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Friday, December 14, 2012

Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board Brings Together Students, Faculty, and Community Members for Human Rights Week

tents.jpgDuring the week of December 3rd - 7th, the Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board organized a diverse series of events with the aim of spreading knowledge of human rights issues and facilitating student engagement on campus. The events varied from a multimedia exhibit to a night of performing arts to documentary screening and presentations, and each was a huge success!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

University of Minnesota-Colombia Project Underway

colombia.jpgThe University of Minnesota and Medellín, Colombia law schools partnership kicked off when Human Rights Program Director Barbara Frey and Humphrey Fellow Diana Quintero traveled to Medellín during the first week of December. Frey and Quintero met with the deans of all four law schools involved in the project to finalize objectives. This successful trip is the first step in a nearly three year USAID High Education for Development project designed to strengthen the capacities of the Colombian law schools to teach, research, and provide clinical legal representation toward the promotion of international human rights.

Read more about the partnership here.

Human rights graduate minor Hollie Nyseth Brehm's article on the crime of genocide published in the Society Pages

Rain pelted the side of the empty school building, drowning out all other sounds. In the distance I could see lightning strike across the rolling green hills. The weather couldn't have fit the situation better. For even though the classrooms were vacant, they were far from empty--they held the corpses of over 800 people killed in the 1994 genocide perpetrated against Tutsis in Rwanda. Continue reading...

Beneath the Blindfold: A Survivor-Oriented Discussion of Torture

beneath.jpgTrekking through more than a foot of snow, dozens of University of Minnesota students and members of the human rights community gathered together on Monday night for a showing of Beneath the Blindfold: Four Survivors, One Truth. A panel discussion featuring filmmaker Ines Sommer, Center for Victims of Torture director Curt Goering, Advocates for Human Rights director Robin Phillips, Human Rights Center co-director Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, and survivor Blama Massaquoi followed the screening. The panelists lauded the efforts of organizations such as the Center for Victims of Torture and the Kovler Center and urged audience members to take action, by simply starting conversations about the use of torture or by calling legislators to ask them to stand up against torture or by volunteering in any way possible.

This profoundly humbling film follows four heart-wrenching stories of surviving, not thriving, surviving; of making it through one more day, always one more day; of living through the worst and continuing to care, to work, to heal, to fight for the world that could be, the world that should be--one free of torture. Hector Aristizábal, a therapist, actor, and activist, was tortured by the Colombian military in the 1980s. He continues to act, often leading therapy sessions that draw heavily on acting, and he also campaigns against the School of the Americas and the use of torture in general. Donald Vance, a Navy veteran from Chicago, worked as a security contractor in Iraq. After informing the FBI that he had witnessed an illegal arms transfer by United States personnel, Vance was detained and tortured. He is currently suing the United States government and Donald Rumsfeld for, among other things, authorizing the use of torture. Matilde de la Sierra currently lives in the Chicago area and spends much of her time protesting United States military involvement in the Middle East. de la Sierra formerly worked as a physician in rural Guatemala before being abducted and tortured by a militia. Blama Massaquoi, who was born in Liberia are forced to fight as a child soldier at 15 years old. After being captured by a rebel military group, he was made to drink a substance, likely lye, that destroyed his esophagus. Massaquoi is currently living in Minnesota and is attending college.
The post-film discussion emphasized the importance of bringing the voices of victims and survivors into the conversation about torture. Sommer noted that one of the reasons she and co-director Kathy Berger began to create Beneath the Blindfold was their reaction to the fact that analyses of the Abu Ghraib photos tended to refer only to the perpetrators and whether they were bad apples or products of the system. While perpetrator-focused questions are important, when the conversation lacks reference to the victims, half of the story is missing. Goering reminded the audience that we often get lost in statistics, but each number indicates one person, one human life torn apart by torture.
The panelists also brought up the importance of educating the public, especially young people. In light of media representations of torture, such as those in 24 and those thought to be part of the soon-to-be-released Zero Dark Thirty, critical observation becomes more important than ever. Sommer and Berger have developed a 53-minute version of the film specifically for use in high schools. Both the Human Rights Center and the Advocates for Human Rights have created human rights education programs targeted at students.
Rudelius-Palmer noted that torture, inhuman, and degrading treatment has become routine procedure in the United States prison system as well. In particular, an unknown number of individuals are held in solitary confinement, a practice that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, has said violates international law.
Later this week, the Senate Select Committee Report on Intelligence will be brought before the full Senate for review. This report considers CIA detention and interrogation practices. While full release of the report to the public is highly unlikely, the report might be release in part in the future.
In the words of survivor Donald Vance, "I really don't care what country you're from, I don't care what color your skin is, I don't care who you pray to. This shouldn't happen to anyone. Period." It is estimated that between 120 and 150 countries practice torture, including the United States.
Visit http://www.beneaththeblindfold.org/ for more information about the film, and visit the websites of the Center for Victims of Torture, the Advocates for Human Rights, and the Human Rights Center to learn how these organizations are working to end the use of torture at home and abroad.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Human Rights Program Director Barbara Frey on the Daily Circuit Friday Roundtable

Director Frey joined Eric Schwartz, Dean of the Humphrey School, and Hick Hayes, Professor of History at Saint John's University, to discuss the controversy over Susan Rice, the ethics of drones and other foreign policy challenges facing President Barack Obama as he prepares for his second term. Listen here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A dynamic year of indigenous communication: Indigenous media is a tool for self-determination, emancipation and revival of dying languages.

Quito, Ecuador - Some people in the US were not keen at all on the Geronimo codename given to the final military operation against Osama bin Laden. Native Americans were understandably upset. Continue reading...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

General Cullen: Military Commissions Are A Damaged Brand

cullen1.jpgFormer Chief Judge (IMA) of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals General James Cullen rounded out the 2012 Terrorism and Human Rights Speaker Series. In 2004, along with seven other retired officers, General Cullen called on President Bush to allegations of torture and other abuse of prisoners in U.S. military custody. In his presentation on Monday, Cullen delved into the background, scope, and viable of military commissions, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. The federal courts, not military commissions, Cullen argued, are the best place to try suspected terrorists.

Discussions about military commissions tend to be proxies for discussions about other issues, including Presidential power, Congressional power, and the status of habeas corpus. Military commissions have British origins, and historically, they have been used around the world to ensure specific outcomes at the expense of respect for rule of law.
Recent use of military commissions in the United States began with the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. The United States military did not request that military commissions be set up, and, especially among those in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, there were concerns about rules of procedure and evidence as well as for the rights of the accused. Cullen specifically pointed to the fact that evidence obtained by tortured was formally allowed and the fact that civilian defense counsel access to evidence was severely limited.
Cullen noted that military doctrine demands two things: protection of forces and exploitation of intelligence. When individuals are picked up for routine questioning, guidelines suggest that they not be held for more than three days unless they are an imminent threat or have relevant information. Holding individuals longer than three days or treating them poorly can create enemies from those previously uninvolved or unnecessarily destabilize the region in question.
Cullen further argued that using military commissions to try suspected terrorists gives legitimacy, casting even convicted terrorists as warriors or martyrs rather than criminals. Moreover, the most recent military commissions conducted by the United States military took place during World War II. Consequently, the present-day lacks expertise, whereas those involved in the federal court system, from judges to FBI agents, have experience trying terrorism, conspiracy, and material support cases. Additionally, federal courts have been better able to get convictions on terrorism cases than military commissions.
Ending the use of military commissions also will improve relations with foreign governments. These foreign governments are more likely to cooperate, in terms of transferring defendants, witness, and evidence, when the United States tries terrorism cases in the federal courts, according to Cullen. Currently, there are 48 Guantanamo Bay detainees said to be unable to be tried in the military commissions. When asked how the United States can transition from the use of military commissions to federal courts, Cullen said that what is most needed is political will.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Massachusetts Court Orders Greater Protections for Prisoners in Solitary Confinement

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state Department of Corrections (DOC) can no longer use labels such as "administrative segregation" as an end-run around legal protections designed to prevent prisoners from being held in solitary confinement without end and without due process. Continue reading...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Human Rights Week

writeforrights.jpgThe Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board has organized a week-long series of events that include a multimedia art exhibit, a spoken word night, a critical discussion, a film screening, and a write-a-thon. They hope to engage with the student body and broader community on human rights issues and share their passion for human rights work by reaching out on campus through these diverse activities. Continue reading for more information about each of the five events.

