Tuesday, September 14, 2021
A couple of weeks ago Yale Law professor Samuel Moyn wrote a scathing and seemingly unfounded attack on the late Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights in the New York Review of Books. I had considered posting about that piece here, but decided that it was too strange and awkward, personally blaming one man who had passed away five years earlier for the endless war on terror, to be worthy of additional attention.
However, Joseph Margulies and Baher Azmy’s response to Moyn in Just Security is more than worth a read. Margulies and Azmy, as practicing attorneys, litigators, present their point of view in light of their long careers and personal experiences working alongside Ratner.
In summing Moyn’s criticism of Michael Ratner, Margulies and Azmy state:
The idea is that by challenging detentions rather than the war itself…Ratner…validated the war on terror. And by smoothing down the roughest edges of the detention policy—providing detainees with a largely symbolic right of access to the courts, for instance—[he] gave a patina of legitimacy to what is at its core an illegal, immoral war, and in that way enabled our current quagmire of endless, boundless conflict.
Margulies and Azmy argue in response that “the idea that the detention litigation in general, or Rasul in particular, is somehow the reason the war on terror has become an endless, lawless monster is just silly” and also point out that “a person can obviously oppose war and torture at the same time, and Michael did both.”
They also point out that Moyn may also be “simply making the spectacularly banal point that litigation has unintended, and sometimes tragic consequences.” To that point, Margulies and Azmy respond:
But as our friend and Yale law professor Hope Metcalf says, “so what?” No experienced civil rights lawyer, and certainly not one as political as Michael Ratner, needs a law professor to explain that the courts are not a reliable friend of the weak. The insight that litigation by itself cannot achieve progressive change was old when Gerald Rosenberg put it in writing 30 years ago. And tying this observation to a larger political lesson—that power adapts to protect its interests—was old when Marx wrote it down nearly two centuries ago.
I think Margulies and Azmy also did a wonderful job of highlighting the best of what Michael Ratner did, which is what the best human rights advocates do best:
lending our voice to men whose voices had been silenced, and demanding that the law protect them when the state would not.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Law professor Andrea Armstrong at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law is profiled in the August 23, 2021, issue of the New Yorker. The article centers on her work to collecting and publicizing information about deaths of those incarcerated in detention facilities in Louisiana, but also covers her legal career, scholarship, advocacy, and even her personal life. It is an inspiring portrait of a law professor fighting for the protection of rights of the incarcerated in her home state.
Eyal Press, A Fight to Expose the Hidden Human Costs of Incarceration, The New Yorker, Aug. 23, 2021 Issue.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
New Event: Connecting the Threads that Bind: Contextualizing Legalized Violence Against Asian Americans
On Friday September 10, 2021, from 11am-3pm PT, the UC Hastings Law Center for Racial and Economic Justice will host a virtual conference investigating systemic and historic causes of anti-AAPI violence, providing frameworks for understanding the continued subordination of AAPI and BIPOC communities, and discussing AAPI-led advocacy addressing the root causes of violence and disenfranchisement.
For more information and to register for this conference, please visit: https://www.uchastings.edu/event/connecting-the-threads-that-bind-contextualizing-legalized-violence-against-asian-americans/.
Thursday, September 2, 2021
Human Rights and Hurricane Ida Part II
It has now been four days since Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana and has since forged a path of destruction all the way up the East Coast to Maine. At this point almost one million electric customers in Louisiana remain without power, 30,000 in Mississippi and now over 100,000 customers in the Northeast are also without power. Schools in the New Orleans region are closed indefinitely and the Governor of Louisiana told those who had evacuated not to come home until officials say otherwise. Thousands of people were displaced by Hurricane Ida and it remains to be seen when and if they can come home.
On Monday, in Part I of my posts on Human Rights and Hurricane Ida, I discussed the U.N. Human Rights Committee’s recommendations regarding the human rights of internally displaced persons after Hurricane Katrina.
