As the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing approach, the
government of China is promoting itself as a harmonious and peaceful rising world power. But behind this facade is another China, one that places its economic development and energy needs over its human rights responsibilities. Investing in Tragedy makes the case that through its money, arms and politics, China has helped to sustain the violence in the war torn region of Darfur, Sudan. More than five years into the conflict, China continues to strengthen its relationship with the government of Sudan despite the government’s record of mass atrocities in Darfur.
Investing in Tragedy describes the lethal cycle that begins with China buying over 90% of Sudan’s oil exports, a total of $4.7 billion worth of exports in 2006. The Sudanese regime uses its oil revenues to purchase massive quantities of small arms, approximately 90 percent of which have come from China since 2004. Investing in Tragedy also finds that, faced with Khartoum’s blatant defiance of the United Nations arms embargo on transfers to Darfur, China’s continued weapons sales to Sudan put China in the position of also failing to comply with the embargo.
The report recommends that for China to be accepted as the responsible world power it claims to be, it should begin by immediately stopping all weapons sales to Sudan.
Huge refugee camps established in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide became places of violence and terror as the genocidaires – both the architects and the foot soldiers of the slaughter – sought to divert resources intended to run the camps to reorganize and arm their war effort. The international community was unprepared to cope with the situation either in bringing the culprits to justice or in assisting host countries in providing security and protection to the refugees. In Refugees, Rebels and the Quest for Justice – a new book by Human Rights First – we examine the security and protection challenges posed by mass population movements which include genuine refugees as well as combatants and serious criminals.
(2009) $10 / ISBN-13: 978-0-9843664-0-8 / 68 pp.
This publication contains two reports. The first one Undue Process: An Examination of Detention and Trials of Bagram Detainees in April 2009 provides personal accounts of former detainees held by the U.S. military in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan. The report describes how they were captured, treated in U.S. custody, what they know about the grounds for their detention, and whether they were able to challenge their detention. The report also provides background on U.S. detention operations and makes policy recommendations to the United States government. In September 2009, the Pentagon announced new detainee review procedures for detainees held by the United States. The policy paper Fixing Bagram: Strengthening Detention Reforms to Align with U.S. Strategic Priorities assesses the new review procedures and makes recommendations to further improve U.S. detention practices in Afghanistan.
“Since Thaksin became Prime Minister how many of us have been killed? This is government by force, not democracy. Defending our rights, we started with a small issue and began to fight, and found big men behind it.”
—Chair of a community organization in Nakhon Ratchasima province
Thailand emerged as a leader in democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia in the 1990s. But respect for human rights has lost considerable ground over the last five years. Reverting to authoritarianism and a growing disregard for human rights, the government has allowed human rights defenders to become increasingly subject to violence and harassment. Defenders under threat include grassroots activists targeted by local elites for pursuing economic and social justice, as well as those persecuted for their criticism of abuses by the state, especially in the conflict-ridden southern provinces. In the south, where a violent insurgency and the government response to it has claimed more than a thousand lives, human rights defenders play an important role in addressing detentions, torture, disappearances, and other human rights violations.
Over the last five years, Southeast Asian governments contended with a genuine threat from terrorists and insurgents in ways that often exacerbated existing conflicts and undermined respect for human rights and the rule of law. A global emphasis on security, often with insufficient regard to human rights, as well as the goodwill gained by the Thai authorities from cooperation on counterterrorism, largely insulated Thailand from criticism for its human rights violations and has encouraged authoritarian trends.
President Suharto’s fall from power in 1998 ushered in a period of reformasi, or political reform. But democratization has been met with resistance from many of those in power. After September 11, 2001, rising military influence in Indonesia was reinforced by an international environment that emphasizes security concerns at the expense of rights and freedoms. These convergent forces contributed to renewed conflict in the province of Aceh, antiterrorism legislation that reversed hard-won safeguards, and continued attacks on human rights defenders.