Monday, December 3rd: Tents of Witness: Genocide and Conflict
Where: Wiley Foyer
When: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Tents of Witness: Genocide and Conflict is a multimedia, multicultural, multigenerational exhibit designed to educate people about genocide; explain the causes and consequences of genocide; present action steps to prevent it; and remember those in our own communities who have fled from these atrocities and whose families and communities have been destroyed. Tents of Witness features ten 8' x 12' painted canvas tents that simulate those used in refugee camps. The tents depict the story of different groups persecuted based on their identity: race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin. The stories are of the conflicts suffered by the Jews and others targeted in the Holocaust; Native Americans; and the catastrophes in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, North Korea, Darfur, Argentina, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The tents house slides depicting the cultures prior to the violence, as well as details about the conflicts, their repercussions, and the reconciliation efforts in their aftermaths. The Tents of Witness is a traveling exhibit from the nonprofit World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law, in St. Paul.
Tuesday, December 4th: A Night of Spoken Word
Where: Mapps Coffee, 1810 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55454
When: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
The Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board will be hosting an Open Mic Night featuring performers on LGBT rights and other social justice issues in the United States. Everyone is welcome to join us at Mapps Coffee on West, from 6 to 8pm. Come perform poetry, sing, act, or just enjoy a cup of coffee while listening to talented and passionate individuals! The Human Rights Student Advisory Board will also present critical information on discrimination issues in Minnesota state courts, and provide attendees with resources to address their representatives concerning this topic.
Wednesday, December 5th: A Critical Discussion on Human Rights in North Korea
Where: Blegen, Room 135
When: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Throughout the last 50 years, the American media has focused its energies on the cold war politics surrounding North Korea by depicting threats of nuclear weapons, treating its corrupt leaders as tabloid topics, and failing to bring to light the struggle of the North Korean people. Vicious human rights atrocities plague North Koreans as they fight to find ways around the devastating oppression of the current ruling regime. Through a PowerPoint, video clips, and a discussion, the Student Advisory Board hopes to educate students at the UofM about the critical human rights condition in North Korea, and on the innovative and courageous efforts of the North Korean people to combat the repressive regime ruling them.
Thursday, December 6th: Black Gold: A Film Screening and Discussion
Where: Hanson, Room 109
When: 4:45 pm - 6:30 pm
Witness a man's riveting fight for justice as an Ethiopian farmer in the coffee industry through this highly acclaimed documentary. Multinational coffee companies now rule our shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the industry worth over $80 billion, making coffee the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil. But while we continue to pay for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields. The story of Tadesse Meskela reveals the enormous power of the multinational players that dominate the world's coffee trade. An official selection of the Sundance Film Festival, Black Gold has been called "Riveting and jaw-dropping" by the LA Times, and the Daily Telegraph announces the documentary as "Remarkable--a moving but scandalous story. It has extraordinary power." Join the Student Advisory Board at a screening of this film and enjoy free, fair trade coffee in a handmade mug that each attendee can take home with them to remember their experience (the mugs are limited to the first 50 people).
Friday, December 7th: Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon
Where: Willey Foyer and Coffman Memorial Union, Basement
When: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Join Amnesty International and the Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board in participating in one of the largest human rights campaigns in the world: Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon. This year we will be coming together to allow students to write to their representatives on a range of human rights issues. Join us at Willey Foyer or Coffman Memorial Union on Friday, December 7th, to stand up for human rights!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Judge Tunheim on Human Rights, Classified Information, and Terrorism Cases

tunheim.jpgOn November 26, Judge John Tunheim was hosted as a featured guest in the Human Rights and Terrorism Speaker Series. Judge Tunheim is a Federal District Court Judge in Minnesota noted for presiding over, among others, the case of Mohammed Abdullah Warsame, who was accused of materially aiding a terrorist organization. Tunheim's past work includes serving as the chair of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board where he was in charge of declassifying government documents on the JFK assassination and serving as the Minnesota Chief Deputy Attorney General. Judge Tunheim has also spent a considerable amount of time working on rule of law issues in places such as Kosovo as well as Uzbekistan where he has been working with senior government officials on protecting the rights of defendants in criminal court under a human rights framework.

During his talk, Judge Tunheim focused in on the three issues he has seen in the way U.S. federal courts handle terrorism cases. First is the problem of classified information. Tunheim detailed how tedious the process of becoming cleared to hear classified information is and then how long the process of admitting that information to the court is if and when there are appeals to the substituted information. Substituted information is information that will disclose the nature of what is in classified documents without revealing information that is truly sensitive - the decision process for which can be lengthy and contentious (for example, two years in the Warsame case). A solution to this problem, as Tunheim suggested, might be getting the judge and prosecutor together and deciding at that time what substitutions can be made.
Next is the problem of the drawn out pace of terrorism cases. The U.S. government has little incentive to move cases along quickly, because that would force them to limit the evidence that will be used. Judges can choose to suppress evidence that may have been obtained illegally. The prosecution has the right to appeal decisions to suppress evidence, and the appeals process can take up to two years to resolve.
The final problem touched on by Tunheim was pre-trial detention. While most suspects of terrorism are released before trial, there are instances where the rights of detainees are not respected. This is evident in the Warsame case where he was placed in solitary confinement for all but 30 minutes per day. Closely related, and brought up by an audience member was the possibility of recourse in the criminal justice system for those who allege they were victims of torture while detained. Judge Tunheim stated that while a judge can refer officials for prosecution in the case of torture allegations, many of those officials avoid prosecution by leaving the country.
The message that Judge Tunheim advocates is that when it comes to trying suspects in cases of terrorism we must send the international community the message that we are not afraid to give these suspects the same rights as others despite the serious accusations brought against them.
Written by Max Kaufman.

Monday, November 19, 2012

U of M Human Rights Program Receives $1.25 Million USAID Grant

medellin.jpgThe University of Minnesota has received a $1.25 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED), to create a human rights law school partnership between the university and four law schools in Medellín, Colombia, to strengthen the capacities of the Medellín schools to teach, research and provide clinical legal representation toward the promotion of international human rights and the rule of law.

The grant covers three years of partnership, which will be carried out by the university's Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts and the Human Rights Center in the Law School. Faculty in both colleges will conduct workshops and teach courses in Medellín, and Colombian law students and faculty will travel to the university to learn about human rights law and practice and to cultivate mentor relationships with faculty and human rights professionals.
"We are eager to partner with law students and faculty from Medellin," says Barbara Frey, director of the U's Human Rights Program. "We know it will be an exciting and rewarding experience working with faculty and students who are committed to the rule of law as an alternative to violence in Colombia. We will certainly learn as much as we will teach."
Colombia is one of the oldest democracies in Latin America, but has seen intense armed conflicts over the past 50 years involving insurgents and paramilitary groups, along with criminal and narcotics trafficking organizations. With the implementation of a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia in May, and the start of peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government last month, the U.S. State Department and USAID are supporting Colombia's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, foster socio-economic development, address immediate humanitarian needs, and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism.
The four law school partners in Medellín are: Universidad de Medellín, Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana and Universidad Católica de Oriente.
Human rights education is embedded in numerous units at the University of Minnesota. The Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts and the Human Rights Center at the Law School form the intellectual core of human rights education at the university. Faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts are internationally known for their expertise on the intersections of human rights with judicial trials, small arms, genocides and atrocities, and cultural histories. Students at the undergraduate and graduate levels combine classroom work with activism, regularly taking on issues as diverse as meatpackers' working conditions, sex trafficking and prolonged solitary confinement.
The Law School houses the Human Rights Center, which assists human rights advocates, monitors, students, educators, and volunteers in accessing effective tools, practices, and networks to promote a culture of human rights and responsibilities in our local, national, and international communities. Their faculty and students routinely partner with the United Nations on human rights monitoring and education. One of its most far-reaching projects is its online Human Rights Library, which houses critical legal resources in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and other languages.
To build upon their mutual interest and expertise in human rights more than 50 faculty members spanning at least six colleges - including education, law, liberal arts, medicine, public affairs and public health - have come together through a voluntary collaboration known as "The Human Rights University." The collaboration seeks to mobilize knowledge to advance human rights.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.usaid.gov.
Higher Education for Development (HED) mobilizes the expertise and resources of the higher education community to address global development challenges. Higher Education for Development (HED) works closely with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is founded by the nation's six presidential higher education associations to support the involvement of higher education in development issues worldwide.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Strategic Convening on Solitary Confinement Highlights the Work of Activists Nationwide

convening.jpgThe Midwest Coalition for Human Rights' national strategic convening on solitary confinement, held at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, brought together more than 100 academics, activists, survivors, and community organizers. The one-day conference featured keynote speakers Terry Kupers, Institute Professor at The Wright Institute and Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who provided an overview of the detrimental mental health impacts of solitary confinement, and Robert King, a political prisoner who spent 29 years in solitary confinement, who gave personal testimony about his time in prison.

