Human Rights Articles

People stand around the statue of a Red Army soldier protesting against the Estonian government’s plan to move it, Tallinn, April 22, 2007 (AP photo by Timur Nisametdinov).

Compatriot Games: Russian-Speaking Minorities in the Baltic States

By Agnia Grigas
, , Feature

Nowhere does Russia’s policy of protecting its “compatriots”—Moscow’s term for the Russian-speaking diaspora in the former Soviet republics—spell as much concern as in the Baltic states. All three have large Russian-speaking minorities concentrated close to the Russian border. more


Waiting for Disruption: The Western Sahara Stalemate

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