Human Rights Articles

Waiting for Disruption: The Western Sahara Stalemate

A man sits alone near the road between the Dakhla Refugee Camp and Awsaard Refugee Camp, June 24, 2003 (UN photo by Evan Schneider).
By Jacob Mundy
, , Feature

The Western Sahara conflict is fast approaching its 40th anniversary with no end in sight. A web of geopolitical interests keeps the conflict in a permanent state of limbo. Therein lies the paradox: The peace process now exists to contain the conflict, but only a crisis will save Western Sahara. more

The Politics of Advocacy: Setting and Vetting the Global Agenda

By Charli Carpenter
, , Feature

A U.N. conference this year on fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” raises the question: Why do some issues and not others attract global policy attention? This article explores the channels through which humanitarian concerns are guided from grassroots activism to the highest levels of the international political agenda. more

Diplomatic Fallout

U.S., Russia Duel Over Humanitarian Interventions in Iraq and Ukraine

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

There has been a lot of talk about humanitarian interventions over the past week. Russia has pressed for a “humanitarian mission” to the war zone in eastern Ukraine. While telling Russia to back off, the Obama administration has launched air strikes in Iraq against the forces of the Islamic State. The humanitarian case for American action is clear. It may nonetheless also have unwelcome consequences. more

With More Evidence of Assad War Crimes, Is Transitional Justice Possible in Syria?

By Frederick Deknatel
, , Trend Lines

Last week, a former Syrian military photographer appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee with thousands of photographs allegedly showing widespread torture and killing in Bashar al-Assad’s jails. Amid the geopolitical wrangling over the Syrian civil war, the photographs have reignited calls for transitional justice and accountability for atrocities committed there, whenever the fighting stops. more

Special Report

A Year of Conflict and Crisis for Africa

By The Editors
, , Report

As President Barack Obama convenes a summit of nearly 50 African leaders in Washington focused mainly on economic opportunity, security and health crises continue to undermine the continent’s potential. But while Western powers continue to wield influence, it is increasingly Africa’s leaders who are driving events. more

International Law Solutions Fall Short for Israelis, Palestinians in Gaza Conflict

By Lolita Brayman
, , Briefing

As the death toll in Gaza rises, legal definitions of what is permissible in war have been bitterly contested. International law defines war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute, but in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the classifications are difficult to apply. Through the grey areas of international law, both sides have found new ways to blame each other. more

Why the Republic of Congo Has Sent Tens of Thousands of Migrants Back to DRC

By David Klion
, , Trend Lines

Over 130,000 migrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been deported from or otherwise driven out of the neighboring Republic of Congo since April. The U.N. has declared these expulsions “an acute humanitarian crisis.” The deportations have shocked many observers, some of whom attribute the crackdown to the political needs of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, the strong man in Brazzaville. more

Migrant or Refugee? U.N. Joins Tense U.S. Immigration Debate

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

The rapid influx of migrants from Central America, many of them children, into the United States from Mexico has created political and logistical turmoil in Washington. The United Nations and others have pushed for the United States to treat at least some of these children as refugees, given that many are fleeing violence and deprivation back home. That could have a major impact on U.S. immigration policy. more

Symbiotic Germany-China Relations Risk Becoming Dependency

By Maria Savel
, , Trend Lines

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in China last week, her seventh official trip to China since she took office in 2005, underscoring the growing importance of Berlin’s special relationship with Beijing. All signs indicate that symbiotic Germany-China relations will continue. However, Germany seems aware of potential cracks in their relationship—from human rights concerns to the risk of economic dependency. more

Without Clear Goals, Venezuela Sanctions Likely to Be Counterproductive

By Michael McCarthy
, , Briefing

Congress is considering targeted sanctions against Venezuelan government officials for their handling of the country’s political unrest. Sanctions serve an important symbolic purpose: communicating universal support for human rights. But their utility needs to be assessed in terms of whether they can change the Venezuelan government’s relationship with the opposition and its heavy-handedness with protesters. more