The conference also included panel discussions on the use of solitary confinement in supermax facilities, immigrant detention facilities, and juvenile detention facilities. These panel discussions led to breakout strategy sessions. The breakout strategy sessions served as forums for conference participants to define plans of action and discuss tactical options, including FOIA requests, grassroots mobilization, use of the media, opportunity evaluation, and creative forms of advocacy. Following the breakout sessions, the group came back together to debrief and discuss remaining questions and next steps.
The event wrapped up with a trip to the Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which features an exhibit on the Tamms Year Ten Campaign, a grassroots movements that has called for the closing of Tamms Closed Maximum Security Unit, a detention facility in southern Illinois that holds inmates in solitary confinement. During this evening session, the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights presented an award recognizing Senator Dick Durbin's work to expose inhumane use of solitary confinement in the United States.
Solitary confinement is also called administrative segregation, isolation, lockdown, and SHU, which stands for security housing unit. Though it is difficult to determine exactly how many people are held in solitary confinement in the United States, the estimate used at the conference was 80,000. Detention facilities rarely have published clear guidelines as to why and for how long an inmate can be put into solitary confinement. Solitary confinement has been shown to exacerbate preexisting mental illnesses and to cause significant mental harm to previously mentally healthy individuals. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment Juan Mendez has stated that no one should be held in solitary confinement for longer than 15 days, citing the high likelihood of permanent mental damage after that period.
Proponents of solitary confinement argue that the practice is necessary to ensure control over unruly prisoners. Many detention facilities around the country have eliminated their solitary confinement units, and rather than facing more violence, these facilities have actually experienced an overall decline in violence.
The convening successfully gathered together activists from across regions and disciplines to discuss what can be done to bring about the end of the cruel practice of solitary confinement in the United States. For more information on the work that is currently being done on this issue, visit the websites of conference participants The National Immigrant Justice Center, The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Tamms Year Ten.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Role of Health Professionals in Detainee Interrogation

On December 25, 2003, Mohammed Jawad, an Afghani teenager held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, repeatedly banged his head against the metal structures of his cell in an effort to kill himself. Continue reading...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Democracy and Human Rights in Post-Election Mexico

mexico.jpgFrancisco Valdes, Director General of Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), visited campus on Monday October 29th along with Joy Langston, Professor of Political Science at Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE), to discuss the state of Democracy and Human Rights in Post-election Mexico. Mexico's election has reinstated the PRI the previously hegemonic party that was defeated for the first time in 70 year in 2000. Since this reinstatement many questions have surfaced about the state of constitutional and political rights in Mexico.

Francisco Valdes is a specialist on constitutional reform and politics in Latin America and is a regular columnist in Mexico City's Universal paper. Valdes emphasized that there have been important electoral and judicial changes in Mexican politics since the hegemonic stage of the PRI. The most important changes Valdes pointed out were the existence of competitive elections and an independent Supreme Court. Despite these improvements Valdes argued that once in office the PAN did not change the nature of governance in Mexico. He points to the main reasons for this lack of accountability is behind the constitutional provisions of no re-election for officials and a high concentration of power in the national government. Valdes characterized the current political situation as one of democratic access but authoritative rule.
Joy Langston is the leading authority on the PRI in Mexico. She specifically talked to what the main concerns are now, including that the PRI has retaken control of the Presidency and the majority of governorships in Mexico. Langston emphasized that signs point to a significant change in the PRI since their previous PRI administrations. Most notably they now have to work in a democratically competitive environment. One major question Langston addressed is whether the PRI will negotiate with drug cartels. She held that it was doubtful there could be a return to former PRI status quo in dealing with drug cartels. This status quo was an agreement of non-intervention as long as there was no public violence and the drugs were kept out of Mexican streets and sold to the United States. Langston pointed out that now the drug cartels are much wealthier and more fragmented, particularly the Zetas, because of Calderon's policies. This fragmentation makes negotiation difficult if not impossible. Langston pointed to current president elect Enrique Pena Nieto's promises to bring down violence and focusing on crimes against society such as kidnapping and extortion as the only major indications that have been given about his drug policy. Most importantly Langston emphasized that the PRI now has to deal with an independent Supreme Court and will be expected to deliver some form of structural reforms.
In direct relation to the human rights situation in Mexico, Valdes and Langston both emphasized that major problems are a lack of access to the judicial system and public financing of parties. They explained that beyond the Supreme Court the judicial system remains very weak and changing it would prove very costly. They also explained that the public financing system allows governors large amounts of expendable cash allowing for the financing of local elections and ensuring that the PRI is able to retain a majority in governorships and local elections. There are however increasing steps towards reform because of the new electoral competitiveness. Most notably with drug policy is the recent Supreme Court ruling that ensures armed forces that commit crimes against civilians will be tried in civilian and not military courts. Hopefully these developments point towards a continued strengthening of the legal system in Mexico.
Valdes and Langston both painted a picture of Mexican democracy that is changing and involving. Although they have returned to the PRI it is hardly the same situation that was in place the last time they ruled. It will be interesting to follow the developments under this new PRI and a Mexico with stronger electoral competition and judicial independence.
Written by Carly Dooley.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Evaluating Human Rights Diplomacy: Maybe You Should Keep Your Friends Closer After All

hicks.jpgPeggy Hicks, Global Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, visited campus on October 26 to discuss her evaluation of the human rights policy of emerging democracies. The political transformation of India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Indonesia (IBSATI) into emergent democracies gave many people hope for a new era of human rights diplomacy at the United Nations: South Africa, a country recovering from apartheid and the land of Nelson Mandela, India, home to Gandhi and the world's largest democracy, and Brazil, a nation fundamentally marked by its history of military dictatorship.

Hicks noted that this optimism was quickly dismantled. IBSATI states offered extremely muddled human rights foreign policy, with great inconsistency and large gaps between rhetoric and action, much like the human rights foreign policy of the Global North. In order to more precisely measure the diplomatic efforts of IBSATI regarding human rights at the United Nations, Hicks suggested three different yardsticks: General Assembly voting records, Human Rights Council voting records, and a more detailed investigation into reactions to the Syria case.
Using data compiled by Ted Piccone of the Brookings Institute, Hicks argued that in the General Assembly, Brazil and Turkey voted in favor of greater human rights protection most of the time, though they by no means voted perfectly. South Africa's voting record was not quite as good, and the voting records of India and Indonesia were dreadful. A similar pattern emerges in the Human Rights Council voting records, though Turkey has not yet been on the Council, and India's record is better. Assessments of Security Council votes are less informative due to the emphasis on consensus and the threat of veto.
The case study of Syria points to further unwillingness to engage prominently in human rights diplomacy. The fallout from international involvement in Libya prompted this decision. Though it had voted in favor of international intervention in Libya, the character of this intervention had disenchanted South Africa. Brazil and India also favored non-interventionism in Syria. Diplomats from India, South Africa, and Brazil visited the Syrian government in August of 2011, but they did not leave the capital, and the Indian diplomats, however inadvertently, even helped to spread misinformation. Hicks hypothesized that the lack of support for Security Council action by Brazil, South Africa, and India emboldened Russia and China.
Overall, it seems that Brazil is most willing to engage on thematic issues rather than country-specific ones. South Africa appears inconsistent and obviously political with regard to country-specific issues, especially in the continent of Africa, though it has been willing to push forward thematic measures dealing with racism and poverty. India has been equally resistant to human rights involvement on country-specific and thematic issues. Indonesia has frequently verbalized a commitment to human rights, but this has not transitioned into positive action. Hicks pointed to Turkey's European Union aspirations as part of the reason for its apparent respect for human rights and favorable votes on both country-specific and thematic issues.
Hicks put forth several possible reasons for these shortcomings dealing with the human rights foreign policy of emerging democracies. To some extent, resources play a role. While the United States and Western European countries have devoted much time and money to the creation of strong foreign services, these emerging democracies have not yet done the same. That means diplomats from the IBSATI states must rely more often on the word of foreign nationals or secondhand information. Then there is an element of self-interest and a strong sense of regionalism. Rather than turning to the United Nations, the IBSATI countries often feel more comfortable appealing to regional bodies or mechanisms. The colonial, apartheid, and authoritarian experiences of these countries might also help to explain the reluctance to engage in human rights diplomacy, according to some. However, Hicks pointed out that this history could reasonably lead to either interventionist or noninterventionist positions.
The most convincing explanation for the gap between human rights rhetoric and action in the emerging democracies is the North-South divide. Hicks noted that there is a methodological difference between the North, which generally prefers public condemnation, sanctions, and military action, and the South, which generally favors constructive engagement, cooperation, and quiet diplomacy. The South tends to distrust the intentions behind interventionism. The true strength of the North-South divide becomes apparent in discussions about Israel and Palestine, where the South selectively abandons its aversion to public action and the North clings to selective application of diplomatic measures.
Concerning the road ahead, Hicks proposed three avenues of engagement. First, she promoted the role of civil society organizations. These organizations have significant room to operate both inside and outside of the United Nations system. They can help to press both the North and South for consistency regarding human rights diplomatic practices. Hicks also held up the possibility of utilizing smaller states to draw attention to human rights concerns in the United Nations. Many smaller states, like the Maldives and Costa Rica, have proven willing to break with regional consensus and push forward on human rights issues. Finally, Hicks argued for the potential to find common ground between the North and South on specific issues, highlighting the cases of Sri Lanka, which India was willing to get involved in due to its large Tamil population, and LGBT rights, which both Brazil and South Africa have supported.
Though the initial optimism for better global human rights policy in the United Nations system following the rise of India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Indonesia as democratic states was dashed, Hicks ultimately identified many existing sites for future improvement.
Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board member Yon-Soo (Lauren) Kim offered the following reaction to the presentation:
"From her [Hicks'] lecture, I came to think more about countries in Global South in terms of their human rights foreign policies, realizing that I had been focused too much on what Global North is doing to protect human rights around the world. Thus, I could sympathize with her opinions of looking for more connection between Global South and Global North and giving smaller states more attention and more equal chances for their voices to be matter more on human rights foreign policies. In addition, I could think more about the reasons behind the IBSA countries' attitude and action about the foreign policies. I understand now more about why they tend to be inactive toward intervention, relating to their experience under the colonial period. As a whole, her lecture helped me to "get out of my comfort zone," and think more from perspective of Global South on human rights foreign policies issues."
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Truth about Trafficking: It's Not Just about Sexual Exploitation