Today, I will focus on the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination’s recommendations regarding the disparate impacts on low-income African Americans displaced by and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In its Concluding Observations (see paragraph 31) after its periodic review of the United States in 2008, the CERD Committee stated that the United States should:
- Increase efforts to facilitate right of return, where possible, or to guarantee access to adequate and affordable housing, where possible their place of habitual residence; and
- Ensure genuine consultation and participation of persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina in the design and implementation of all decisions affecting them.
The CERD Committee makes it clear here that human rights law requires U.S., state and local governments to increase efforts to facilitate the right of return low-income African Americans displaced by Hurricane Ida. Moreover, decision making regarding emergency housing assistance and recovery must include genuine consultation and participation by low-income African Americans displaced by Hurricane Ida. We need to and can do better in rebuilding this time around, and luckily we have clear guidance as to some of what went wrong in times past.
Monday, August 30, 2021
Yesterday, on August 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana sixteen years to the day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. My heart is with Louisiana and Mississippi, and all of those dealing with loss and heartbreak in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
While it is too soon to know the extent of the destruction wrought by Ida, it is clear that many residents on the Gulf Coast will once again be displaced. In 2006, the U.N. Human Rights Committee addressed internal displacement and discrimination in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the levee failures of 2005. In its Concluding Observations (see paragraph 26) after its periodic review of the United States in 2006, the Human Rights Committee stated that the United States should:
- Ensure the full implementation of the obligation to protect life and prohibit discrimination, whether direct or indirect;
- Ensure the full implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement; and
- Increase efforts to ensure that the rights of the poor, and in particular African Americans, are fully taken into consideration in the reconstruction plans with regard to access to housing, education and healthcare.
I hope that the U.S. Government, state governments, and local governments trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida will use these important human rights directives to guide reconstruction and to ensure the full implementation of human rights protections for all Gulf Coast residents, including internally replaced residents.
Sunday, August 29, 2021
New Article: “One of the greatest human tragedies of our time”: The U.N., Biden, and a Missed Opportunity to Abolish Immigration Prisons
Lauren E. Bartlett, "One of the greatest human tragedies of our time": The U.N., Biden, and a Missed Opportunity to Abolish Immigration Prisons, Mitchell Hamline Law Journal of Public Policy and Practice, forthcoming Fall 2021. Abstract below.
Children in cages, rampant sexual abuse, lack of access to life-saving medical treatment, and more. These human rights violations continue to occur in immigration prisons in the United States today, and given the scope, many, including the United Nations, are pushing the United States to abolish immigration prisons altogether. However, the Biden administration has demonstrated that is not interested in supporting the abolition of immigration prisons, not even in the international human rights arena.
After providing a brief overview of international human rights law prohibiting immigration prisons, this essay explores U.N. recommendations on immigration prisons from each of the Universal Periodic Reviews of the United States over the past ten years, as well as the U.S. responses to those recommendations. Through that exploration, it is made clear that while the Biden administration has showed an eagerness for reform in other areas, the administration missed an important opportunity this year to step up as a global leader and demonstrate commitment to the progressive realization of the full spectrum of human rights of migrants and set the United States on a path towards the abolition of immigration prisons.
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Monday, August 23, 2021
The new podcast Entitled from the University of Chicago Podcast Network is a fantastic new resource for human rights at home law professors. Entitled is co-hosted by Professors Tom Ginsburg and Claudia Flores and explores current debates around rights through narrative storytelling and conversations with experts and advocates.
So far the podcasts have featured:
- Jamal Greene, author of How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession With Rights is Tearing America Apart.
- John Tasioulas, philosopher of ethics and human rights at Oxford University.
- David Kaye, Former Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
- Vietnamese pop star and free speech activist Mai Khoi.
- Nina Kerkebane, an Algerian asylee and an entering graduate student at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy
- Ayelet Shachar, author of The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality
- Maya Elzinga-Soumah, Senior Legal Associate with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Aruba and Curaçao.
- Itamar Mann, Director of the Global Legal Action Network and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Haifa Faculty of Law.
