Burundi, South Africa, and the Gambia are not violating international law merely by announcing their withdrawal from the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court. In accordance with Article 127 of the Rome Statute, they have every right to go.
Contrary to what some commentators seem to believe, the ICC and the Rome Statute system will not disappear because of some withdrawals. The Statute can still function with 121 states or even less. Think about it this way: in 2003, I was appointed as ICC Prosecutor by 78 states. In those days, the Bush Administration was embarked on military operations in Iraq ignoring the position of the majority of the UN Security Council members, authorizing the use of torture, campaigning against the International Criminal Court and threatening states party of the Rome Statute with economic sanctions for not providing immunity for US troops. Despite those conditions, less than 100 states parties were able to provide the cooperation and support that the Court needed to function. Thirteen years later the system developed by the Rome Statute is a reality, part of international law’s landscape. Its existence is not at risk—its relevance, as with the relevance of international law to manage conflicts, is in question. Just Security produced three important opinions.
These are dangerous times. Never has it been so important for domestic and international human rights advocates and scholars to collaborate. Such action must be guided by past successes in promoting human rights, based on our best history and social science. I share Stephen Hopgood’s sense of urgency, but I disagree with his recommendation that we should only engage in domestic politics and abandon international human rights norms and law.
We will need even stronger domestic movements to protect vulnerable populations from hate and discrimination and to mobilize groups harmed by globalization. Domestic movements, as always, must frame their work in ways that will resonate politically. But human rights will continue to be one important language to mobilize both domestic and international publics. The US election did not reveal a tectonic shift in the electorate. Clinton won the popular vote and Trump received fewer votes than Romney did in 2012. This is less a story of a major realignment of US politics, and more about the electoral college, voter turnout and the impact of third parties. Sexism and xenophobia, nothing new in US politics, played a role. These issues are all important but insufficient to conclude that we should suddenly abandon human rights.
Authoritarian democracy is on the march on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite alarming parallels, the U.S. remains better positioned to preserve and rebuild true democracy.
The election of Donald Trump shows what happens when democracy misfires. It echoes recent developments in Europe, most notably in Hungary and Poland, where elected leaders are attacking democratic pluralism, minority rights, and civil liberties, keeping the forms of democracy without the substance. The same trends are proceeding in France, the Netherlands, the U.K., and other European democracies where far-right parties under the banner of populist nationalism are pursuing racist and xenophobic objectives.
Having returned to the United States this fall after seven years in Hungary, I am struck by the shocking parallel between what is happening in Europe and here at home. The Trump election signals a sharp turn toward the populist far right. The presidential campaign was marked by the denigration of women and minorities and the rhetoric of racial extremism. The president-elect’s early appointments include people with these views. Civil liberties are threatened. Foreign alliances are in jeopardy. The risk of war is heightened.
Countless studies have shown that democracies are less likely to go to war, torture their own citizens, and censor the media. That's one reason why Western governments and philanthropic foundations funnel more than $10 billion every year into promoting democracy overseas. For example, donors fund efforts to help train election observers, educate voters about their rights, and train local media outlets to cover political issues.
In the last year, more than $70 million have been spent on such projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a poor and fragile country emerging from over two decades of armed conflict. That may sound like a lot of money, but in relative terms it's not. The American, British and Canadian governments alone spent more than eight times that amount on democracy promotion in Afghanstan during the country's most recent elections.
A specter of treason hovers over Donald Trump. He has brought it on himself by dismissing a bipartisan call for an investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee as a “ridiculous” political attack on the legitimacy of his election as president.
Seventeen US national intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded that Russia engaged in cyberwarfare against the US presidential campaign. The lead agency, the CIA, has reached the further conclusion that Russia’s hacking was intended to influence the election in favor of Trump.
"The Trump transition team asked the State Department last week to submit details of programs and jobs that focus on promoting gender equality. Maybe it’s for benign purposes — or better, a signal that the administration wants to make women’s empowerment a cornerstone of its foreign policy. But this seems unlikely, to put it mildly, given that such a commitment was absent from Donald J. Trump’s campaign, and alongside Mr. Trump’s vow to defund Planned Parenthood.
Whatever the reason for their request, Mr. Trump and Rex W. Tillerson, his pick for secretary of state, should remember that women’s rights are tied directly to national security. The State Department’s gender equality programs are not just politically correct fluff — they deal with matters of life and death, like rape during war, genital cutting, forced marriage and access to education. The State Department provides essential funding to combat these problems."
Shattuck writes, "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."
