Mathias Risse. 4/15/2018. Human Rights and Artificial Intelligence: An Urgently Needed Agenda. Carr Center for Human Rights. Harvard Kennedy School.Abstract
Artificial intelligence generates challenges for human rights. Inviolability of human life is the central idea behind human rights, an underlying implicit assumption being the hierarchical superiority of humankind to other forms of life meriting less protection. These basic assumptions are questioned through the anticipated arrival of entities that are not alive in familiar ways but nonetheless are sentient and intellectually and perhaps eventually morally superior to humans. To be sure, this scenario may never come to pass and in any event lies in a part of the future beyond current grasp. But it is urgent to get this matter on the agenda. Threats posed by technology to other areas of human rights are already with us. My goal here is to survey these challenges in a way that distinguishes short-, medium-term and long-term perspectives
Kathryn Sikkink. 4/1/2018. “Human Rights: Advancing the Frontier of Emancipation.” Great Transition Initiative. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Amidst bleak prognostications about the future, the human rights movement offers a beacon of hope for securing a livable world. The movement’s universality, supranationalism, and expanding emancipatory potential serve as inspiration and guide for the larger project of global transformation. The sweeping vision embodied in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has experienced constant renewal and steadfast legitimacy in the tumultuous postwar world. It has been a foundation for the pursuit of supranational governance and an antidote to the notion that the ends justify the means. The human rights movement, despite its imperfections, has a key role to play in the transformational change in human values crucial to building a just, flourishing future.


Four Pillars | Universal: A Global Heritage | Supranational: The Case for Global Governance | Emancipatory: Harmonizing Means and Ends | Expansive: Climbing the Ladder of Rights | Beyond the Human Rights Movement | Endnotes

Zachary D. Kaufman. 2/22/2018. “The Prospects, Problems, and Proliferation of Recent UN Investigations of International Law Violations.” Journal of International Criminal Justice. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Atrocity crimes rage today in Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Burundi, and Yemen. Given their potential to establish facts and promote accountability, recently opened United Nations investigations of international law violations in each of these states are thus a welcome, even if belated, development. However, these initiatives prompt questions about their designs, both in isolation and relative to each other.

This article describes the investigations into alleged violations in these five states, examines their respective sponsors and scopes, and presents a wide range of questions about the investigations and their implications, including their coordination with each other and their use of evidence in domestic, foreign, hybrid, and international courts (such as the International Criminal Court). The article concludes that, while seeking accountability for international law violations is certainly laudatory, these particular investigations raise significant questions about achieving that goal amidst rampant human rights abuses in these five states and beyond. International lawyers, atrocity crime survivors, and other observers thus await answers before assessing whether these investigations will truly promote justice. 



Keywords: International Law, Atrocity Crimes, United Nations, ISIL, ISIS, Islamic State, Daesh, Da'esh, Terrorism, Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, Yazidi, Yezidi, International Criminal Court, Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Burundi, Yemen, ICC, Justice, Accountability, Human Rights, Investigations

zachquote.jpg ssrn-id3128436.pdf
Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?
John Shattuck, Amanda Watson, and Matthew McDole. 2/15/2018. Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?. Carr Center for Human Rights Policy . Cambridge, MA: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper by Ambassador John Shattuck, Amanda Watson and Matthew McDole examines the resilience of liberal democracy and democratic institutions in the US after one year of the Trump administration. 


In its 2016 “Democracy Index” report, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States from a “full” to a “flawed democracy”. The report cited “an erosion of trust in political institutions” as the primary reason for the downgrade.[1] In January 2018 Freedom House offered an equally dire assessment: “democratic institutions in the US have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process . . . and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity and political influence.”[2]

Declining levels of political participation and public confidence in government in the US are not new, but the populist forces that propelled the election of Donald Trump in 2016 signaled a new level of public disillusionment with democratic politics as usual. There has been a sharp increase in public discontent with the system of governance in the US over the last fifteen years. An October 2017 Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 71% of Americans believe that political polarization and democratic dysfunction have reached “a dangerous low point”.[3] Three years earlier, in 2014, a Gallup Poll showed that 65% of Americans were “dissatisfied with their system of government and how it works,” a dramatic reversal from 68% satisfaction twelve years earlier in 2002.[4]

The US is a flawed liberal democracy.[5] In theory, liberal democracy is the antithesis of authoritarianism. Its ingredients include free and fair elections, freedom of speech and media freedom, an independent judiciary, minority rights and civil liberties, a diverse civil society, the rule of law and a system of checks and balances against concentrations of power. The institutions and elements of liberal democracy are designed to be a bulwark against tyranny by both the executive and the majority.