The first three episodes are on Apple podcasts now. To listen, click here.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
The Washington Foreign Law Society (WFLS) will present an online free event on Tuesday August 24, 2021, from 5:30-6:30pm ET, discussing and critiquing the U.S. Supreme Court decision Nestle v Doe, which held that the Alien Tort Statute does not support claims against U.S. corporations based on child slavery in foreign lands. Thomas Lee and Mark B. Feldman will serve as discussants. From WFLS:
In recent years, judges and scholars have vigorously debated whether the Supreme Court was correct to state, in cases such as The Paquete Habana (1900), that customary international law is part of the law of the United States. Influential voices argue that Congressional action is required to create a cause of action under international law. That issue was of central concern to the Justices in Nestle, and will be debated by our panel. Registrants will receive a list of notable citations in advance of the program.
For more information and to register click here.
Monday, August 16, 2021
UN Special Rapporteurs Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Clement Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, as well as others, have expressed alarm at what they describe as a “rampant police brutality against peaceful protesters worldwide” and warned States of the grave danger arising from such abuse for human rights and the rule of law.
“In recent months and years, we have repeatedly voiced our concern over a steady increase in the use of excessive force, police brutality, and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as arbitrary detention, against predominantly peaceful protesters in all regions of the world,” the experts said in a statement on August 13, 2021.
“This trend, often extending to journalists covering protests, has resulted in countless deaths and injuries, often exacerbated through torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance, and has intimidated, traumatized, and antagonised large segments of society worldwide.”
The experts said the vast majority of these incidents were rooted in political, socio-economic, ethnic, racial, religious, or other tensions specific to particular national or regional situations. “At the same time, there are also relevant, more generic contexts of global reach and underlying reasons of racism, gender-based and other forms of discrimination in law enforcement,” they said.
“Large-scale migration, protests of climate activists, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement are affected by excessive use of force and police brutality.
“Additionally, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous reports of security forces employing excessive and often indiscriminate violence resulting in unlawful deaths, injury and psychological trauma, as well as arbitrary detentions, in order to enforce emergency measures for the protection of public health, such asbans on assemblies, lockdowns and curfews.
“Most worryingly, throughout all regions and contexts, these acts of violence and abuse have often been encouraged by divisive, discriminatory and inflammatory narratives spread or condoned by political leaders, local authorities, and parts of the media, and by the resulting atmosphere of near complete impunity for perpetrators.”
The experts said it is the prime responsibility of governments and political leaders to prevent such dangerous developments through non-violent means including, most notably, pro-active communication aiming at de-escalation, reconciliation, and the peaceful exercise of civil and political rights.
“Public confidence in the reliability, legitimacy and integrity of State institutions and their law enforcement officials is the most valuable commodity of any peaceful, just and sustainable society and the very foundation of democracy and the rule of law,” the experts said.
“We therefore urge governments and political leaders not to needlessly squander the trust of their people, to refrain from any unwarranted violence, coercion and divisiveness, and to prioritize and promote dialogue, tolerance and diversity in the common public interest of all.”
Monday, June 21, 2021
On June 30, 2021, from 5-6pm ET, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) will host a free online event consisting of a panel of experts discussing indigeneity in settler legal systems.
Description of the event:
Efforts to define “Indigenous Peoples” have long been a source of contention in international law. Defining indigeneity can exacerbate problems around legitimacy, authenticity and representation; the very vectors of the human rights discourse that the participation of Indigenous Peoples is meant to remedy. Yet, the lack of a simple definition of Indigenous Peoples has created a host of problems including excuses for states to deny the existence of Indigenous Peoples, to limit their human rights, including rights to participation at the UN, and to define Indigenous Peoples as minorities in an effort to make them subjects only of domestic law.
Art 33(1) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) provides that ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions’. Is this right recognised or respected in settler legal systems? In this panel, leading experts will explore how settler national legal systems recognise, or define for their purposes, indigeneity.