Ending "trafficking" is perhaps the most well-known, well-resourced, well-loved social cause of the 21st century that doesn't require its proponents' agreement on what it even is they wish to end. Continue reading...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Human Rights Experts Discuss Possible Remedies to Racial and Ethnic Inequality

conference.jpgPart of the 2012 4th World Conference on Remedies to Racial and Ethnic Inequality, the "Human Rights as Civil Rights" panel featured Dean of the Humphrey School Eric Schwartz, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment Juan Mendez, Human Rights Program Director Barb Frey, and the Honorable Judge LaJune Lange. The focus of this panel was to propose and discuss possible remedies to racial and ethnic inequality put forth by human rights treaties, institutions, and practices. The international human rights network might offer solutions that could be implemented on the domestic level.

Panel moderator Eric Schwartz provided a basic sketch of the international human rights system, including a description of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which entered into force in 1969, though the United States did not ratify until 1994.
Special Rapporteur Mendez advised that prevention requires both looking backward and looking forward. Impunity, he cautioned, renders future action in opposition to violence impotent. In other words, a solid foundation of accountability is necessary for prevention of human rights violations, including racial and ethnic inequality. While certain levels of discrimination might be written off, it is important to remember than genocide is the extreme end of a continuum of discrimination, and movement along the continuum occurs more quickly than we like to believe. Mendez also discussed the role of transitional justice in reckoning with legacies of inequality and injustice. Transitional justice mechanisms "oblige states to the truth." Not only do these mechanisms get the truth out, but they also break cycles of blame, foster the individuation of guilt, and work toward group reconciliation, according to Mendez.
Professor Frey first critiqued the title of the panel, suggesting that the distinction between human rights and civil rights is a false one and actually undermines the realization of rights generally. She then proposed the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as a site in which remedies for discrimination could be sought. The Committee utilizing creative methodologies, including states reports, thematic debates, early warning procedures, and general recommendations, to delve into worldwide issues related to discrimination. That said, the Committee is only as effective as activists make it. To bridge the gap between international and domestic politics, domestic activists must take part in Committee proceedings and start to use Committee language in domestic settings. The Western Shoshone peoples have found the Committee to be a useful forum for voicing their concerns about US domestic policy regarding land rights. In this case, the Western Shoshone people have found calling upon international human rights bodies, such as the Committee, to be more effective practices than going through domestic channels alone.
Judge Lange highlighted the problematic historical dimension of racial discrimination and remedy discourse in the United States. We tend to have a selective memory about historical figures and issues. Abraham Lincoln suggested that free African American men practice voluntary self-deportation as a remedy to the racial discrimination. Additionally, Lange pointed to the segregation of US troops during World War Two, including the particularly striking example that white troops would be fed first, then POWs, then the black troops. Lange then pointed to a local historical exemplar, Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey worked tirelessly to ensure that principles of nondiscrimination would be included in the 1948 Democratic platform. Ultimately, Lange pointed to the fact that we can look to these historical figures, if we consider their stories in whole rather than in convenient part, and "take a page from their books on how to get the job done."
The panelists set forth a variety of possible courses of action to undertake to start to remedy racial and ethnic inequality, seeking guidance from the international system as well as from historical success stories.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sylvia Tamale Proposes an "Ubuntu" Framework for the Realization of Human Rights

tamale.jpgIn her Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change Distinguished Lecture Sylvia Tamale, notable human rights activist and University of Minnesota alum, suggested a framework through which human rights and, more specifically, gay rights can be achieved throughout the continent of Africa. Rather than using contested rights discourse or other politically charged language, activists and theorists ought to employ the concept of "ubuntu."

In an appeal to culture without making a relativistic argument, Tamale noted that this widely accepted concept could provide a solid base for the realization of universal human rights in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ubuntu, roughly translated, means "humaneness." It refers to basic human dignity, respect, and community. Ubuntu derives from the Bantu language family, and thus is understood widely across Africa. Tamale noted that the concept is something most Africans grow up with, and it is internalized so that it becomes something almost intuitive.
In the case of gay rights in Uganda, the interjection of ideas seen as "western," like human rights, often have adverse effects. Additionally, politicians and others opposed to gay rights often allege that homosexuality is a western export. Tamale referenced numerous historical examples to show that it is not homosexuality but homophobia that was foreign to African thought. That type of argument, Tamale said, holds more sway in classrooms in academic buildings than out in the community. Outside of academia appeals to cultural norms, like ubuntu, will be more effective.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Historicizing Human Rights: Devin Pendas on the Origins of Human Rights

pendas.jpgHistorian Devin Pendas visited the U of M on October 10 to discuss the origins of human rights with students and faculty. Although historiography can also provide insight into other human rights questions, Pendas noted, his current research delves into the three main origins hypotheses. Other disciplines, when investigating human rights both conceptually and practically, tend to give primacy to what, why, and how questions rather than when.

Human rights as a concept, as a specifically universal concept, presents a problem for history--in fact it often denies historical placement, for to be universal, it cannot be temporally placed. If a natural product of being a human being, then as long as there has been human beings, there must have been human rights. The notion that human rights have a historical placement raises important philosophical questions about universality. The precise point in which to locate human rights historically is also profoundly difficult.
Often, attempts to identify human rights as universal across time employ one of two modes of thought. The first is a teleological approach with a view that the present at end point in history, that it is the product of progress. The second approach is Hegelian in nature, seeing human rights as something that is coming to be what it always was, innate potential coming into being over time.
The more recent historiography is less sweeping in scope. Instead of trying to justify earlier and earlier starting points, this literature envisions an "invention" of human rights or the "coming into being" of human rights. The three most common theories mark the origins of human rights in the late 18th century, the mid-1940s, and the 1970s.
Briefly, the late 18th century argument places human rights as the result of Enlightenment thought. In Inventing Human Rights, Lynn Hunt further develops this view. Pendas noted that for human rights to be human rights conceptually, they must be seen as natural, equal, and universal. Enlightenment thought and the rights claims made using it did make appeals to the natural status of these rights and appealed to notions of equality, but they did not include a sense of universalism, argued Pendas. The 1940s argument sees human rights as primarily an American policy. Elizabeth Borgwardt argues for this view in A New Deal for the World. Pendas pointed out that rights discourse in the 1940s was full of dissenting, non-American voices. The 1970s argument, which regards the flourishing of international human rights mechanism as signaling the birth of human rights, is put forth most strongly by Samuel Moyn in The Last Utopia. Pendas believes that the decade of the 70s is too late to be the origins of human rights.
Pendas did argue that there was a significant broadening of human rights in the 1970s due to the global demise of Fordism. This economic rupture and the rise of activist networks, as well as the undercurrents of prior rights discourses in places like Eastern Europe, necessitated an expansion of human rights. Human rights have become a classic form of international politics in a post Fordist world. Jut like post-modernism, human rights seeks to appropriately respond to a changing world. The integration of human rights history and world or regional history is the next step in identifying the origins of human rights.
Devin Pendas is Associated Professor of History at Boston College and the author of The Frankfurt-Auschwitz Trial, 1963-1965.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Human Rights and Terrorism Speaker Series: Joshua Dratel on Classified Information

dratel.jpgJoshua Dratel, a federal criminal defense lawyer in private practice and an advisor to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on the representation of high-value detainees, discussed United States procedures regarding the classification of information with Professor Sikkink's Human Rights and Democracy class on October 1. Dratel represented Guantanamo detainee David Hicks in front of a military commission.

