Human Rights

  • December 15, 2011
    Judges Under Fire
    Human Rights, Independent Judges, and the Rule of Law
    Hon. Harold Baer Jr.

    By Harold Baer Jr., U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York

    As we watch the Arab spring unfold and hear the depressing stories of how the People’s Republic of China deals with human rights, Judges Under Fire: Human Rights, Independent Judges, and the Rule of Law becomes a must read. It provides insights into how the Rule of Law and an independent judiciary have fared over the last 300 years around the world. More to the point, it demonstrates what happens when judges and citizens lose track of the vital tenets to which the book is devoted.

    On that score, one can’t help but wonder how some of the newly liberated countries will fare. Will they ensure that the Rule of Law is a part of their rebirth? How sad it will be if countries like Egypt and Libya slip back into anarchy. My book provides the reader with stories of how easy it could be for that to happen, both in older established countries as well as in fledgling republics. It supports the proposition that without the Rule of Law and an independent judiciary, democracy as we know it cannot survive. It is this proposition that we must bring to the attention of the leaders of these newly liberated countries.

  • December 9, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Ambassador (Ret.) Michael Guest, Sr. Advisor, Council for Global Equality. This commentary is cross posted at 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
    Humanity's Law
    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
    Inside Out
    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., Founding Partner, The Federal Practice Group Worldwide  Service

    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.