Europe & Central Asia
This report tracks recent anti-Jewish violence and government responses across the breadth of Europe. The attacks come from organized movements of the extreme right, racist "skinheads," and assailants who invoke the Middle East conflict to demonize Jews and Jewish institutions. Only a handful of European governments systematically monitor and publicly report on antisemitic violence. Few governments have created official monitoring bodies to track antisemitic acts. Instead most European governments contribute to the climate of escalating violence by failing to monitor these crimes, and to enact and enforce laws punishing hate crimes. Official indifference has been the norm. Antisemitism is now squarely on the international human rights agenda. This report focuses on the problem, sets it in the context of other forms of racism and discrimination, and makes concrete recommendations on what needs to be done to combat it.
Patrick Finucane was a highly effective human rights lawyer who gained international recognition in the 1980s for representing people arrested under Northern Ireland’s antiterrorism laws. On February 12, 1989, masked gunmen broke into his Belfast home and shot him 14 times in front of his wife and three children. Although the Ulster Defense Association, a loyalist paramilitary group, claimed responsibility for the killing, strong evidence has emerged linking three separate U.K. intelligence agencies to the murder. Despite this, the results of the official investigations into the case have remained largely classified, and no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for the killing. With Beyond Collusion, Human Rights First provides a comprehensive account of the Finucane case on the 14th anniversary of his murder. Drawing on Lawyers Committee’s investigative missions to Northern Ireland, the report pieces together the extensive evidence of state involvement that has emerged in the many years since the killing.
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European governments are not accurately reporting or effectively combating antisemitic violence, creating a climate that has contributed to the rise of anti-Jewish speech and violence. Often the official response of governments is silence, or to attribute attacks to political protest. For much of early 2002, the French government made few public statements about the rising tide of anti-Jewish violence; the government has now firmly condemned it, but has yet to release official statistics on such incidents in 2002. The governments of Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Russia, where a majority of the other attacks have been concentrated, have made public statements condemning the surge in violence. But the governments have released little documentation of anti-Jewish violence, and have, according to non-governmental observers, done little to abate the rising tide.
“A threat to the constitutional order” is what President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan took to calling his non-violent critics and political opponents early on in his fourteen year presidency – sending many of them to jail. After deadly bombings in Tashkent in 1999, the Karimov government capitalized on public fear of the threat of terrorism and religious extremism to undermine and discredit their critics. Those who objected to Karimov’s authoritarian practices and exposed the government’s violations of human rights were accused of giving aid and comfort to terrorists.
The September 11 attacks on the United States of America and the U.S. government’s declaration of a “global war on terrorism” were an opportunity for the Karimov government to evade international condemnation of its widespread violations of human rights. The Karimov government formed a strategic partnership with the U.S. government and, ever more confident that its treatment of non-violent dissidents would be overlooked by its global allies, stepped up repression of independent civil society and human rights defenders.
The Karimov government’s suppression of human rights defenders is one of the most extreme case studies of the misuse of legitimate concerns over security to undermine respect for basic rights and freedoms and to persecute those who seek to promote human rights. This counterproductive policy has contributed to an escalation in political violence, instability and violations of human rights.
(2005) $10 / ISBN: 0-9753150-0-5 / 24 pp.
The political prisoners of today “…
are in the same situation as the dissidents from Soviet days. Just as Mr. Putin carries on the traditions of his KGB predecessors, they
stand up bravely to repression.”
— Dr. Yelena Bonner, human rights activist
“If they keep up these methods of so-called ‘anti-terrorism’, I think the problem will spread right through the region … the Russians are creating terrorists.” — Timur Akiev, Memorial, Russian human rights organization
Human rights defenders and other nonviolent critics of the government face growing repression in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The New Dissidents questions the Russian government’s justification of ever increasing constraints on its nonviolent critics, including human rights defenders, as necessary in the fight against terrorism.
(2007) $10 / ISBN 0-9753150-8-0 / 185 pp.
Praise for Antisemitism: 2007 Hate Crime Survey
“With this report Human Rights First has again moved antisemitism high on the human rights agenda… This report serves as a much-needed call to European governments to monitor and combat these virulent and deadly new strains of an ancient affliction.”
— Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center
“Once again Human Rights First has distinguished itself among human rights organizations in seriously addressing antisemitism as a phenomenon in Europe. In this report, the organization links antisemitism to other forms of hatred in Europe, but also identifies its particular characteristics and manifestations…”
— Kenneth Jacobson, Deputy National Director, Anti-Defamation League
“This is a high quality report which explains the more nuanced characteristics that other reports miss, such as that antisemitism appears on its own (for the usual historical reasons), that it is part of a general rise in racist violence (in which Jews may be victims but so could other visible minorities had they been in the wrong place at the wrong time), and that Middle East tensions overspill. It also makes the vital point that states are continuing to fail in their reporting of racist and antisemitic violence.”
— Michael Whine, International Affairs Director, The Community Security Trust (United Kingdom)
in Europe and North America
2005 / $20 / 0-9753150-2-1 / 240 pp.
Hate crimes are on the rise in Europe and North America. Targeting individuals based on their origins, the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, or other similar attributes, such violent crimes undermine the security of everyone in our society. Everyday Fears, written by Michael McClintock of Human Rights First, is a ground-breaking study of the relationship between both small- and large-scale hate crimes and the everyday fears that they generate.
In addition to documenting specific offenses, Everyday Fears highlights the need for governments to protect against hate crimes through legislation and improved monitoring and reporting. To this end, the book includes a first ever comprehensive survey of existing laws on hate crimes in the fifty-five countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. By addressing the inequalities of enforcement and deficiencies in effective monitoring, Human Rights First urges governments to take concrete actions to prevent bias crimes and, ultimately, to ease the everyday fears that result when these crimes go unchallenged.
The latest release by Human Rights First provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date overview of hate crime in the 56 countries comprising the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Survey includes sections examining six facets of violent hate crime: Violence Based on Racism and Xenophobia, Antisemitic Violence, Violence Against Muslims, Violence Based on Religious Intolerance, Violence Against Roma, and Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bias. The Survey also examines government responses to violent hate crimes in sections on Systems of Monitoring and Reporting and The Framework of Criminal Law and includes a Ten-Point Plan for governments to strengthen their responses. The Survey also includes an in-depth look at the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United States and contains a Country Panorama section that profiles individual hate crime cases from more than 30 countries within the OSCE.
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Praise for 2007 Hate Crime Survey
“Human Rights First has done a valuable service by publishing this report on hate crimes in Europe and North America. It exposes the extent of physical and verbal attacks based on bias, hate and intolerance. It reveals the lack of protection by states through laws and reporting mechanisms, and the widespread indifference to the suffering caused to victims often afraid to complain…”
— Mary Robinson, Chair, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative
“This report is a crucial contribution to promoting human rights in Europe today… A disturbing pattern of discriminatory attacks has emerged and reports like this one from Human Rights First are needed to challenge the complacency and indifference of European institutions.”
— Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International USA
“The 2007 Hate Crime Survey is nothing short of a wake up call both to law enforcement as well as policymakers that hate crimes are on the rise around the world and deserve to be taken seriously… Anybody and everybody who can be regarded as an outsider or a foreigner is at risk—Muslims, Jews, dark-skinned people, Roma, gays, and even people with disabilities have been victimized. A failure to act now will only bring more of the same in the future.”
— Professor Jack Levin , Director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict, Northeastern University
“The work carried out by Human Rights First serves a vital purpose in providing an external, community-based, scrutiny and analysis of developing or ongoing trends in hate-motivated crime. National governments and police authorities should welcome this additional scrutiny and regard Human Rights First as a critical friend, with a necessary and constructive role to play in the campaign to stop hate.”
— Tim Parsons, Head of Diversity, City of London Police
Holding the Line: A Critique of the Department of State’s Annual Country Reports (for 2002) on Human Rights Practices
(2003) / ISBN 0-934143-85-4 / $15 / 86pp /
Holding the Lineshows how the United States government’s annual report on human rights around the world reflects the special strains of the “war against terrorism.” Special measures taken by allies in the name of counter-terrorism often overstep the line-flouting standards long upheld by the United States but now being eroded at home. These include the use of emergency laws and special courts; detention without trial; and secret arrests and incommunicado detention. Has the United States lowered the standards to which it holds its partners abroad? The findings are mixed. Coverage of some countries that are allies in the war on terrorism is frank and fair, and to a large extent the Department of State has held the line on international standards. But coverage of some key allies lacks this full objectivity. An instruction to embassies preparing the 2002 country reports may account for blind spots in the coverage: “Actions by governments taken at the request of the United States or with the expressed support of the United States should not be included in the report.”