Policymakers initially drafted the Classified Information Procedure Act (CIPA) to prevent the misuse of information in espionage cases. Would-be defendants would use a technique known as "gray-mailing," in which they would threaten to use classified information in their defense, thus making the information public. Because the federal government did not want the information to be made public, the would-be defendants escaped the potential for trial.
The so-called "State Secret Doctrine," as originated in Reynolds v. United States, allows information to be kept out of the courtroom if releasing the information could threaten national security. However, the classified documents in the Reynolds case were declassified years after the case, and the information had nothing to do with national security interests. While the State Secret Doctrine can be used correctly, it also can be abused.
The executive order that created the category of classified information clearly described in what instances information could be classified. Culpability and potential for embarrassment are not valid reasons to keep information classified. Without transparency, which of course stands directly opposed to classified information, there is no way to know if the State Secret Doctrine or other classification standards are being implemented properly.
The principles delineated in CIPA aim to protect the security of government information while also respecting the rights of defendants. The federal government is allowed to substitute a revised version of classified documents. The substitute documents theoretically include any exculpatory evidence without revealing any classified information. A judge reviews the documents to ensure that as much information as possible is released. This review provides some oversight, but ultimately the government does decide what information to include in the substitute documents.
This process handcuffs the defense in some ways. The defense team, unlike the government prosecution, does not know full nature of information. Moreover, a substitute document will never have the same impact in a courtroom that a witness testimony has.
According to Dratel, the principle issue in question when considering secrecy and international human rights law is torture. Certain procedures were developed to reduce the possibility for accountability for those rationalizing, approving, and committing torture.
The changes made in the United States legal and penal systems following 9/11 have damaged foreign government confidence in US procedures. Dratel cited examples from the United Kingdom and Germany to prove this point. The UK is currently holding six terrorism suspects, but refuses to extradite these individuals to the US until there is more transparency in proceedings and the possibility of trial by a military tribunal is eliminated. The German government is said to have information that would supplement certain terrorism cases in the US. However, officials refuse to surrender that information until the death penalty is lifted as a potential punishment in those cases.
Dratel reminded the audience that the misuse of classification of information adversely affects "not just the rights of defendants but also the rights of the public in a democracy."
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Private Detention and the Immigration Industrial Complex

doty.jpgThe Minnesota International Relations Colloquium invited U of M alumni Roxanne Doty to present on her new research regarding the detention of immigrants on September 24th. Doty and her colleague Elizabeth Wheatley are in the process of investigating what they call the "immigration industrial complex." Immigrants currently constitute the fastest growing population in federal custody.

Doty is an assistant professor at the Arizona State University and has focused this research project on Arizona communities, especially Eloy and Florence. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is the largest employer in Eloy. Florence is also home to several prisons.
The prison industrial complex refers to the dramatic increase in incarceration as the private sector exerted more and more influence over prisons, from owning and operating them to political lobbying. This shift from public to private responsibility for and control over the prison system has raised a number of concerns, including overcrowding and the criminalization of difference. Doty and Wheatley believe that a similar trend might be appearing with regard to immigrant detention.
At this time, 17% of all immigrant detainees are held in privately owned facilities, but over 50% are held in privately run facilities owned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other government agencies. Under the Obama administration, the sheer number of deportations has increased and the criminalization of immigration has also become more robust.
There are three types of detention facilities that immigrants are commonly held in: contract, service processing, and inter-government service agreement. Contract facilities are owned and operated privately. Service processing facilities are owned by ICE, but most are operated privately. Inter-government service agreement facilities are centers that are owned by cities or counties. ICE contracts with these local governments. Oftentimes, though, the local governments then subcontract with the CCA or other private corporation. Private prison companies also lobby heavily. CCA alone spends over $1.8 million per year on lobbying.
One argument frequently put forth in favor of the expansion of prisons is that such expansion is said to increase job opportunities. The criminalization of immigrants, though, actually has a negative impact on local economies. Local economies are often heavily dependent on the labor of undocumented immigrants.
The blurring of the distinction between public and private is of particular interest to Doty. Channels of power and accountability are more readily apparent in the case of publicly run prisons. It is possible that privately run prisons could be efficient, more transparent, and better serve local communities, but the opposite is also possible. However, without further empirical study, we won't know with any certainty.
Whether or not the changes we have witnessed in immigrant detention recently correspond to an immigrant industrial complex, these changes do have significant implications for the current political environment and are very real concerns for those communities that depend on immigrant workers.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Prisoners' Letters Offer a Window Into Lives Spent Alone in Tiny Cells

The handwritten letters arrived by the dozens, from men who described in flawed but poignant language what it was like to lose their minds. "I feel like I am developing some kind of skitsophrinia behaviors," one man wrote. "I hear voices echoing as I try to fall asleep."Continue reading...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Arie Perliger: "Terrorism is a Democratic Phenomenon"

perliger.jpgArie Perliger, Director of Terrorism Studies at West Point, described the antagonistic relationship between terrorism and democracy in the second edition of the Fall 2012 Human Rights and Terrorism Speaker Series. Adequate scholarship as to why groups turn to terror tactics and the best ways to respond to terrorism has yet to be done. Most interestingly, Perliger argues that effective counterterrorism policies do not necessarily detract from civil liberties.

Perliger is particularly interested in why democracies continue to implement ineffective counterterrorism policies. There is a lack of solid theory on how democracies can effectively respond to terrorism. The existing counterterrorism literature, asserts Perliger, focuses on the operational aspects of counterterrorism policy and neglects the political and legal dimensions of terrorism. Perliger cautioned the audience that it is important to remember that terrorism is the product of groups with political agendas. These groups have turned to violent means and scare tactics, but their aims are political in nature.
Often appropriate consideration is not given to the question of what makes terrorism effective. Terrorism is an effective tactic when the discourse around the conflict or issues in question changes. Terrorist groups rarely, if ever, have the capacity to defeat a traditional state military using traditional military tactics. As a result, terrorist groups must turn to a form of psychological or symbolic warfare. While the impacts of such a strategy are very real, the goals of actors involved are to make a psychological or symbolic impact. When policymakers better understand what makes terrorism an attractive strategy, they will be better able to draft effective counterterrorism policies.
Perliger argues, "terrorism is a democracy phenomenon," because only when engaging with democracies does it make sense to conduct a psychological war. In an autocracy, it does not much matter than the public buys into the narrative offered by their government. In a democracy, on the other hand, public perception matters a great deal. Terrorism as we know it is also a modern phenomenon made possible by the invention of dynamite and the development of mass media.
Perliger then argued that the traditional perception of counterterrorism policies as inherently in opposition to civil liberties is not exactly correct. It is possible, according to Perliger, to respect basic freedoms while implementing effective counterterror policies. He cited the Spanish treatment of the Basque separatist movement as an example, The Spanish government invested in Basque territories economically and allowed for a Basque-run Parliament and schools to be put into place. In this way, the Spanish government delegitimized acts of terror committed by the separatists rather than spurring them on. These policies also offered an alternative narrative, one that allowed for coexistence.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Visual Economies of Sex Trafficking: Public Images and National Identity

hua1.jpgOn September 21, Julietta Hua, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University and author of Trafficking Women's Human Rights, kicked off the Feminist Studies Colloquium Series in honor of the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies' 40th anniversary. Hua's talk was entitled "The Visual Economies of Sex Trafficking: Public Images and National Identity." She also gave the audience a preview of her latest work, which focuses on the broadening terms of what counts as a subject worthy of ethical intervention.