- Karen Drake (Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation), Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
- Kirsty Gover, Professor, University of Melbourne
- Timothy Goodwin (Yuin people), Barrister, Victoria Bar
- Kent McNeil, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
- Shea Esterling, University of Canterbury, and Co-chair of ASIL’s Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group (Moderator)
- Harry Hobbs, University of Technology Sydney, and Co-chair of ASIL’s Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group (Moderator)
Pre-registration for the event is required. To register, visit: https://www.asil.org/event/indigeneity-settler-legal-systems.
Thursday, June 10, 2021
Event: June 24th Discussion on the rights of indigenous women and girls with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will hold a virtual day of general discussion on the rights of indigenous women and girls. The Committee states that "the purpose of the day of general discussion is to stimulate debate and seek inputs for the elaboration by the Committee of a General Recommendation on the rights of indigenous women and girls. The aim of the General Recommendation will be to provide guidance to States parties to the Convention on the measures they should adopt to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Convention to respect and protect the rights of indigenous women and girls."
The discussion will take place online on Thursday June 24, 2021, from 12:30pm-2:30pm and from 4:00pm-6:00pm (Geneva time)/ 6:30am-8:30am and 10:00am-12noon (Eastern time). (Link to be posted here at a later date).
The Committee welcomes written submissions which should be sent electronically in Word format to Marco Zanin, Human Rights Officer, at email@example.com, indicating "Submission - General discussion on GRIWAG" in the subject. Submissions must not exceed a maximum of 3,300 words and must be received by June 18, 2021 at the latest.
If you wish to deliver a brief oral statement during the discussion, it must not exceed 3 minutes and you must indicate your intention to do so and must send your statement electronically in Word format to Marco Zanin at firstname.lastname@example.org by June 18, 2021 at the latest, indicating "Registration - General discussion on GRIWAG"in the subject.
More information on this event is available here.
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
The following UN Human Rights Mechanisms have issued calls for inputs with deadlines in June and July 2021 and law professors whose practice, research, and/or scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:
Special Rapporteur on the right to everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – Call for inputs on the right to sexual and reproductive health–challenges and possibilities during COVID-19. Deadline Jun 10, 2021. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants - Call for inputs on the impact of COVID-19 on the human rights of migrants. Deadline June 14, 2021. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression - Call for submissions on gender justice and the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Deadline June 14, 2021. Read more.
Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order – Call for inputs on the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a serious test to multilateralism, laying bare its weaknesses and how it could be the opportunity for a strengthened, more effected and inclusive multilateralism. Deadline June 18, 2021. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – Call for inputs on the human rights dimensions of technical assistance and capacity building in the counter-terrorism and countering/preventing violent extremism areas. Deadline June 30, 2021. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – Call for inputs on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations. Deadline July 31, 2021. Read more.
This information was compiled by Khala Turner, rising 3L at St. Louis University School of Law, from https://ohchr.org/EN/Pages/calls-for-input.aspx.
Monday, June 7, 2021
On Thursday June 2, 2021, the United States submitted a periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This is the first treaty report that the United States has submitted since 2016. The 2021 U.S. report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination states that it is responding to the Committee’s Request for the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth periodic reports of the United States under article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
This blog welcomes your thoughts and analyses of the new report. Please contact Editor Lauren Bartlett if you would like to submit a post.
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Just Security is publishing a series of articles starting this week which outline the origins and the scientific, legal, and ethical underpinnings of the newly released “Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering,” also known as the “Méndez Principles.” These principles are an expert-led initiative responding to a 2016 appeal to the U.N. General Assembly by former U.N. Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez to develop such standards.
The Méndez Principles series on Just Security is being compiled here.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
The UCLA Law Review recently published a full issue on Transnational Legal Discourse on Race and Empire. All of the articles in that issue resulted from its January 2020 law review symposium featuring Third World Approaches to International Law scholars and Critical Race Theory scholars engaged in collaboration.