This review includes profiles on Afghanistan, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, and Uzbekistan. Holding the Line also assesses coverage of antisemitism and anti-immigrant violence in Western Europe and Russia.
Latin America & The Caribbean
Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia: In the Dock and Under the Gun
(2009) / ISBN: 978-0-9799975-6-3 / 64 pp.
In a criminal justice system plagued by impunity, the tenacity with which Colombian prosecutors pursue human rights defenders for supposed crimes is striking. While corruption and arbitrary actions are a systemic problem throughout the judicial system, those who peacefully promote human rights are singled out for particular intimidation through baseless investigations and prosecutions. Unfounded charges are often widely publicized, undermining the credibility of defenders and marking them as targets for physical attack, usually by paramilitary groups. The spurious charges usually allege that the defenders are terrorists.
The report identifies patterns and trends and provides recommendations to the Colombian authorities and United States government in order to address this serious problem. It also contains a table summarizing original research from over 32 cases of unfounded prosecutions against defenders.
Los defensores de derechos humanos acusados sin fundamento: Presos y señalados en Colombia
(2009) / ISBN: 978-0-9799975-7-0 / 70 pp.
En un sistema de justicia penal destacado por sus niveles de impunidad, la tenacidad de los fiscales Colombianos que persiguen casos en contra de los defensores de derechos humanos es impresionante. Si bien hay problemas sistemáticos de corrupción y acciones arbitrarias en el sistema judicial, se están abriendo casos en contra de los que defienden los derechos humanos de una manera particular; se les intimida con investigaciones y procesos penales sin fundamento. Además, se hacen muy públicos los cargos sin fundamento, lo que mina la credibilidad de los defensores y los señala como blancos de ataques, frecuentemente por parte de grupos paramilitares. Por lo general son acusados de rebelión y pertenencia a las organizaciones guerrilleras.
El informe contiene un análisis de 32 casos de investigaciones infundadas. Los casos presentes permiten la identificación de los temas comunes y un análisis de ellos para revelar las raíces del problema y posibles políticas para resolverlo.
Legalized Injustice: Mexican Criminal Procedure and Human Rights
(2001) / ISBN 0-9341384-90-9/ 208 pp.
Contact Publications Desk to request a copy
Torture, intimidation, and coercion of detainees are entrenched
practices in Mexico’s criminal justice system. Legalized Injustice uncovers
the causes of torture by focusing on how criminal justice either encourages
or simply fails to deter it. A joint effort of the New York City-based
Human Rights First and the Mexico City-based “Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez” Human Rights Center, Legalized
Injustice makes compelling recommendations for changes in law and practice
to reduce or eliminate torture and mistreatment.
Arbitrary Justice documents how detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan are being tried in Afghan courts based on allegations provided by the United States, with little or no evidence.
At the time of publication, more than 250 persons had been transferred to the Afghan National Detention Facility in Pul-i-Charkhi prison located in the outskirts of Kabul. Of the 160 persons referred for prosecutions, over 60 have been convicted in trials that violate fair trial standards.
The report, based on trial observations, examination of court documents, and interviews, outlines the problems in these proceedings such as the lack of prosecution witnesses and out-of-court prosecution witnesses to support the charges. The report also provides information about conditions of confinement, family visits, and U.S. involvement in justice sector reform issues in Afghanistan.
Arbitrary Justice makes specific policy recommendations to both the Afghan and U.S. governments. The report provides insights on how to improve the process of transferring detainees from U.S. custody to their home countries for criminal prosecutions, but that any such trials must be in accordance with international fair trial standards.
Assessing the New Normal: Liberty and Security for the Post-September 11 United States
(2003) $15 / 148pp. /
Assessing the New Normal, the third in a series of reports, documents the continuing erosion of basic human rights protections under U.S. law and policy since September 11. Today, two years after the attacks, it is no longer possible to view these changes as aberrant parts of an emergency response. Rather, the expansion of executive power and abandonment of established civil and criminal procedures have become part of a “new normal” in American life. The new normal, defined in part by the loss of particular freedoms for some, is as troubling for its detachment from the rule of law as a whole. The U.S. government can no longer promise that individuals will be governed by known principles of conduct, applied equally in all cases, and administered by independent courts. As this report shows, in a growing number of cases, legal safeguards are now observed only insofar as they are consistent with the chosen ends of power.
