Human Rights Articles

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

Renewed Push, Public Weariness Puts Closing Gitmo Within Obama’s Reach

By Ken Gude
, , Briefing

Advocates working to end a sad chapter in American history were given new hope last year when President Barack Obama renewed his push to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The diminished risks of closing the prison, combined with public war-weariness, mean that what seemed a hopeless and nearly forgotten project for Obama a year ago—closing Guantanamo by the end of his administration—now seems achievable. more

Women's Work: The Impact of Trade on Gender Equality

By Marzia Fontana
, , Feature

Since the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, many governments and international development institutions have expressed their commitment toward gender equality goals. Most development actors and policymakers, however, remain focused on a narrow interpretation of women’s empowerment as a means to achieve poverty reduction and GDP growth. Less attention is paid to the ways in which economic development can be planned to help women. more

Global Insider

Saudi Shiite Protesters Face Long Odds Against Repression

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

U.S. President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia last week, where simmering dissent and repression in the Shiite-majority areas of the Sunni-dominated country continue to claim the lives of protesters and police three years after the Arab Spring. In an email interview, Stephane Lacroix, an associate professor at Sciences Po who studies authoritarianism and Islamic social movements, explained the status of Shiites in Saudi Arabia. more

Beijing Finds Neither ‘Iron-Fisted Rule’ Nor Development Bring Order to Xinjiang

By Kendrick Kuo
, , Briefing

On March 1, a group of Uighurs from Xinjiang attacked a train station in southwest China using foot-long knives, killing 29 and injuring 143. The attack was a spillover from Xinjiang’s internal conflict, the source of which is a matter of dispute. Beijing’s attempts to bring order to the region through development, repression and regional coordination have so far failed, leaving it looking for alternatives. more

Time for U.S. to Come Off the Sidelines on Venezuela Repression

By Christopher Sabatini
, , Briefing

The arrest of two mayors by the Venezuelan government last week demonstrated that repression is ramping up in the oil-producing and deeply troubled country. Sadly, Venezuela’s neighbors are unlikely to do anything about it, and this collective failure to protect democratic norms and human rights has placed the U.S. in the position of coming forward to defend what was once thought to be a hemispheric consensus. more

Unsafe Spaces: Trends and Challenges in Gender-Based Violence

There is not sufficient evidence to determine whether the use of sexual violence in conflict is increasing or decreasing. However, evidence indicates it is widespread. Despite the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict today, we are no longer living in an era of silence and impunity. Nevertheless, the risks of sexual violence are shifting along with changes in the patterns of conflict and the spaces in which it takes place, requiring new approaches to support affected members of communities. more