Hua's project revolved around two questions: how do some issues become legible as human rights issues while others do not, and why are human rights represented by certain figures and not others? For example, women's human rights tend to be cast in terms of trafficking or female genital mutilation. Hua contends that human rights issues are commodities, that media and advocacy attention give these issues value. Making an issue legible "helps imagine and police national belonging."
In this framework, Hua analyzed the case of sex trafficking in the United States. Public service announcements and other officially sanctioned documents about sex trafficking feature images of individuals construed solely as helpless victims. The stories of individuals who have been trafficked are made sellable by the construction of infantilization narratives. In other words, a dynamic of victim/rescuer is set up. When these narratives are constructed, however well meaning the authors are, they often refer to cultural stereotypes and oversimplify the complex reality that is human trafficking, which does a disservice both to those being trafficked and those working to combat trafficking.
Hua's next project, tentatively called "Affect, Ethics & Primates." Recently Hua visited a chimpanzee sanctuary in California. She interviewed the people working there and found that many spoke of their work in terms of ethics. Hua hopes to further investigate how these attitudes are challenging what we consider worthy of ethical attention.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Report from NIJC & Physicians for Human Rights Exposes Inhumane Use of Solitary Confinement in Immigration Detention System

Immigrants in detention facilities around the United States often are subjected to punitive and long-term solitary confinement and denied meaningful avenues of appeal, according to an investigation by Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Continue reading...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Todd Hinnen Speaks to Human Rights Class About Electronic Surveillance

hinnensized.jpgKicking off the Fall 2012 Human Rights and Terrorism speaker series, attorney Todd Hinnen, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP, discussed the United States' electronic surveillance program with students in Professor Kathryn Sikkink's "Human Rights and Democracy in the World" class and members of the public on September 17. Hinnen has extensive experience working in the Department of Justice, including as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

Working primarily within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) system, Hinnen addressed the legality for government electronic surveillance following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Hinnen acknowledged the difficulty of balancing the government's interest in investigating potential threats and respecting an individual's right to privacy, as codified in the US Constitution and explicated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The checks and balance system found throughout the US government, Hinnen asserted, helps to maintain this balance.
The United States Congress initially passed the legislation to create the FISA mechanisms and has conducted investigations into intelligence abuses, including the Church Committee. The Department of Justice, which falls under the executive branch, conducts investigations and applies for FISA warrants. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret court, determines whether or not to issue warrants for electronic surveillance. The overwhelming majority of surveillance requests are granted.
Currently, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, The Nation Magazine, the Washington Office on Latin America and other organizations are seeking to challenge the FISA Amendments Act's legality. The organizations allege that the 2001 warrantless wiretapping program and 2008 program expansion gave the National Security Agency unconstitutional and almost unchecked power to monitor Americans' international phone calls and emails. On October 29, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the case.
by Whitney Taylor

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Survey Project on Popular Opinion and Human Rights Underway

ron.jpgOn Tuesday, September 11, Professor James Ron, the current Stassen Chair for International Affairs at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs & Department of Political Science, detailed his current research for an audience of faculty members, undergraduate and graduate students, and the broader community. Joining Professor Ron via Skype were his colleagues David Crow of CIDE-Mexico and Archana Pandya of the Rights-Based Organization Project. Ron and his colleagues have been gathering data from around the world in an attempt to answer the question, what do ordinary people think about human rights and human rights organizations?

As part of a three-phase study, Ron, Crow, and Pandya are in the process of conducting extensive surveys in four countries: Mexico, Brazil, India, and Morocco. During an earlier phase of the project, Ron and Pandya interviewed individuals who are active in legally registered rights-based organizations from around the world. These new surveys are meant to test hypotheses about public opinion of human rights set forth in the interviews. In particular, Ron, Crow, and Pandya hope to test for the effects of religion and urban versus rural locale on trust of human rights organizations and human rights work generally. Data collected for this project will be made publicly available.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Human Rights Fellow Participates in Conference in Ireland

cork1.jpgHuman Rights Fellow Corbin Treacy spent the first week of the semester in Ireland at a conference called "Imagining Contemporary Algerias." Read about Corbin's experience below:

Studying Algerian literature in the United States can, at times, make for pretty isolating work. When I present at conferences, I am often seated on a panel with fellow "Francophonists," which means that I might have a colleague on my left presenting on the Québécois pastoral novel and, on my right, a scholar of the Senegalese oral tradition. Fascinating though the potential connections between and among our respective projects might be, this system of classification (France over here, the rest over there) rarely leaves me feeling any closer to my chosen objects of study and more often than not, has me wondering if it was worth the trip.

Such was not the case at a conference I recently attended at University College Cork (Ireland), "Imagining Contemporary Algerias: Communities, Nation-State, the Maghreb and the Mediterranean." Organized by Patrick Crowley (Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences Senior Research Fellow) and Megan MacDonald (IRCHSS Government of Ireland Post-Doctoral Fellow), the conference brought together seventeen scholars from across Europe, Algeria, and the US. Conferences dedicated to the study of the Algerian cultural imaginary don't happen very often, and it was refreshing to have beside me colleagues grappling with similar questions, however varied our approaches and methods might be.
Keynote speaker Jane Hiddleston (Exeter College, Oxford University) applied pressure to theories of reading and literature in the theoretical writings of Derek Attridge and Jacques Rancière to rethink the political stakes of literature and the limits of reading as an act of engagement in her talk, "Algerian Literary Encounters: Reading and Writing in Two Novels by Tahar Djaout." Salim Bachi, the second keynote speaker, revisited his novels (particulary Le Chien d'Ulysse) to argue that authorship is above all an act of creating and proposing alternative worlds, a cartography of the unknown. Both presentations spawned thoughtful discussions that continued well beyond the walls of our conference room. My paper, "Aesthetics and Politics in Contemporary Algeria: Kamel Daoud and the Nouvel Engagement," discussed the fictional works of Kamel Daoud, an Algerian journalist, editor, and novelist whose writing leverages myth, fantasy, and formal innovation as an anti-representational and imaginative response to the violence, human rights abuses, and conflict of the past twenty years. The papers presented by my fellow panelists were provocative, rigorous, and highly original; I left with a long list of books to read, films to see, and new friends with whom to keep in touch.
I could not have attended this conference without the generous support of the Human Rights Program and the Institute for Global Studies, for which I am deeply grateful.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Human Rights Course Offerings

johnson.jpgWelcome back to campus! The Human Rights Program has revamped its curriculum this summer. Whether you're a graduate or undergraduate student, we have a few new course offerings this fall with seats still open. The human rights internship course, which is usually only offered in the spring, will be taught by Doug Johnson, the former director of the Center for Victims of Torture. Joachim Savelsberg, professor of Sociology, is offering a graduate level course on atrocity and the law that will be co-taught by John Hagan of Northwestern Law School.

GLOS 3402: Human Rights Internship [3 credits]
Doug Johnson, former director of the Center for Victims of Torture, will be teaching the human rights internship class this semester, which is usually only offered in the spring. This course is designed to offer students a practical, hands-on experience in human rights advocacy including an internship in one of the many organizations in the Twin Cities area that are engaged in promoting and protecting international human rights. A student is required to work 8 hours per week (total of 100 hours for the semester) in a nongovernmental organization. Placements are described in the accompanying handout. The weekly class will provide background on the legal framework for international human rights, the nature of transnational advocacy, the mission and structure of non-governmental organizations, as well as tactics, fund-raising and other skills needed to work in the field. Students have interned at a variety of organizations including the Advocates for Human Rights, the Center for Victims of Torture, the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota Law School, and the Immigrant Law Center.
SOC 8190: Topics in Law, Crime, and Deviance
Atrocities: Collective Representations and the Law [3 credits]
This inter-disciplinary and inter-university seminar, co-taught via ITV technology by Profs. John Hagan from the Department of Sociology and the Law School of Northwestern University and Joachim Savelsberg from the Department of Sociology of the University of Minnesota will address social scientific, judicial and journalistic depictions of atrocities. These themes will be explored with a focus on the cases of Darfur, Rwanda, and the wars in the former Yugoslavia, supplemented by references to other cases of grave human rights violations, crimes against humanity and genocide. One central goal is to understand contrasting representations and collective memories of such violations, especially the effects judicial interventions have on representations and memories. These effects are considered as potential intervening mechanisms that contribute to the continuation or disruption of cycles of violence. Also communication between the fields of law, scholarship and journalism will be explored, and the tension between the globalization of representations and memories and local and national forces will be discussed. Ideas, materials and research agendas laid out in Hagan?s Justice in the Balkans (University of Chicago Press, 2003) and Darfur and the Crime of Genocide (with Rymond-Richmond, Cambridge University Press, 2009) and Savelsberg?s Crime and Human Rights (Sage, 2010) and American Memories: Atrocities and the Law (with King, Russell Sage Foundation, 2011) will guide part of our discussion. They will be supplemented by a range of related classical and contemporary writings by scholars from a variety of scholarly fields. The seminar should be of interest to graduate students in diverse disciplines such as sociology, political science, law, anthropology and history.
PA 5801: Global Public Policy [3 credits]
This spring, Professor James Ron in the Humphrey Institute will be teaching a class called "Global Public Policy" that will explore human rights themes from a public policy perspective. In PA 5801, students meet once a week to combine local, class-based discussions with international, cloud-based discussions with students in Mexico and Israel. The course examines global policy through the lens of "human security," an approach that focuses on the safety and well-being of the world's most vulnerable populations. In the first half of the course, we situate the human security notion within the broad sweep of international relations theory and global policymaking. We then examine the workings of relevant global actors, including the UN and its agencies, international NGOs, and transnational social movements. Next, we study some crucial global issues in a general way, including development, humanitarian aid, transnational crime, and humanitarian military intervention. In the course's second half, students apply these general lessons learned to concrete policy dilemmas and analysis in Mexico and Israel/Palestine. More specifically, we examine Mexico's brutal drug war, which has led to the death of some 60,000 people over the last six years, and the Israeli siege of Gaza, which has generated enormous international attention and caused substantial hardship among the civilian population. Although this is a graduate class, advanced undergraduates may enroll with instructor permission.