Outlines the scope of the global network of U.S. detention facilities holding suspects in the "war on terrorism." This is an update to the earlier report Ending Secret Detentions
Command’s Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Feb. 2006) $15 / ISBN 0-9753150-6-4 / 130 pp.
Human Rights First’s new report,”Command’s Responsibility: Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan,” provides the first comprehensive accounting of the U.S. government’s handling of the nearly 100 cases of detainees who have died in U.S. custody since 2002. In its report, Human Rights First looked at some of the most troubling abuse cases, including up to 12 cases in which people were tortured to death. The report found that flawed investigations and a lack of punishment, especially at the highest levels, has lead to a culture of impunity on abuse.
Despite the number of deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody, as of February 2006, only 12 detainee deaths have resulted in any kind of punishment for any U.S. official, military or civilian. The report finds that often the more serious the case – particularly those involving people tortured to death – the less severe the punishment; the highest sentence in a torture-related death is five months in prison. Based on this, Human Rights First concluded that a gap exists between policies leadership says it respects on paper, and behavior it actually tolerates in practice.
(2009) $15 / ISBN-13: 978-0-9843664-1-5 / 104pp.
Full report available (PDF)
Summary available (PDF)
Since 2001, U.S. immigration policy changes intended to protect the United States from terrorists are hurting thousands of legitimate refugees who pose no threat to the United States. This Human Rights First report offers a series of recommendations to fix this serious problem.
June 2010 / 46pp.
Full report available (PDF)
Habeas Works: Federal Courts’ Proven Capacity to Handle Guantanamo Cases examines the capacity of federal courts to handle habeas corpus cases of Guantanamo detainees. The Supreme Court, in its landmark Boumediene v. Bush decision, upheld detainees’ rights to challenge their detention in U.S. federal courts. The report analyzes how the federal court system has handled complex evidence, determined the lawfulness of detention, and established consistent procedural guidelines.
The report concludes—with the backing of 16 of the nation’s most respected former federal judges—that courts can and has set a framework for wartime detention, and there is no need for legislation, as certain commentators and legislators have argued.
Imbalance of Powers: How Changes to U.S. Law and Security Since 9/11 Erode Human Rights and Civil Liberties
(2003) $10 / ISBN 0-934143-98-6 / 132 pp.
This report is a six-month update to “A Year of Loss” and covers September 2002 to March 2003.
Imbalance of Powers – Abridged
(2003) / 40 pp.
This report is a concise (40 pages), popularly written version of the more detailed Imbalance of Powers report listed above (132 pages). This digest is ideal for non-specialists.
The United States has a long tradition of providing refuge to victims of religious, political and other forms of persecution. This tradition has been eroded, beginning with harsh federal legislation in 1996 and accelerating in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Asylum seekers have been caught up in a web of new laws, regulations and policies advanced in the name of national security that have transformed the immigration system – and left refugees more vulnerable than ever. The lack of basic safeguards in the U.S. asylum detention system has meant that victims of religious and political persecution, rape and torture are unnecessarily detained for months and sometimes years in the United States.
In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Courts — 2009 Update and Recent Developments
(2009) / $10/ ISBN-13: 978-0-9799975-8-7 / 68 pp.
“Since its publication last year, In Pursuit of Justice has become a kind of Bible in the escalating debate over whether our 200-year-old system of justice can withstand the challenge of trying accused 21st-century global terrorists charged with killing Americans at home and abroad. This update vindicates the original report’s conclusion that the criminal justice system continues successfully to surmount a wide array of novel dilemmas presented by these difficult cases within the parameters of time-honored rules for fair and efficient trials. The proven success of the efforts by the federal courts compares favorably with the rocky course alternative systems such as the military commissions have taken and the formidable conceptual and practical problems that would be posed by dramatic departures such as the establishment of a preventive detention scheme.”
