Kenneth Roth

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Tigrayan fighters traveling outside Mekelle, Ethiopia, June 2021. Finbarr O'Reilly / New York Times / Redux

For more than a year and a half, a largely invisible campaign of ethnic cleansing has played out in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray. Older people, women, and children have been loaded onto trucks and forced out of their villages and hometowns. Men have been herded into overcrowded detention sites, where many have died of disease, starvation, or torture. In total, several hundred thousand Tigrayans have been forcibly uprooted because of their ethnicity.

These crimes are an outgrowth of a war that began in November 2020, pitting Ethiopian federal forces and their allies, including troops from Eritrea and the neighboring Ethiopian region of Amhara, against forces linked to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which once led Ethiopia’s coalition government.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last summer, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny narrowly survived an assassination attempt, widely believed to have been organized by Russia's security services, through a Novichok nerve-agent poisoning. Now, without concerted action, he may die from medical neglect in a Russian penal colony where the authorities locked him up following a mockery of a trial. The botched nerve-agent attack, since exposed, was supposed to have been accomplished with deniability. If Navlany now dies in prison, the blame will lie unequivocally with the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has already weathered a raft of Western sanctions imposed for misdeeds ranging from the Novichok poisoning of Navalny and of a former KGB agent in Britain, to Russia's seizure of Crimea and hacking into US databases.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dos hombres cargan un ataúd frente al Palacio Nacional, en Ciudad de México, al finalizar una protesta el 11 de mayo de 2020, en la que activistas de derechos humanos buscaron llamar atención a los riesgos de salud que enfrentan las personas en cárceles mexicanas esperando juicios que quedaron estancados por la pandemia por coronairus. (Rebecca Blackwell)

Algunos gobiernos alrededor del mundo están usando la pandemia para afirmar que los derechos humanos son un lujo que no nos podemos permitir. Usando la crisis como pretexto, están arrestando a sus críticos, intensificando la vigilancia y tomando amplios poderes de emergencia. La presunción subyacente es evidente: proteger los derechos humanos es un mero detalle que debe ser descartado cuando las cosas se ponen difíciles.

Sin embargo, la pandemia ha resultado ser también una oportunidad para promover los derechos humanos, no solo por una cuestión de principios sino también por razones pragmáticas. La crisis ha demostrado que las autoridades que ignoran los derechos humanos ponen en peligro nuestra salud.…  Seguir leyendo »

Human rights activists prepare for a car caravan protest through downtown Los Angeles to call on officials to release inmates from jails to prevent the spread of coronavirus on April 7. (Robyn Beck/Afp Via Getty Images)

Some governments around the world are using the pandemic to claim that human rights are a luxury we cannot afford. With the crisis as a pretext, they are arresting critics, intensifying surveillance and seizing broad emergency powers. The underlying assumption is clear: Safeguarding human rights is a nicety that must be jettisoned when times get tough.

In fact, though, the pandemic has also turned out to be an opportunity to promote human rights — not only as a matter of principle but also for reasons of pragmatism. The crisis has shown that officials who ignore human rights jeopardize our health, while respecting human rights is the best public health strategy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images. Pro-democracy activists holding pictures of missing citizen journalist Fang Bin and anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong, who had been interrogating President Xi Jinping’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, at a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, February 19, 2020

For authoritarian-minded leaders, the coronavirus crisis is offering a convenient pretext to silence critics and consolidate power. Censorship in China and elsewhere has fed the pandemic, helping to turn a potentially containable threat into a global calamity. The health crisis will inevitably subside, but autocratic governments’ dangerous expansion of power may be one of the pandemic’s most enduring legacies.

In times of crisis, people’s health depends at minimum on free access to timely, accurate information. The Chinese government illustrated the disastrous consequence of ignoring that reality. When doctors in Wuhan tried to sound the alarm in December about the new coronavirus, authorities silenced and reprimanded them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Willie Siau/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images. Police in riot gear rounding up suspected protesters, Hong Kong, January 5, 2020

Because the Chinese government depends on repression to stay in power, it sees the defense of human rights as threatening. But to prevent global criticism of its tightening domestic crackdown, Beijing is increasingly undermining the international system for protecting human rights, putting everyone in greater jeopardy.

To maintain its grasp on power at home, the Chinese Communist Party has constructed an Orwellian high-tech surveillance state and a sophisticated Internet censorship system to monitor and suppress public criticism. Now, China has begun to use its growing economic and diplomatic clout to extend that censorship abroad, silencing critics and carrying out the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights seen since its emergence in the mid-twentieth century.…  Seguir leyendo »

La province d’Idlib, au nord-ouest de la Syrie, dernière grande enclave aux mains des forces rebelles, a jusqu’à présent servi de soupape de sécurité. Alors que les autres enclaves antigouvernementales tombaient les unes après les autres, les survivants n’ont eu d’autre choix que d’être livrés à leur sort à Idlib ou bien de vivre dans des zones contrôlées par le gouvernement, où ils seraient constamment exposés au risque d’être détenus, torturés et exécutés. Pour des raisons évidentes, beaucoup ont choisi Idlib. Actuellement, environ la moitié des 2,3 millions de personnes y vivant sont des personnes déplacées, venant d’autres régions de Syrie.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Syrian woman walks with a boy past a banner showing Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shaking hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after arriving in a convoy carrying displaced people into government-controlled territory at Abu al-Zuhur checkpoint in the western countryside of Idlib province, on June 1, 2018. (Photo by George OURFALIAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The endgame of the war in Syria is likely to come down to the northwestern province of Idlib, on the Turkish border, where some 2.3 million people are now trapped. As Russian-Syrian forces now finish retaking the smaller southwestern province of Daraa, Idlib will be the last significant enclave in anti-government hands. If Russian-Syrian forces resume pummeling the city and surrounding area from the air, its civilians could face the horrible choice of bunkering in place or desperately trying to cross the Turkish border, which has been effectively closed since 2015.