Alberto Mo. 2/5/2018. “How Trump Just Might Close Guantanamo Prison.” Defense One.Abstract

The president asked SecDef and Congress to ensure that detention policies support warfighting aims. That should mean shutting Gitmo down.

Will President Trump close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay?  

This question may sound preposterous. After all, President Obama, who called the prison a threat to national security and American ideals, actually tried to close it. President Trump, by contrast, is on record as vehemently favoring not only its continuation but its expansion. On Jan. 30 he reaffirmed that commitment both in his State of the Union address and in an executive order revoking President Obama’s order commanding its closure. 

Why, then, even raise the prospect of closing Guantanamo during this administration? The answer lies in two related actions recently taken by the president: his command to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “reexamine our military detention policy” and report back to him within 90 days and his request to Congress to ensure that “we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists.” The two actions in conjunction represent an unexpected open-mindedness on the part of the president with respect to detention policy. By seeking a broad-focus, “blank-sheet-of-paper” review, asking Mattis to take charge, and inviting Congress to join with them, President Trump acted prudently and, dare I say it, wisely. 

Full Op-Ed in Defense One.

Siddharth Kara. 10/2017. Modern Slavery: A Global Perspective, Pp. 360. Colombia University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Siddharth Kara is a tireless chronicler of the human cost of slavery around the world. He has documented the dark realities of modern slavery in order to reveal the degrading and dehumanizing systems that strip people of their dignity for the sake of profit—and to link the suffering of the enslaved to the day-to-day lives of consumers in the West. In Modern Slavery, Kara draws on his many years of expertise to demonstrate the astonishing scope of slavery and offer a concrete path toward its abolition.

From labor trafficking in the U.S. agricultural sector to sex trafficking in Nigeria to debt bondage in the Southeast Asian construction sector to forced labor in the Thai seafood industry, Kara depicts the myriad faces and forms of slavery, providing a comprehensive grounding in the realities of modern-day servitude. Drawing on sixteen years of field research in more than fifty countries around the globe—including revelatory interviews with both the enslaved and their oppressors—Kara sets out the key manifestations of modern slavery and how it is embedded in global supply chains. Slavery offers immense profits at minimal risk through the exploitation of vulnerable subclasses whose brutalization is tacitly accepted by the current global economic order. Kara has developed a business and economic analysis of slavery based on metrics and data that attest to the enormous scale and functioning of these systems of exploitation. Beyond this data-driven approach, Modern Slavery unflinchingly portrays the torments endured by the powerless. This searing exposé documents one of humanity’s greatest wrongs and lays out the framework for a comprehensive plan to eradicate it.
Zachary D. Kaufman. 9/28/2017. “New UN Team Investigating ISIS Atrocities Raises Questions About Justice in Iraq and Beyond.” Just Security. Publisher's VersionAbstract

On September 21, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed resolution 2379 to pursue accountability for atrocity crimes perpetrated in Iraq by the Islamic State (also called ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh). The resolution, in paragraph 2, requests the UN Secretary-General "To establish an Investigative Team, headed by a Special Adviser, to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL (Da’esh) accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group ISIL (Da’esh) in Iraq . . . to ensure the broadest possible use before national courts, and complementing investigations being carried out by the Iraqi authorities, or investigations carried out by authorities in third countries at their request."

The desirability of such an investigative team is well understood. ISIS has perpetrated widespread and systematic murder, kidnapping, sexual violence (including forced marriage and sexual slavery), and destruction of cultural heritage. The creation of this investigative team is thus a welcome, even if belated, development. However, this initiative prompts questions about the body’s scope, use of evidence, comparison to Syria, and precedential value. 



Keywords: Transitional Justice, United Nations, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Da'esh, Iraq, Syria, Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, Atrocities, Sexual Violence, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, Burma, Rohingya, Sovereignty, Responsibility to Protect, International Court, Hybrid Tribunal

Suggested Citation:

Kaufman, Zachary D., New UN Team Investigating ISIS Atrocities Raises Questions About Justice in Iraq and Beyond (September 28, 2017). Just Security, September 28, 2017. Available at SSRN:

Dara Kay Cohen. 9/12/2017. “The ties that bind: How armed groups use violence to socialize fighters.” Journal of Peace Research, 54, 5. Publisher's VersionAbstract

How do armed groups use violence to create social ties? What are the conditions under which such violence takes place? In this article, I describe how armed groups use one type of atrocity, wartime rape, to create social bonds between fighters through a process of combatant socialization. As a form of stigmatizing, public, and sexualized violence, gang rape is an effective method to communicate norms of masculinity, virility, brutality, and loyalty between fighters. Drawing on literature about socialization processes, I derive a set of hypotheses about individual-level factors that may influence vulnerability to violent socialization, including age, previous socialization experiences, and physical security. I analyze the support for these hypotheses using newly available survey data from former fighters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The results show the broad applicability of considering group violence as a form of social control within armed groups, suggest some of the limits of violent socialization, and have implications for both theory and policy.

