Counterterrorism and its Affronts to Human Rights

Counterterrorism and its Affronts to Human Rights

Since the 21st century, there has been a sharp rise in terrorism and counterterrorism measures that are an insult to both international and domestic human rights. This essay will attempt to define the intersection of counterterrorism and human rights and why it is important to either adapt existing norms or adopt new conceptions on the constraints to armed conflict. Global interconnectedness also called globalization is not only a phenomenon felt in the realms of economics and culture but is also keenly evident in armed conflict. Modern national security, non-state actors, and detention methods represent the cogs of conflict interconnectedness in the 21st century. Focusing on these three areas will show how counterterrorism is eroding the protection of human rights from outside and within, specifically in the United States of America (US), but also many other nations. Just as the arguments around regulating the effects of globalization are rather heated, so too is the discourse surrounding adaptation and innovation in the methods of counterterrorism. In referencing the current political climate in the US, this essay will conclude that the status quo for human rights will prevail if not become worse in time.

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Illegal but Lawful: The Responsibility to Protect

The responsibility to protect (R2P) is an illegal but legitimate conception that faces numerous challenges to becoming international law and a customary norm. The past misuse of R2P by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) creates challenges to R2P that might be insurmountable; clarion calls of R2P being an arm of colonialism, and a tactic of self-interest are valid. So too are the methods at which we address intra-state conflict and combat global terrorism.  The dynamics between sovereignty, R2P, and global terrorism allow a nation to discount sovereignty in order to attack another country but claim sovereign rights when asked to protect another country’s population. R2P, if separated from those dynamics, can protect a population within an intra-state conflict, and a community invaded by an outside nation fighting terrorism. As such, R2P is a critical post-Cold War norm. Using the crisis in Syria, the argument that globalization causes any conflict, international or intra-state, to threaten international peace and security is made to support the validity to R2P.

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Challenges in Accountability: Regional Human Rights Commissions

Regional human rights commissions are challenged in holding individuals accountable for human rights violations but have the potential to be transformative to international law. Accountability is not merely trying and punishing the person; rather accountability is a complicated process that presents the main challenges facing a regional human rights commission. These paramount problems are local interests and their influence, the proliferation of impunity, the capacity to deliver accountability, the sovereignty of the state, and the embeddedness of sovereignty within the processes and bodies of the United Nations (UN). However, these problems are not exclusive to regional human rights commissions, and the unique position and sensitivity a regional organization can provide highlights a potentially transformative process for international law.

Holding an individual accountable for human rights violations is not merely staging a trial and rendering a punishment. The person’s trial and punishment are certainly warranted; accountability for the actual abuse regardless of the person, however, is a complex process that involves every facet of international law. Juan Mendez and Javier Mareizucurrena (1999) refer to this as “affirmative obligations on the state” (p. 88). In summary of Mendez and Mareizucurrena (1999), these obligations are a duty to investigate, prosecute, punish those found guilty, and to provide truth to the victims and public. In continuing their summary, there is the requirement to provide certain measures of reparations to the victims and their families and to relieve and remove those who participated in the violations (p. 88). These obligations are crucial yet incredibly challenging to ensuring accountability for human rights abuses. This essay holds the argument that accountability for the alleged individual and the abuse committed are two unique things but that they cannot be separated because victims of abuse are seeking accountability for human rights violations.

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The Generations of Human Rights Evolution and Their Critical Differences

What are the critical differences between first and second generation rights, and do those differences make second generations rights less important or enforceable? There is a striking difference between the contextual generations of human rights in the primary form of freedoms from versus freedoms to that apply to global citizens. First generation rights are a logical genesis for human rights as they answer the dynamics between actors in a social contract. However, in application first generation rights are given more legitimacy than second generation rights causing profound divisiveness in the international community.

The systemic competition between actors present in Capitalism, which fuels modern Globalization, brings the international community much closer together but also magnifies the separation between communities that are critical for Capitalism to work properly. Global market dynamics create a warped sense of social dislocation that allows the international community to see inequality first hand while also being apathetic to inequality in the same breath. While we cannot spirit away Capitalism and Globalization, nor should we want to, the inherent biases present in these two paradigms are the core threat to human rights and to reducing the divide between first and second generation rights.

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