From One Failed State to Another: What Syria Could Learn From Somalia

By Hannah Vaughan-Lee
, , Briefing

The former U.N. special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has warned that the country “will become another Somalia.” There may be a potential opportunity in Brahimi’s prediction. Somalia can offer some lessons for Syria, from one failed state to another, about the harm that can come from well-intentioned international aid and the problems of trying to pursue post-conflict state-building amid a fullscale war. more

Global Insider

Iraq’s Refugee Situation Shows Signs of History Repeating

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Last week, following the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the United Nations raised the crisis in Iraq to a level three humanitarian disaster—its highest designation—with over 1.5 million displaced people. In an email interview, David Romano, associate professor of political science at Missouri State University, discussed the refugee situation in Iraq. more

With Sound Policy and New Discourse, Migrants’ Conditions Can Be Improved

The international labor migration system is rife with the type of exploitation and abuse the New York Times recently exposed at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus—not just in the Middle East but in many parts of the world. Far too often, people suffer extreme conditions and risk their lives to secure work abroad, usually to support siblings, children and parents back home. It doesn’t have to be this way. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Can Help With Nigeria’s Conflict, but Cannot Own It

By Steven Metz
, , Column

A year ago, as the violent jihadist group Boko Haram expanded its operations in Nigeria, I argued that the U.S. should avoid offering anything other than modest help, since the government has rejected the sort of deep and serious reform needed to undercut support for extremism. Since then, Nigeria’s security situation has eroded further. Is it time for the U.S. to reassess its approach and offer more help? more

U.S., India’s Goals Diverge in New Delhi’s Near Abroad

By Nilanthi Samaranayake
, , Briefing

The U.S. has been active in its policies toward Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. These policies reflect U.S. strategic interests and democratic principles, but India has not viewed all of them favorably. While there is certainly much convergence between U.S. and Indian aspirations in other realms, structural cleavages characterize both nations’ political and strategic approaches to smaller South Asian countries. more

World Citizen

Egypt’s Justice System Goes off the Rails

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

Over decades of authoritarian rule in Egypt, and into the recent years of upheaval, one segment of the state enjoyed a reputation for maintaining a considerable degree of independence. In contrast to much of the governing structure, the Egyptian judiciary was willing to challenge the powerful. Its decisions were guided to a large extent by the concept of rule of law. All that is now a thing of the past. more

Sterile Politics Leaves Algeria’s Problems Unaddressed

By George R. Trumbull IV
, , Briefing

Returning the ailing Abdelaziz Bouteflika to the presidency for a fourth term, Algeria’s April 17 elections delivered few surprises. Meanwhile, Algerians questioned the legitimacy of the electoral process by staying home in large numbers. Algeria’s competing political platforms—stability versus institutional reform—had surprisingly little to say to most Algerians about the concrete challenges facing the country. more

Turkey’s Rule of Law Eroding as Erdogan, Courts Clash

By Maria Savel
, , Trend Lines

At a parliamentary group meeting today, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed his country’s courts for acting as part of a parallel state undermining his government. With the dispute showing no signs of flagging, WPR spoke with Michael Koplow, a Turkey analyst who blogs at Ottomans and Zionists, via email to review the latest developments and what they mean for the rule of law in Turkey. more

U.S. Struggles to Build Coherent Response to Ugandan Anti-Gay Law

By Matt Peterson
, , Trend Lines

A panel discussion on Thursday organized by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the NYU School of Law discussed options for U.S. policy toward Uganda, after relations were ruffled by a new Ugandan law signed in February that imposes harsh legal penalties, including life sentences, for homosexual acts. The question is whether the Obama administration can produce an effective response to the new law. more

Hungary Risks Putinization, Isolation After Orban Re-Election

By Andrew MacDowall
, , Briefing

“The outcome of the elections is an obvious, unambiguous mandate for us to continue what we have begun.” So said Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban after his Fidesz party trounced the left-liberal opposition in an April poll that also saw the vote share of the far right top 20 percent. The continuation might entail more of Orban’s centralizing and nationalist policies, as well a tilt toward Russia. more