Keywords armed groupscohesionDRCpolitical violencerapesocialization

Steven Livingston and Sushma Raman. 2/21/2017. “Conference Report: Technology & Human Rights in the 21st Century.” Technology & Human Rights in the 21st Century. Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Full online version here.

On November 3 - 4, 2016, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School hosted a symposium that aimed to:

1. Strengthen collaboration among stakeholders working on issues at the intersection of human rights and technology and

2. Deepen our understanding of the nature of collaboration among different technical and scientific communities working in human rights.

The symposium brought together practitioners and academics from different industries, academic disciplines and professional practices. Discussion centered on three clusters of scientific and technical capacities and the communities of practice associated with each of them. These clusters are:

  • Geospatial Technology: The use of commercial remote sensing satellites, geographical information systems (GIS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and geographical positioning satellites (GPS) and receivers to track events on earth.
  • Digital Networks: The use of digital platforms to link individuals in different locations working towards a common goal, such as monitoring digital evidence of human rights violations around the world. It often involves crowdsourcing the collection of data over digital networks or social computation – the analysis of data by volunteers using digital networks.
  • Forensic Science: The collection, preservation, examination and analysis of evidence of abuses and crimes for documentation, reconstruction, and understanding for public and court use. Among the more prominent evidential material in this area includes digital and multimedia evidence as well as corporal and other biologic evidence.  When considering the use of digital technologies, we might say that forensic science involves the recoding of material objects into binary code. This domain includes massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies as well as document scanning and data management technologies.

In their landmark 1998 book, Activists Beyond Borders, Kathryn Sikkink and Margaret Keck wrote that “by overcoming the deliberate suppression of information that sustains many abuses of power, human rights groups bring pressure to bear on those who perpetuate abuses” (Keck and Sikkink, 1998, Kindle Locations 77-78).  The Carr Center’s symposium on technology and human rights explored the ways modern human rights organization use science and technology to overcome the deliberate suppression of information.

Speakers discussed the latest advances in each of the key technologies represented at the symposium and used today by human rights organizations.

Steven Livingston and Sushma Raman co-organized the event. Livingston is Senior Fellow at the Carr Center and Professor of Media and Public Affairs and Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University; Raman is the Executive Director of the Carr Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Full online version here.


Technology and Human Rights Conference Report
Kathryn Sikkink. 2017. Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, Pp. 336. Princeton University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work

evidenceforhopecoverEvidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guantánamo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But respected human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to pessimistic doubts about human rights laws and institutions. She demonstrates that change comes slowly and as the result of struggle, but in the long term, human rights movements have been vastly effective.

Attacks on the human rights movement’s credibility are based on the faulty premise that human rights ideas emerged in North America and Europe and were imposed on developing southern nations. Starting in the 1940s, Latin American leaders and activists were actually early advocates for the international protection of human rights. Sikkink shows that activists and scholars disagree about the efficacy of human rights because they use different yardsticks to measure progress. Comparing the present to the past, she shows that genocide and violence against civilians have declined over time, while access to healthcare and education has increased dramatically. Cognitive and news biases contribute to pervasive cynicism, but Sikkink’s investigation into past and current trends indicates that human rights is not in its twilight. Instead, this is a period of vibrant activism that has made impressive improvements in human well-being.

Exploring the strategies that have led to real humanitarian gains since the middle of the twentieth century, Evidence for Hope looks at how these essential advances can be supported and sustained for decades to come.

First published in 2017.

Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her books include The Justice Cascade (Norton) and Activists beyond Borders. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

Kathryn Sikkink and Fernando Berdion Del Valle. 2017. “(Re)discovering duties: individual responsibilities in the age of rights.” Minnesota Journal of International Law, 26, 1, Pp. 189-245. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Human rights are, simultaneously, legal, moral, and political claims.2 Equally important, however, is the fact that human rights are fundamentally claims about relationships. 

