The Global Magnitsky Act is the most comprehensive human rights and anti-corruption sanctions tool in U.S. history. Human Rights First works with civil society groups around the world to ensure that the United States uses this tool to hold the worst human rights abusers accountable.
Our Asylum Representation Program, which recruits and trains lawyers to represent refugees on a pro bono basis, is one of the largest and most successful programs of its kind in the country. Its impact could hardly be more profound: liberty instead of oppression, and sometimes life instead of death, for thousands of people. And beginning with the Refugee Act of 1980, which we helped draft, we’ve been at the forefront of all major reforms to the asylum system. Photo: AP.
After 9-11, the U.S government embraced the use of torture, renouncing its global leadership role on this issue. Thanks in part to the work we did in partnership with military leaders and interrogation and intelligence professionals, President Obama signed an executive order banning torture. In time, the landmark Senate Intelligence Committee torture report was released, documenting a program that was far more brutal and widespread than Americans were led to believe. Since then, the Obama Administration and Congress have passed legislation to make loophole lawyering impossible and ensure that our country never tortures again.
Republicans and Democrats, religious groups and civil liberties groups, military officers and peace activists, prosecutors and defense attorneys: we’ve worked with all of them at key moments to forge progress and to advance our long-term project of building a broad pro-human rights constituency in the United States. Learn about our coalition of retired military leaders.
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Too often its diplomacy with Indonesia, the U.S. government sidelines human rights concerns in favor of counterterrorism. Some of the security forces that receive U.S funding have committed human rights abuses. The U.S. government should use its leverage to end impunity for security forces. It should also press Indonesia to repeal its discriminatory blasphemy law and to seek accountability in the case of assassinated human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib. Photo: AP.
In the post-9/11 world, the United States has placed less value on international human rights leadership, using opportunistic legal arguments to avoid its responsibility to adhere to international legal obligations. We believe that adhering to human rights standards is foundational to upholding American ideals, and aim to facilitate the use of these standards to hold the United States accountable through the court system. Using amicus briefs, legal expertise sharing, and creative coalitions, we work to counter questionable interpretations and rationalizations of U.S. legal obligations, and urge the United States to comply with internationally-accepted human rights standards.
We amplify the voices of interrogators and intelligence professionals with firsthand experience in the torture program and decades of experience on the frontlines of the battle against terrorism.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric has entered the U.S. political and mainstream public discourse, with politicians calling for extreme, xenophobic measures such as surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods, shutting down mosques, and banning Muslims from entering the United States entirely. This fear mongering has coincided with an increase of hate crimes against Muslim Americans. It also undermines both American ideals and national security interests. America’s strength is in its diversity and its commitment to creating a just and fair society. To uphold these ideals, we must forcefully condemn Islamophobia.
Too often the human rights of LGBT people are regarded as a “gay issue” and sidelined as a result. LGBT rights are human rights, period, and we’re working to ensure that the U.S. government advances them abroad. We focus on protecting LGBT refugees, combating violent hate crime against LGBT people, and opposing bans on homosexuality and other discriminatory laws. Photo: AP.
For decades the United States has backed Middle Eastern dictatorships in the name of “stability.” But as recent years have shown repression-created stability is illusory. To push back against the destructive impact of brutal regimes that disregard human rights and to defeat violent extremists who exploit sectarian tensions and popular grievances to fuel conflict and unrest, the United States should put protection of human rights as a cornerstone of its Middle East policies. It should confront violent extremism, call on its allies to condemn hateful ideologies that denigrate people of other sects or religions and prioritize urging allies such as Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to turn away from repression and towards respecting basic rights and freedoms.
American popular culture reaches into living rooms and theaters across the world. We challenge the entertainment industry to recognize this power and tackle human rights issues with the accuracy and complexity they demand. We created the Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment to honor creators who meet this challenge.
Military commissions at Gitmo, now in their third incarnation, are a failed experiment. Structurally shoddy and constitutionally dubious, they have produced few convictions while undermining the rule of law. Federal trials, by contrast, have produced more than 400 convictions of terrorists since 9-11, denied Al Qaeda members the warriors’ martyrdom they seek, and set a standard of justice before the world. Photo: AP.