The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy launched an ambitious initiative in the fall of 2019 to advance the renewal of rights and responsibilities in the United States. The initiative aims to develop research and policy recommendations around six broad themes of concern: democratic process; due process of law; equal protection; freedom of speech, religion, and association; human sustainability; and privacy.
In the most recent Carr Center Discussion Paper, Mathias Risse looks at the Pompeo Commission as a jumping off point to reexamine the distinction between natural law, natural rights, and human rights in the modern day.
"With Russian and Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad’s regime rapidly closing in, the situation for those trapped in eastern Aleppo in the first week of December was growing grimmer by the hour. It was especially dire for the White Helmets, a Syrian first-responders group that had won international acclaim for its humanitarian work, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Assad regime held a different view, describing the group as rebels and terrorists.
On Dec. 8 at 3:30 p.m. in Boston, one of the first messages from the White Helmets to reach researchers at Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative said that “three gas bombs have been dropped in the area within the last two hours and they [the White Helmets] feel they have less than 48 hours to evacuate before they are seized.” The Harvard group was asked to help find an escape route out of Aleppo for the White Helmets and their families, about 150 people in all.
How could Harvard scholars sitting in Cambridge, Mass., help 150 people find their way out of a war zone? We hoped it could be done with commercial remote-sensing satellites."
Steven Livingston is a senior fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and a professor at George Washington University.
Jonathan Drake is a senior program associate with the Geospatial Technologies Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"Among the flurry of confirmation hearings happening this week in the Senate, one in particular will signal whether President-to-be Donald Trump and his administration are, indeed, serious about restoring the failed and discredited Bush-era torture policy.
Trump’s pick for CIA chief, the US representative Mike Pompeo, will face the Senate intelligence committee and no doubt will be asked about his past support for cruelty. If he fails to renounce torture at his hearing, the Senate should deem Pompeo unfit for the office and vote down his nomination.
I know what’s at stake from my own experience. I was the navy’s chief lawyer when, in 2002, I learned that detainees held at Guantánamo were being subjected to cruel and unlawful interrogation practices. This wasn’t a case of “bad apples” – it was a case of officials at the highest levels of government choosing to radically reinterpret, distort or violate the law so as to knowingly apply torture. That can’t happen again."
Recent presidents who threatened rights have been reined in. Richard Nixon used the power of the presidency to attack the Constitution and his political enemies, but the House of Representatives voted to impeach him. Ronald Reagan tried to overturn hard-won legislation on the rights of women and minorities, but civil society groups and a bipartisan congressional coalition beat back the attack. George W. Bush introduced the use of torture in violation of domestic and international law, but resistance inside the federal government led to reinstatement of the torture ban.
Following these examples, a new citizen movement must mobilize the assets of American democracy to protect basic rights and freedoms in the Trump era."
"What should President Donald Trump do if ISIS crashed a plane into the Freedom Tower next September 11, 2017? After 16 years of a so-called “war on terror,” would experts be able to provide the new President with a clear and effective strategy to confront international terrorism? A short answer to the question is no. In 2015, Stephen Walt denounced a massive, collective failure of the entire U.S. foreign-policy establishment including Democrats and Republican to propose new strategies to deal with international terrorism in the Middle East.
In this essay, I explain, first, the strategic opportunity available through greater US-Russian cooperation and, second, the tools for disrupting ISIS by establishing new international mechanisms—such as a UN Security Council Chief Prosecutor—to go after the group’s leadership and its money."
Donald Trump has threatened to make good on his campaign pledge to bring back waterboarding and forms of torture "a hell of a lot worse." That would violate international and US law, of course, but could he do it anyway?
There was a sense that the US was coming to grips with its sins in December 2014, when the Senate completed its report on CIA torture under President George W. Bush in the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Months later, on June 16, 2015, when more than 20 Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in a 78-21 vote to ban torture once and for all, there was a sense that the country was even moving forward. There would be no more "rectal feeding" of prisoners in the CIA's secret interrogation centers, no more threats to kill inmates' children or parents, no more people killed by hypothermia after spending hours forced into stress positions on frigid concrete. But 230 miles (385 kilometers) from the US Capitol on that very same June afternoon in 2015, a reality television host was kicking off a scorched-earth campaign at the New York City tower he had named for himself. And in 2017 the United States finds itself debating the limits of official cruelty all over again - though not necessarily the long-settled legality.
"Torture under international law is categorically prohibited under all circumstances," said Alberto Mora, the Navy's general counsel during the Bush administration and a leading Defense Department opponent of the practices euphemistically referred to as "enhanced interrogation." "This is what's called a nonderogable law, meaning that there is no set of circumstances or extenuating circumstance which would justify the application of torture."