Patricia M. Wald, Former Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
“At a time when polemic continues to impede the national conversation about the government’s response to terrorism, this report builds on the enormous achievement of its landmark predecessor, In Pursuit of Justice, by methodically presenting fresh empirical evidence of the ability of federal courts to meet the challenges of adjudicating these cases in the criminal justice system under our existing legal framework. It thus makes another exemplary contribution to the ongoing examination of the government’s options for bringing accused terrorists to justice while remaining true to the rule of law and our core values as a society.”
David H. Laufman, Partner, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
FROM THE AUTHORS
As the United States strives for a vigorous and effective response to radical Islamist terrorism around the globe, our country remains embroiled in an important and difficult national debate over when and how to detain and prosecute suspected terrorists. As part of this debate, some have argued for the creation of new, untested legal regimes to preventively detain and/or prosecute persons suspected of complicity in terrorism. However, often missing from the discussion is the fact that the federal courts are continuing to build on their proven track record of serving as an effective and fair tool for incapacitating terrorists.
We have updated our May 2008 report, In Pursuit of Justice, to include cases and developments from the past year. Our research shows a conviction rate of more than 91% since September 11, 2001 and many notable successes in a wide variety of terrorism prosecutions. This update examines recent developments in statutes used to prosecute terrorists in federal court, evolving case law clarifying the scope of the government’s military detention authority, the application of legal rules to protect classified information, and developments on other issues such as the Miranda rule, evidentiary issues, sentencing, and safety and security within the federal prison system.
The creation of a brand-new court system or preventive detention scheme from scratch would be expensive, uncertain, and almost certainly controversial. In contrast, while they are not perfect, the federal courts are a fit and flexible resource that should be used along with other government resources?including military force, intelligence gathering, diplomatic efforts, and cultural and economic initiatives?as an important part of a multi-pronged counterterrorism strategy.
Richard B. Zabel
James J. Benjamin, Jr.
“In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Courts is a stunning compilation of the record of trying and prosecuting jihadist terrorism cases in the federal criminal justice system over the past two decades. In Pursuit of Justice will become an indispensable toolÑnot only for participants in such cases but for policymakers confronted with proposals to create new national security courts in response to claims that the existing federal courts cannot adequately handle terrorism cases.
The authors meticulously detail well over 100 successfully completed terrorism cases. They canvass the adequacy of existing laws as bases for prosecution, grounds for arrest and detention, and evidentiary structures for protecting security information, while keeping faith with due process. In the end they make a compelling case for the adaptability and competency of our federal courts to handle the significant challenges that the post 9/11 world has brought to their doors.”
— Patricia M. Wald, Former Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
“Since 9/11, too many have claimed that America’s criminal justice system cannot handle international terrorism cases, leading them to urge military commissions, secret terror courts, or preventive detention as necessary alternatives.This indispensable study, drawn directly from the experience of federal prosecutors and judges who have handled terrorism cases, demolishes that myth. It proves that we need not reinvent the wheel: the federal criminal courts have been successfully adapted to handle the most important and challenging terrorism cases, and without sacrificing either national security or due process.”
— Harold Hongju Koh, Dean and Smith Professor of International Law, Yale Law School, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
In recent years, there has been much controversy about the proper forum in which to prosecute and punish suspected terrorists. Some have endorsed aggressive use of military commissions; others have proposed an entirely new ‘national security court’. However, as the nation strives for a vigorous and effective response to terrorism, we should not lose sight of the important tools that are already at our disposal, nor should we forget the costs and risks of seeking to break new ground by departing from established institutions and practices. As this White Paper shows, the existing criminal justice system has proved successful at handling a large number of important and challenging terrorism prosecutions over the past fifteen years without sacrificing national security interests, rigorous standards of fairness and due process, or just punishment for those guilty of terrorism-related crimes.
We have analyzed the actual experience of more than 100 cases brought in federal court that involve terrorism that is associated organizationally, financially, or ideologically with self-described jihadist or Islamist extremist terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Based on our review of that data and our other research and analysis, we have found that the justice system has capably handled these cases, and continues to evolve to meet the challenge terrorism cases pose. This is not to say that the civilian criminal justice system, by itself, is the answer to the problem of terrorism far from it. However, as we move forward, we should confidently and judiciously make use of the criminal justice system an existing and valuable resource that reflects many of the best aspects of our legal and cultural traditionsÑas one of the important tools in the campaign to eradicate international terrorism.