Human Rights and Terrorism Experts to Speak on Campus This Semester

tunheim.jpgThis fall, the University of Minnesota has the privilege of hosting numerous experts at the intersection of human rights and terrorism. Guest lecturers will speak to Professor JaneAnne Murray's "Law and Terrorism" class as well as Professor Kathryn Sikkink's "Human Rights and Democracy in the World" class. The Monday afternoon lectures during Professor Sikkink's course will be open to the public throughout the semester.

Federal District Court Judge Tunheim (pictured) will speak on November 26.

Below you'll find speaker profiles and a schedule. Professor Sikkink's Human Rights and Democracy class meets Monday from 2:30-3:20pm in Blegen 150.
Speaker Profiles and Schedule
1. Todd Hinnen (September 17, 2012) - is a partner in the Privacy and Security practice at Perkins Coie in Seattle. Previously, he was Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Obama administration, where he oversaw the DOJ's nationwide counterterrorism, counterespionage and export control programs. He also represented the United States before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has testified before Congress on numerous occasions in both open and classified hearings. He also served under President George W. Bush as a Director in the National Security Council's Directorate for Combating Terrorism.
2. Arie Perliger (September 24, 2012) - is Director of Terrorism Studies at the Combating Terrorism Center and Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, US Military Academy at West Point. He has published four books and 15 articles and book chapters in the fields of terrorism, political violence and extremism and the principal ways democratic states respond to these challenges.
3. Joshua Dratel (October 1, 2012) - is a nationally-renowned criminal defense lawyer, with extensive experience in terrorism cases; former President of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (2005); Co-Chair of the Select Committee on Military Tribunals of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Senior Fellow for Legal Research at New York University Law School's Center on Law & Security, and a member of its Board of Advisors. Publisher of several books and articles on national security.
4. Nusrat Choudhury (October 8, 2012) - Nusrat Choudhury, a graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Yale Law School, is a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Law Project. She is counsel of record in the ACLU's litigation against the F.B.I. challenging the No-Fly List.
5. Prof. Afsheen John Radson (October 15, 2012) - is an associate professor at William Mitchell College of Law, and founder and director of William Mitchell's National Security Forum. Previously, he has served as a federal prosecutor and as assistant general counsel at the CIA. He has written extensively on national security issues.
6. Justine Harris (November 12, 2012) - is principal in Colson & Harris, LLP, a boutique federal criminal law practice in New York City. A graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School and a former federal defender, she sits on the board of Federal Defenders of New York, and is also director of the Federal Defender Clinic at NYU Law School. She has represented defendants in several high-profile terrorism prosecutions, including Zeinab Taleb-Jedi, Wesam El-Hanafi, and Mohammed Zazi (the latter case in a jury trial).
7. Keith Ellison (November 19, 2012) - is the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district, serving since 2007. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, he is the first Muslim to be elected to the United States Congress, and also the first African American elected to the House from Minnesota. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, which, inter alia, handles policy matters relating to combating terrorist financing.
8. Judge John Tunheim (November 26, 2012) - is a U.S. District Court Judge in Minnesota, who presided over the case of Minneapolis terrorism suspect Mohammed Abdullah Warsame, among other terrorism cases. He also served as chair of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board, in charge of declassifying the government records of the Kennedy assassination, and served as Minnesota chief deputy attorney general. In April, 2012, he spoke on "National Security Law and the Judiciary" at a luncheon hosted by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security.
9. James Cullen (December 3, 2012) - is a retired Brigadier General in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General's Corps and served as the Chief Judge (IMA) of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2004, he joined with seven other retired officers in an open letter to President Bush expressing their concern over the number of allegations of abuse of prisoners in U.S. military custody. He is a frequent guest lecturer/commentator on the use of military tribunals to prosecute suspected terrorists.

Introducing the Human Rights Program's New Student Advisory Board

3figures.jpgThe Student Advisory Board, ten highly motivated undergraduate students from the University of Minnesota, connects the Human Rights Program and the U's undergraduate student community. These students hail from Global Studies, Political Science, Economics, Social Justice, Journalism, Psychology, and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies. Starting next semester, the Student Advisory Board will coordinate student efforts to promote human rights on campus. Keep an eye out for Student Advisory Board events!

Click here to read more about the Student Advisory Board members.

Friday, August 17, 2012

At Town Hall Forum Rep. Ellison Calls for Accountability for Torture

EndingTortureNow.jpgCarrying on in the tradition of renowned public officials from Minnesota who have promoted human rights, Representative Keith Ellison spoke to a full house in Minneapolis on Monday, August 13, saying, "Democracy works because citizens stand up and make demands" of their government, and "it's time to demand accountability." More than 150 activists, students, and community members turned out at Mayflower Church UCC for Amnesty International and Women Against Military Madness's "Ending Torture Now Town Hall Forum."

Joining Representative Ellison were panel moderator David Schultz of Hamline Law School, Doug Johnson, former executive director of the Center for Victims of Torture, and Professor Barbara Frey, director of the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota. Just days after the tenth anniversary of the elaboration of the torture memos by the Office of White House Counsel, this panel of experts discussed the legacy of Bush administration torture policies.
The panelists noted example after example that showed torture to be not only immoral but ineffective. The United States government has undeniably authorized the use of torture in black sites, in Guantanamo Bay, and in domestic prisons around the country. In light of this, Johnson urged the crowd to "fight this culture of celebrated ignorance" and the "deep belief that my idea is better than empirical fact." To do this, he argued, we must find effective language to engage the broader public in the effort to end torture, including natural rights arguments based in religious and moral traditions. The Golden Rule - treat others as you would have them treat you - is why we need accountability.
Ellison pointed out that "every country has a human rights record to apologize for, so the true mark of a nation that respects human rights is the willingness to confront blemishes and say we can do better--and we can do better." The torture memos signify an era of overblown presidential authority, and that era featured and attempted to justify acts that shock the conscience. He stated further, "It is no shame or dishonor to apologize--it is a shame or dishonor not to apologize."
Professor Frey lauded Representative Ellison's readiness to come forth on this issue: "While it is easy for our elected officials to take a generic stand against torture, very few are pushing for accountability for crimes that have been committed in our name. Representative Ellison is one of those few."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Human Rights Program at the State Fair

statefair.jpgThe Human Rights Program will have a booth in the U of M Building at the State Fair again this year. We'll be there on Thursday, August 23 from 3-9 pm, Friday, August 24 from 9 am-5 pm, and Friday, August 31 from 1-5 pm. Stop by to try your hand at our human rights trivia game for a chance to win some great prizes!

Visit http://www.statefair.umn.edu/ for more information about the University of Minnesota at the State Fair.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Human Rights Program Offers U Student a chance to engage in UN work on small arms

barblaura.jpgThis past July Laura Matson, who is pursuing a joint degree in law and geography, spent two weeks observing United Nations meetings and forging relationships with delegates from around the world. For one week, Laura and Human Rights Program director Barbara Frey were in Geneva to participate in the session of the Human Rights Committee, after which they travelled to New York City to observe the conclusion of negotiations regarding a proposed Arms Trade Treaty.

The UN work is related to Frey's accomplishments as UN special rapporteur on human rights violations committed with small arms and light weapons. See the Small Arms Principles here. The July trip allowed Laura to witness firsthand the complex world of UN advocacy.
During the last academic year, Laura participated in Professor Jennie Green's human rights law clinic, a course that gives students practical advocacy experience on a variety of human rights issues. One focus of the class is to assist in constructing human rights norms regarding small arms and light weapons. Laura and her classmates have worked for the past two years to document the small arms practices of States Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to submit reports to the UN Human Rights Committee which monitors compliance with the Covenant. The Human Rights Committee reviews each country's human rights practices approximately every four years. During the review process, non-governmental organizations may submit "shadow" reports to supplement or contradict the country's own reports of human rights treaty compliance. Student in the clinic have prepared seven shadow reports including reports on Kenya and Armenia that were considered in the Committee's July 2012 session. Laura presented the report on Armenia to the Human Rights Committee.
After Professor Frey and Laura Matson concluded their work in Geneva, they travelled to the New York headquarters of the United Nations to observe negotiations in a different process regarding small arms. Throughout July, country delegates from around the world debated language for a binding arms trade treaty that would set limits on the export of arms and munitions in an effort to reduce the flow of weapons to areas suffering conflict and widespread human rights abuses. Professor Frey and Laura observed the treaty negotiations and sat in on meetings with country delegates and NGOs. The small arms conference concluded without agreement on a complete treaty text, and the discussion will likely continue as part of the General Assembly and First Committee. A joint statement offered by over 90 UN Member States noted, with disappointment, the lack of a final outcome at the conference but promised to continue to pursue a robust Arms Trade Treaty that "would bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity."
For more information on the Human Rights Program's Small Arms and Lights Weapons project, click here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ending Torture Now: Moving Forward by Looking Backwards

torture.jpg On Monday, August 13, Amnesty International and Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) are hosting Congressman Keith Ellison, HRP director Barbara Frey, and former executive director of the Center for Victims of Torture Dog Johnson for a town hall-style discussion around the 10th anniversary of the Bush Justice Department's so-called "torture memos," written by former Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee on August 1, 2002.

