya Stabilization Act. This legislation (H.R. 4644) supports a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the Libyan conflict. In late October, Amnesty International documented evidence of potential war crimes by both the UN-backed Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army, who have been fighting in and around Tripoli. This legislation will help deter foreign interference in Libya and prevent the continued supply of weapons, which violate the UN arms embargo.  

g) Afghanistan – Congress Should Pass the Afghan Women’s Inclusion in Negotiations Act. On October 23, Amnesty International co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing to press Congress to affirm support for women and girls in Afghanistan and develop policy solutions that will protect them as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. Amnesty International USA urges Congress to pass the Afghan Women’s Inclusion in Negotiations Act (H.R. 4097), which mandates the creation of a plan that prioritizes women as part of any reconstruction efforts. After nearly 18 years of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, Congress must ensure that Afghan women are included in the peace process.  

3) U.S.-Mexico Border  

a) Congress Must Provide Oversight to Dangerous Migrant Protection Protocols (“MPP”) Policy. In a statement for a November 19 House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing, Amnesty International outlined the human rights violations inherent in the MPP, informally known as “Remain in Mexico.” Since January, nearly 60,000 people have been forcibly returned to Mexico under the program. The program has made a mockery of the right to seek asylum by forcibly returned tens of thousands of individuals to potential grave danger and is operated with a dangerous lack of transparency. Amnesty International USA calls on Congress to defund MPP in FY 2020 appropriations, urge DHS and DOJ to allow public access to secretive tent courts, and undertake congressional delegations to areas where MPP is actively in operation. 

b) New Interim Final Rule Seeks to Implement Asylum Cooperative Agreements Between U.S., Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.The President’s new interim final rule could be deadly for people seeking asylum as it would require people to request asylum in the dangerous countries that they pass through en route to the U.S. People should not be forced to seek safety in places that are anything but safe. U.S. policies cannot continue to punish asylum-seekers who have been forced to flee their homes. 

c) Alejandra Barrera Urges Congress to End the Detention of Transgender Immigrants. For almost two years, Amnesty International has campaigned on behalf of Alejandra Barrera, a Salvadoran transgender asylum seeker who was detained for 21 months. In late October, Alejandra met with 11 Members of Congress and spoke at a packed Hill briefing. She urged Congress and DHS to end the detention of trans asylum seekers who are subject to substandard health care, deplorable conditions, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in violation of international legal standards. 

Above: On October 21, Alejandra and Amnesty International staff met with Senator Murray regarding Homeland Security’s treatment of transgender immigrants in detention. 

d) Scott Warren Faces 10 Years in Prison for Giving Aid to Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border. In late October, Dr. Warren visited with Members of Congress to advocate for humanitarian aid for migrants at the border. Warren works for No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid organization, and faced a 20-year prison sentence for providing aid to migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. The prosecution dropped some of the charges against him, but he still faces 10 years in prison and another trial in November. 

 

4) China – Amnesty International USA Urges the House to Pass Legislation Holding Chinese Government Accountable for Detention of Over One Million Uyghurs. On October 30, the House Foreign Affairs passed the Uyghur Human Rights and Policy Act (S.178). Amnesty International USA calls on the House to follow the Senate and pass this legislation. 

Above: In 2018 and 2019 Amnesty International has interviewed over 100 people whose relatives are missing. Chinese authorities have torn apart hundreds of thousands of families and relatives still are desperate to know what has happened to their loved ones. 

 

5) United Kingdom – Migrant Deaths Highlight Increasing Perils for Migrants in Europe. In late October, UK police found 39 bodies inside a tractor trailer. Investigators said the case likely involved human trafficking. By implementing restrictive policies, the European Union has forced migrants and asylum seekers to travel through illegal means, often falling victim to human trafficking. 

6) Jordan – Jordanian Authorities Must End Abusive Male Guardianship System. Over the past several years, the Jordanian government has adopted several important reform measures to address gender-based violence, but they must end the detention and ill-treatment of women simply for disobeying their male guardian or transgressing gender norms. Jordanian women who are accused of leaving home without permission or having sex outside marriage risk detention and humiliating “virginity tests.” Women pregnant outside marriage also face forcible separation from their newborn children. 

7) U.S. – Rather Than Ending Wars, the Trump Administration Has Made Them Far More Deadly for Civilians. In late October, The Daily Beast ran an opinion piece from Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Director highlighting Amnesty’s findings of a huge spike in civilian casualties from U.S. wars under President Trump, despite his claims to be ending “endless wars.” Furthermore, on November 18 President Trump issued two pardons and reversed disciplinary action in a case involving war crimes, compounding risks for civilians worldwide. Amnesty International has previously documentation how U.S. military operations in Syria and Somalia have caused civilian casualties. Congress must ensure that the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 includes specific provisions to improve the investigations and reporting of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. lethal operations by any agency.  

 

What’s Coming Down the Pike? 

U.S.-Mexico Border – November 22, 2 pm: Amnesty International USA’s Americas Advocacy Director Charanya Krishnaswami will testify at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Remain in Mexico policy and humanitarian conditions at the U.S. southern border. 

Full November Newsletter  

For more human rights updates in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Eurasia, see our full November newsletter here. 

 

Connect With Us  

Follow breaking human rights news, follow Amnesty International USA on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. 

  

For more information, please contact: 

Africa: Adotei Akwei [email protected]  

Asia: Francisco Bencosme [email protected]  

Eurasia: Daniel Balson [email protected]  

Mid East: Philippe Nassif [email protected] 

Americas: Charanya Krishnaswami [email protected] 

Refugees: Ryan Mace [email protected] 

Gender: Tarah Demant [email protected]  

Gun Violence: Ryan Mace [email protected] 

National Security: Daphne Eviatar [email protected]  

Criminal Justice: Krissy Roth [email protected]  

Human Rights Defenders: Andrew Fandino [email protected]  

All other issues: Joanne Lin [email protected] 

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