Human Rights

  • December 9, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Ambassador (Ret.) Michael Guest, Sr. Advisor, Council for Global Equality. This commentary is cross posted at Advocate.com. For more analysis of the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts on LGBT human rights visit Global Equality Today.


    Secretary Clinton’s December 6 Geneva speech on LGBT rights is another high-water mark in the Obama Administration’s integration of the human and civil rights of LGBT people into U.S. foreign policy. 

    Clinton spoke to a diplomatic audience, one that included ambassadors from a range of countries that criminally penalize same-sex relations and relationships.  Her message – that LGBT people are humans with inherent and equal value – was framed with reason and wrapped in sensitivity to culture and religion.  The references to her own personal journey on this issue, and to that of our country, underscored that fairness for LGBT people is a common cause, not a subject for lecture.

    This, of course, confirms a refreshing change of direction for U.S. diplomacy on a previously ignored problem.  The U.S. is a latecomer in international efforts to address the horrific abuses that LGBT people suffer around the world, and the need for our voice has never been more acute.  The Obama Administration has risen to the occasion in numerous examples where LGBT rights have been at stake.  Although a good start, these efforts often have carried a catch-up feel, without strategic thought or direction.  Clinton’s speech provides that framework and direction.

  • December 1, 2011
    BookTalk
    Humanity's Law
    By: 
    Ruti Teitel

    By Ruti Teitel, the Ernst C. Stiefel Professor of Comparative Law at New York Law School and Visiting Professor at London School of Economics. The following an excerpt from her new book, Humanity's Law, reprinted with permission from Oxford University Press, Inc. 


    We are living in a time of destabilizing political and legal changes. Often, it seems difficult to know whether we are at war or at peace; to determine what sort of conflict is at stake in a given situation; and, relatedly, to decide how best to address the conflict and to protect the persons, peoples, and/or states that it threatens. While both the end of polarized relations and the advent of globalization have their appeal, the renewed engagement has frequently seemed to mean that we see the possibility of intervention, but that hope is too often thwarted. Yet the closer we look, the more one can see that this situation has too frequently been viewed from a twentieth-century, state-centered perspective. Recently, there have been profound changes in the nature of interstate relations and conflict — all of which have pointed in the direction of the paradigm shift toward humanity law and, to some extent, away from interstate international law, that is identified here.

    After I finished my first book Transitional Justice, which explored legal and political responses to the transitions characterizing the end of the twentieth century, it became apparent that — despite lurches toward liberal democratic peace — conflict and violence not only were here to stay, but in some regard were ever more conspicuous, at least insofar as they were having a vivid impact on civilians. Indeed, it seemed that it was precisely during fragile transitions — that is, moments of weakness — that states were at their most vulnerable.

  • July 29, 2010
    BookTalk
    Inside Out
    By: 
    Barry Eisler

    By Barry Eisler, an award-winning author of bestselling thrillers. Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA's Directorate of Operations and has worked as a technology lawyer. Eisler also blogs on torture, civil liberties and the rule of law.
    As a thriller writer, blogger, and former CIA officer who continues to adhere to his oath to protect and defend the Constitution, I've never been so satisfied with one of my novels as I am with Inside Out.

    I'm a big believer in the power of fiction to promote ideology, and in fact addressed this subject recently in an essay for NPR on George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. I'm appalled at how effectively the right has been using fiction to promote torture, and conceived of Inside Out in part as a way to fire back: a means of depicting not a cartoon fantasy, but rather the true causes and consequences of torture, consequences that include worsening erosion of our values, increased damage to national security, and the continued degradation of the Constitution itself.

    Of course, Inside Out is filled with great characters, edge-of-your-seat action, and steamy sex - it's a thriller, after all. But what sets it apart from most works of the genre is the timeliness and relevance of the story. The ninety-two interrogation videos the CIA confessed last year to destroying, and which form the foundation for the book's plot, are back in the news now, as independent prosecutor John Durham concludes his two-year obstruction of justice investigation. And the other subjects at the heart of Inside Out - torture, ghost detainees, renditions, the real nature of America's Establishment - continue to be the most profound and controversial political issues of the day.

  • February 1, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Maj. (Ret.) Eric Montalvo, Esq., Senior Litigation Counsel at Tully Rinckey PLLC in Washington, D.C. and former Marine Corps Judge Advocate (JAG). Eric currently specializes in national security law, military criminal law, and military administrative law. He is noteworthy for his work in securing the release of Mohammad Jawad, one of the youngest Guantanamo Bay detainees.

    On January 20, 2009 the world changed for a moment. President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He became the first African American to hold this office and one of his first acts as President was to publish the now infamous "transparency memo" on January 21, 2009. This memo highlighted three key policy objectives: 1) government should be transparent; 2) government should be participatory; and 3) government should be collaborative.

    This promise of transparency is at best illusive. On January 22, 2010, almost one year to the date that this memo was published, the Obama administration announced that it would be implementing a policy of indefinite detention for 50 or so Guantanamo Bay detainees. The President has decided to travel upon this path in part to "cover up" our use of "harsh interrogation techniques" and intelligence gathering procedures. In theory, the evidence obtained through these techniques cannot be used to successfully sustain a conviction.

    If the techniques are that egregious, the President should grant immunity to those who engaged in such conduct so that closure can be obtained and this sad chapter in American history can be closed. Disclosure of the torture techniques that are purportedly no longer sanctioned can cause no harm. If the concern is incitement of the enemy, then the government can pursue National Security Courts or remit the persons to others jurisdictions to be investigated for their alleged war crimes and/or civil crimes.

  • December 9, 2009
    Guest Post

    By Jamil Dakwar, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Program & Steering Committee Member of the Campaign for a New Domestic Human Rights Agenda  

    Seven months ago, the United States issued a list of human rights commitments and pledges in support of U.S. candidacy for membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council. The decision to join the Human Rights Council was the right thing to do. It was as an important step in breaking with the Bush administration's unilateral and disastrous policies on human rights. While we welcomed this move, we noted that the Obama administration had "missed an opportunity to detail exactly how it will reaffirm its commitment to ending human rights violations at home beyond vague rhetoric." We warned the Obama administration to "move beyond ambiguous commitments which are similar to the ones heard from the Bush administration over the past eight years."

    There is no question that this administration is currently facing multiple and daunting challenges, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the safe closing of Guantánamo, the economic crisis and rising unemployment, health care, energy reform and much more. However, nearly a year after Obama's inauguration, the administration has yet to announce any major domestic human rights initiative, outline a detailed plan to honor and expand our existing human rights commitments and translate them into domestic policy, or incorporate them into the daily working of the U.S. government.