In reference to the so-called torture memos, Gary King, spokesperson for Amnesty International, said, "The memos were written to provide a legal fig leaf to hide horrible and often deadly abuses of prisoners, including water-boarding. When they became public, some were rescinded by the Bush administration."
"But to this day," King continued, "Bush administration officials are bragging about our journey into war crimes, and offering to do it again. President Obama has said we did in fact torture people, but none of the policy makers, no one who authorized or ordered torture, has been held accountable. And some of the Bush administration tactics -- for example, secret prisons and rendering prisoners to countries that torture -- may well be continuing under the Obama Administration."
A Town Hall Forum marking the 10 year anniversary of the Torture Memos
Monday August 13th 6:00 - 7:30 pm
Mayflower Church UCC, 106 East Diamond Lake Road, Minneapolis
The forum is free and open to the public to attend and participate. Mayflower Church United Church of Christ (UCC) is located at 106 E. Diamond Lake Rd, Mpls 55419, near 35W and East 54th St. Free off street parking. For more information, contact: Gary King, Amnesty International, 763-571-7696; WAMM, 612-827-5364; or Coleen Rowley 952-393-0914.
Sponsored by Amnesty International, WAMM, Center for Victims of Torture, World Without Genocide

Monday, July 2, 2012

Human Rights Fellow Offers Workshop on Trauma and Text

corbin.jpgHow do we read narratives of trauma? What does it mean to experience the suffering of others through art? What role can literature and film play in helping trauma survivors recover and heal? These are questions with which educators must grapple in the twenty-first century populated with media images of tragedy and suffering. Corbin Treacy, a PhD candidate in French and Human Rights Program affiliate, will lead this week-long workshop entitled "Trauma and Text: Approaches to Teaching the Literature of Atrocity."

The workshop will take place the week of July 23. Corbin's doctoral focus is the production and representation of human rights memory in Algerian literature.
Through closely examining both the positive uses of "trauma texts" and the risks that teaching such texts involves (secondary trauma, voyeurism, reductionism, pity), and discussing the place of hope and agency, as well as the ways in which the artistic voice can promote growth and healing, this workshop will provide the opportunity for participants from across disciplines to think through the ways in which we approach the difficult task of engaging historical and personal trauma through creative works. Participants will read a variety of theoretical and primary texts across genres (short stories, poetry, film, theater). Guest speakers will provide the institute with outside expertise and perspectives from a diversity of contexts. Institute participants will develop and receive feedback on a micro unit constructed around a text (film, poem, play, novel, etc.) for use in their classroom and will participate in creative writing exercises that model ways in which students can use their own stories as potential sites for healing and growth.
Following the completion of this workshop, Corbin was kind enough to share with the Human Rights Program his reflections on the experience:
"I recently had the privilege of leading a week-long IGS Summer Institute, "Trauma and Text: Approaches for Teaching the Literature of Atrocity." The eleven participants and I asked a series of questions that complicate how we as educators consider the concept of "trauma" with students through the literary or filmic imaginaries: What does it mean to represent atrocity on the page or screen? How do we read narratives of trauma? How do we encounter the suffering of others through art? What role can literature and film play in helping trauma survivors recover and heal? What special challenges do these texts present for adolescent learners? What is our role as educators? How do we teach "trauma?"
In addition to two other graduate students from the University of Minnesota, the group included a number of middle and high school teachers, two college professors, a family therapist, and an adult educator who works, among other places, in Minnesota State Prisons. They work in urban, suburban, and rural settings, in Minnesota and in one case, Fresno, California. Their student populations range from very homogenous to ESL classes with new-arrival students from around the world. Each came with questions, concerns, and pressures unique to their teaching environment, and this plurality of experience animated our discussions throughout the week.
One thread that emerged early and often was the danger of reading trauma texts, particularly historical trauma texts, in a way that reduces a people or nation to the status of the eternal victim. To that end, we read chapters from James Dawes' That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity that consider the ethics of storytelling in the wake of genocide, and asked how these ethical paradoxes in which authors find themselves might inform our approach to literary or filmic works.
Another day, we discussed the simultaneous power and banality of "difficult" images, using Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others in a conversation about the photos from Abu Ghraib, Picasso's "Guernica," press coverage of the Viet-Nam War, and the depiction of Arabs in popular Western media. We visited the Minnesota Historical Center and toured several exhibits (Minnesota's Greatest Generation, The U.S.-Dakota War of 1882, New Deal Paintings), followed by a discussion about the role of museums in representing human suffering and historical trauma, and our task as educators in helping students navigate the collective memories organized in (and importantly, absent from) such spaces.
We were fortunate to have a range of guest speakers throughout the week: Paul Orieny (Center for Victims of Torture), Claire Stanford, (MFA '12 and former Human Rights Scribe), Julie Schumacher (Director, Creative Writing Program and Professor of English), and Jodi Elowitz (Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies). The participants ended the institute by sharing resources with each other, and presented and discussed lesson plans they're building around "trauma texts" of various kinds (websites, social media, photo exhibits, short film, memoires, and novels)."

Friday, May 18, 2012

The State of Iberoamerican Studies Series: Human Rights Across the Disciplines

iberoamer.jpgProviding a forum for interdiscursive theoretical discussions and dialogue, The State of Iberoamerican Studies Series: Human Rights Across the Disciplines, founded in 1995 at the University of Minnesota Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, supports a number of critical symposia that bring together not only the monologues of traditional scholarly disciplines, but also the powerful, struggling and often unarticulated voices, postures and assumptions of contemporary non-canonical cultural discourses.

The University of Minnesota, The College of St. Benedict /St. John's University, and Teatro del Pueblo, organizers of this annual conference and theater festival are proud to announce the artistic achievements of three of its most recent guests: Carlos Satizábal (Colombia), Patricia Ariza (Colombia), Samir Yazbek (Brasil); and the granting of an International Theater Research Award to Luis A. Ramos-Garcia, founder of the series.
*Carlos Satizábal wins the 2012 Colombian National Poetry Award
The State of Iberoamerican Studies Series group celebrates and congratulates the playwright artist, actor, professor and writer Carlos Satizábal for winning the National Unpublished Poetry Award 2012 in Colombia, thanks to his work "La llama inclinada" exhibited at the international book fair of Bogota. Carlos was in Minnesota in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
*Patricia Ariza Prince Claus (The Netherlands) Award and the Colombian Congress Medal
The International Prince Claus Award honors individuals and organizations reflecting a progressive and contemporary approach to the themes of culture and development. Patricia Ariza received this award as well as the Colombian Congress Medal for her commitment to Universal Human Rights, Peace, and artistic creativeness. Patricia was invited to Minnesota in 2009, and 2011.
*Samir Yazbek (Sao Paulo, Brasil). The Associação Paulista dos Críticos de Arte (APCA) Award 2010 for Best Brazilian writer
One of Brazil's most prominent writers, Yazbek trained under the tutelage of Antunes Filho. His plays have been performed across the world and received translation into English, French & Spanish. Samir's plays include: O Fingidor/The Pretender (Shell Award/1999, best writer); Terra Prometida/Promised Land (among the 10 best plays of 2002, according to the newspaper O Globo); As Folhas do Cedro/Cedar-Tree Leaves (APCA Award 2010 for best writer). Samir will visit Minnesota this coming Fall 2012.
*Luis A. Ramos-Garcia (Lima, Perú). XII Festival Internacional de Teatro de Grupo and Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Lima-Perú) Award 2011
On September 24, 2011, the XII Festival Internacional de Teatro de Grupo (Brasil, Argentina, España, Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, United States, and México); the I Simposio Iberoamericano de Teatro de Grupo; the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Lima-Perú); and the Asociación para la Investigación Actoral Cuatrotablas; presented an International Theater Award and recognition to Luis A. Ramos-García (University of Minnesota) "for his transcendental contribution to Peruvian Theater."
The series was sponsored by an Imagine Fund Special Events grant; the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies; Human Rights Program; President's Faculty Multicultural Research Award; Global Spotlight; Global Studies; Teatro del Pueblo; and College of St. Benedict / St. John's University.