Richard B. Zabel and James J. Benjamin, Jr.
In every presidential election year since 1988, Human Rights First has published a detailed set of policy recommendations on human rights for the incoming administration. This report, our fourth, offers a wide-ranging analysis of the ways in which consistent support for human rights advances U.S. national interests in prosperity and global stability, and therefore deserves broad bipartisan backing. The report provides a blueprint for policies on the protection of asylum seekers and refugees, workers’ rights and U.S. domestic compliance with international human rights norms. Two longer chapters – on the International Criminal Court and the role of the Internet in advancing human rights – have been jointly authored with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School at Harvard. In the National Interest is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the importance of human rights in a rapidly changing world.
(2008) $15/ ISBN 978-0-9799975-0-1 / 117 pp.
Praise for Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity
“Human Rights First’s report is an incredibly comprehensive study of the ‘culture of impunity’ that has surrounded the private military industry for too long. Hopefully, our leaders will finally listen and, even more importantly, demonstrate the will to act.”
— P. W. Singer, Author, Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry
“Private Security Contractors at War clearly demonstrates how the Department of Justice has systematically failed to hold private security contractors legally accountable for their actions. Human Rights First unequivocally bares the facts so that from here forward we, as a country, cannot say that we did not know, but only that we did not act.”
— Rear Admiral (Ret.) John D. Hutson, former Navy Judge Advocate General (1997-2000)
“As Human Rights First’s report proves, much can and should be done to improve contractor accountability in contingency operations. The industry fully supports
— Doug Brooks, President, International Peace Operations Association (IPOA)
“This groundbreaking report lays out the problem of contractor accountability and offers solutions through practical, effective recommendations. I hope it spurs timely remedial action by the United States government.”
— Lieutenant General Charles Otstott, USA (Ret.)
“This explosive report by Human Rights First provides a solid road map to stop the spread of the mercenary virus. This report should be required reading for any legislator representing the people of this country.”
— Jeremy Scahill, New York Times-bestselling author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army
Refugee Women at Risk: Unfair U.S. Laws Hurt Asylum Seekers
(2002) / ISBN 0-934143-96-X / 21 pp.
Contact Publications Desk to request a copy
Tortured Justice finds the Bush Administration has undercut its own intended use of the military commission system at Guantanamo Bay by allowing the admission of coerced evidence. The administration sanctioned the use of harsh interrogation methods, claiming that the need to protect the nation against another terrorist attack took precedence over any future complications in prosecuting terrorist suspects. Then, rather than accept the inadmissibility of tainted evidence in court, Congress and the administration dug themselves in deeper by including provisions in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that authorize, for the first time in American history, the admission of coerced confessions during criminal trials.
The report focuses on six Guantanamo prisoners who have alleged abuse while in custody, some of which has been documented by military investigations and detainee interrogation logs, and some of which has been publicly acknowledged by administration officials. The report also includes a chart identifying 62 other prisoners who allege abuse, alongside the names of those they may have implicated. The chart offers a stark visualization of the cross-contamination of coerced evidence.
Since 2003, U.S. immigration authorities have spent more than $300 million to detain over 48,000 asylum seekers in jails and jail-like facilities. Some of the facilities are located in remote areas, far from legal representation. Asylum seekers are detained in a system that lacks basic due process safeguards and is inconsistent with America’s longstanding commitment to protect those who flee from persecution. The report outlines ways to improve this process in ways that are more cost-effective, just, and humane.
In the 12 months after the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government took a series of actions that eroded basic human rights protections in the United States, fundamental guarantees that have been central to the U.S. constitutional system for more than 200 years. Viewed separately, some of the changes may not have seemed extreme, especially when viewed as a response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But when you connect the dots, a different picture emerges. The composite picture outlined by this report shows that too often the U.S. government’s mode of operations in the year after September 11 has been at odds with core American and international human rights principles. Human Rights First’s “A Year of Loss” covers September 2001 to September 2002. Human Rights First has also completed “Imbalance of Powers: How Changes to U.S. Law and Security Since 9/11 Erode Human Rights and Civil Liberties.” This report is a six-month update to “A Year of Loss” and covers September 2002 to March 2003.