Sarah Peck. 12/21/2016. “Carr Center's 2016 Annual Report”. Publisher's VersionAbstract carrannualreport2016.pdf
Alberto Mora and Douglas A. Johnson. 9/1/2016. “The Strategic Costs of Torture.” Foreign Affairs. Publisher's VersionAbstract

How "Enhanced Interrogation" Hurt America

Steven Livingston. 8/23/2016. “Classroom technologies narrow education gap in developing countries.” Brookings. Publisher's Version
Alberto Mora. 8/5/2016. “Fighting Terrorism - and the urge to ignore our basic American principles.” The Washington Post. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Op-Ed by Carr Center Senior Fellow Alberto Mora.

John Shattuck. 6/1/2016. “Democracy and Its Discontents.” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, 40, 2, Pp. 173-184. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In contrast to the European tradition of democratic pluralism, John Shattuck points to a new phenomenon in Eastern European states: illiberal democracy. Popularized by authoritarian political discourse in Hungary and Poland, the trend toward illiberalism evidences deep discontent with democracy’s economic, identity, and security implications for Europe. Democracy, however, is capable of reforming itself from the inside, allowing for new structures of participation for its citizens—whereas the strict control of power in illiberal democracy blocks avenues for meaningful change.

Mathias Risse. 6/2016. “On Where We Differ: Sites Versus Grounds of Justice, and Some Other Reflections on Michael Blake’s Justice and Foreign Policy.” Law and Philosophy, 35, 3, Pp. 251-270. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Blake’s book conveys a straightforward directive: the foreign policy of liberal states should be guided and constrained by the goal of helping other states to become liberal democracies as well. This much is what we owe to people in other countries—this much but nothing more. The primary addressees are wealthier democracies, whose foreign policy ought to be guided by the idea of equality of all human beings. My approach in On Global Justice bears important similarities to Blake’s, but with those similarities also come equally important differences. The purpose of this piece is to bring out these similarities and differences and in the process articulate some objections to Blake.

John Shattuck. 4/26/2016. “US needs to help the EU end the refugee crisis.” The Boston Globe. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The refugee crisis is at the center of Europe’s political war. Some European countries are building walls to exclude people seeking refuge from the deadly conflicts in the Middle East, while others — notably Greece, Germany, and the Nordics — are working to reinforce EU values of openness and tolerance. The United States should do more to promote these values by increasing its support for relief efforts and opening its doors to refugees from the Middle East. European governments this year are contributing four times more money than the United States to the financially strapped United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Meanwhile, the United States will resettle a minuscule 10,000 Syrian refugees, compared with more than 500,000 in Germany.

Zachary D. Kaufman. 4/7/2016. United States Law and Policy on Transitional Justice: Principles, Politics and Pragmatics, Pp. 382 pages. Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In United States Law and Policy on Transitional Justice: Principles, Politics, and Pragmatics, Zachary D. Kaufman, J.D., Ph.D., explores the U.S. government’s support for, or opposition to, certain transitional justice institutions. By first presenting an overview of possible responses to atrocities (such as war crimes tribunals) and then analyzing six historical case studies, Dr. Kaufman evaluates why and how the United States has pursued particular transitional justice options since World War II. This book challenges the “legalist” paradigm, which postulates that liberal states pursue war crimes tribunals because their decision-makers hold a principled commitment to the rule of law. Dr. Kaufman develops an alternative theory—“prudentialism”—which contends that any state (liberal or illiberal) may support bona fide war crimes tribunals. More generally, prudentialism proposes that states pursue transitional justice options, not out of strict adherence to certain principles, but as a result of a case-specific balancing of politics, pragmatics, and normative beliefs. Dr. Kaufman tests these two competing theories through the U.S. experience in six contexts: Germany and Japan after World War II, the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, the 1990-1991 Iraqi offenses against Kuwaitis, the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and the 1994  genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Dr. Kaufman demonstrates that political and pragmatic factors featured as or more prominently in U.S. transitional justice policy than did U.S. government officials’ normative beliefs. Dr. Kaufman thus concludes that, at least for the United States, prudentialism is superior to legalism as an explanatory theory in transitional justice policymaking.

John Shattuck. 3/26/2016. “Karadzic verdict is a victory for civilization.” The Boston Globe. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Op-Ed from Carr Center's John Shattuck.

"In a world rampant with terrorism, Thursday’s verdict in the Radovan Karadzic trial in The Hague is a victory for international justice. The former Bosnian Serb leader was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for leading a reign of genocidal terror during the Bosnian war."