UCLA Law Review Volume 67, Issue 6 is available here. Wadie E. Said writes The Destabilizing Effect of Terrorism in the International Human Rights Regime, Adelle Blackett with Alice Duquesnoy write Slavery Is Not a Metaphor: U.S. Prison Labor and Racial Subordination Through the Lens of the ILO’s Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, and E. Tendayi Achiume, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and professor of Law at UCLA, writes Race and Empire: Legal Theory Within, Through, and Across National Borders and Critical Race Theory Meets Third World Approaches to International Law. There's lots more and it is all worth a read.
Monday, May 10, 2021
Claudio Grossman, Pandemics and International Law: The Need for International Action, Human Rights Brief, Vol. 24, Iss. 3, Art. 2 (2021). Excerpt below.
"This Article argues that, due to the experience of COVID-19, it is important that the ILC of the United Nations considers the adoption of a normative instrument whose purpose would be the regulation of pandemics – before, during, and after they occur. There is a compelling need to act, stressing prevention and common reaction by the international community when these scourges occur, and the existing normative framework has shown its incapacity to organize the type of global mobilization that pandemics require. This Article will first provide a brief background into relevant topics, and then it will summarize key issues noted during the November 18 conference. Lastly, it will conclude by providing a recommendation for further action."
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Please Join the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility at The New School, the Migration and Human Rights Program at Cornell Law School, and the Program on Forced Migration and Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, for a symposium on May 18-20th, 2021, revisiting the 14 Principles of Protection for Migrants, Refugees and Other Displaced Persons.
This symposium marks the one year anniversary of the publication of the 14 Principles and will consist of a series of 45-minute sessions will explore how migrants, including refugees, have been particularly impacted by the pandemic and the new and emerging ways in which the human rights of these populations are likely to be challenged going forward.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival, in its second digital edition, will be available to audiences across the U.S. from May 19 through 27, 2021, on its streaming site. Ten films are being presented on wide-ranging topics from the education of children with disabilities, a film following queer Black Lives Matter protesters in the U.S., to the continuing war in Colombia. Tickets may be purchased individually for each film for $9.oo or a $70.00 festival pass is available for all ten films that are part of the festival.
Human Rights Watch also states: "We do not want the cost of entry to be a barrier for participation in the festival. If the price of buying a ticket to this film would prevent you from participating, please email the following address (email@example.com) + you will receive an auto-reply email with a free ticket code. We have set aside a set # of tickets per film on a first come first-served basis. Once the free tickets are no longer available, the code will no longer work."
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on guilty verdict in George Floyd case
Geneva, 21 April 2021
“This is a momentous verdict. It is also a testament to the courage and perseverance of George Floyd’s family and many others in calling for justice. As the jury recognised, the evidence in this case was crystal clear. Any other result would have been a travesty of justice.
But for countless other victims of African descent and their families, in the United States and throughout the world, the fight for justice goes on. The battle to get cases of excessive force or killings by police before the courts, let alone win them, is far from over.
Impunity for crimes and human rights violations by law enforcement officers must end, and we need to see robust measures to prevent further arbitrary killings. As we have painfully witnessed in recent days and weeks, reforms to policing departments across the US continue to be insufficient to stop people of African descent from being killed. It is time to move on from talk of reform to truly rethinking policing as currently practised in the US and elsewhere.
This case has also helped reveal, perhaps more clearly than ever before, how much remains to be done to reverse the tide of systemic racism that permeates the lives of people of African descent. We need to move to whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches that dismantle systemic racism.
I recognize that in the US important steps are being put in place with that end in mind. These efforts must accelerate and expand, and must not be diluted when the public focus moves elsewhere.
Now is also the time to critically examine the context in which George Floyd’s killing took place by revisiting the past, and examining its toxic traces in today’s society. The redesign of our future can only be through the full and equal participation of people of African descent, and in ways which transform their interactions with law enforcement, and, more broadly, in all aspects of their lives.
The entrenched legacy of discriminatory policies and systems, including the legacies of enslavement and transatlantic trade and the impact of colonialism, must be decisively uprooted in order to achieve racial justice and equality. If they are not, the verdict in this case will just be a passing moment when the stars aligned for justice, rather than a true turning point.”
Link to statement here.