Recently, however, there is some evidence that Russia might be willing to act more constructively.…  Seguir leyendo »

John Moore/Getty Images. A US Border Patrol agent checking birth certificates while taking immigrants from Central America into detention, McAllen, Texas, January 4, 2017

Twenty-year-old Alexis G. was deported in June to Mexico, a country he barely knows. He told Human Rights Watch researchers who interviewed him at a migrant reception center, “My parents brought me [to the United States], and I grew up in [there]. If I were to sing an anthem right now, it would be ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ I don’t know the Mexican anthem.” He is one of millions of people deeply integrated into American life whom President Donald Trump has turned into “priority targets” for deportation, even though they cannot be removed without devastating their American families, businesses, and communities. With Trump due to name a new secretary of Homeland Security to replace John Kelly, these cruel policies should face renewed scrutiny during his successor’s confirmation hearings.…  Seguir leyendo »

En nombre de nuestras democracias

La democracia debe estar basada en los derechos humanos. Para muchos resulta obvio pero, cada vez más, vemos cómo en Europa hay quienes sugieren que la democracia se limita simplemente a ganar las elecciones para luego hacer lo que se considera que quieren los votantes. Para ellos, la democracia se convierte en una especie de dictadura de la mayoría.

Obviamente, el gobierno debe reflejar las preferencias de la mayoría, expresadas en la celebración de elecciones periódicas, libres y justas, pero su acción también debe quedar limitada por la salvaguarda de los derechos humanos y el Estado de derecho. Hay ciertas cosas que un gobierno debería tener prohibido hacer, incluso si la mayoría de los votantes las avalan, como imponer la pena de muerte, encarcelar a personas por motivos políticos, limitar su capacidad para expresarse y reunirse libremente o discriminarlas por motivos de género, raza, etnia, religión u orientación sexual.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pardon Edward Snowden

Edward J. Snowden, the American who has probably left the biggest mark on public policy debates during the Obama years, is today an outlaw. Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed to journalists secret documents detailing the United States’ mass surveillance programs, faces potential espionage charges, even though the president has acknowledged the important public debate his revelations provoked.

Mr. Snowden’s whistle-blowing prompted reactions across the government. Courts found the government wrong to use Section 215 of the Patriot Act to justify mass phone data collection. Congress replaced that law with the USA Freedom Act, improving transparency about government surveillance and limiting government power to collect certain records.…  Seguir leyendo »

Edward J. Snowden hablando a una audiencia del Instituto Tecnológico de Massachusetts, en julio. Credit Kayana Szymczak para The New York Times

Edward Snowden es el estadounidense que probablemente haya dejado la huella más profunda en el debate político durante los años del gobierno de Obama.

Snowden, quien dejó la Agencia Nacional de Seguridad tras entregar documentos secretos que detallaban los programas de vigilancia masiva de Estados Unidos a varios periodistas, se enfrenta a una acusación por espionaje aunque el propio presidente ha reconocido que sus revelaciones desataron un debate público importante.

Las filtraciones de Snowden provocaron reacciones en todos los niveles del gobierno. La justicia decidió que el gobierno no debía utilizar la Patriot Act para justificar la recopilación masiva de datos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los bloques de derechos humanos que construyan a toda sociedad democrática deben ser las ideas, el respeto, la apreciación a las diferencias y el trato cortés con el que queremos que nos traten a nosotros. Sin embargo, actualmente, estos valores están bajo ataque con una intensidad mayor que en cualquier otro momento de las últimas décadas.

En Europa, –pese a que Austria parece haber evitado un potencial desastre en sus elecciones presidenciales– líderes como el húngaro Viktor Orbán y el polaco Jaroslaw Kaczyński hablan abiertamente de la construcción de una democracia “no liberal”: una que carece de los mecanismos de control y supervisión del poder ejecutivo, incluyendo la protección de los derechos humanos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las conversaciones de paz sirias que, según lo programado, se reanudarán en Ginebra el 25 de enero tendrán lugar en un marco que se fijó en Viena en octubre. Estos principios, acordados por los actores extranjeros más importantes en la guerra de Siria, incluyen un compromiso con una gobernancia secular, la eventual derrota del Estado Islámico (ISIS) y otros grupos terroristas, la preservación de las fronteras de preguerra de Siria, la conservación de sus instituciones estatales y la protección de grupos minoritarios.

Lo que no incluyen es un esfuerzo por abordar el mayor obstáculo para una paz duradera: los ataques en curso contra civiles y otras atrocidades que están agudizando las divisiones entre las facciones sirias que, llegado el caso, tendrán que gobernar de manera conjunta.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, commits horrendous videotaped executions, it might seem to pose the greatest threat to Syrian civilians. In fact, that ignoble distinction belongs to the barrel bombs being dropped by the military of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The Islamic State has distracted us from this deadly reality.

Barrel bombs are improvised weapons: oil drums or similar canisters filled with explosives and metal fragments. They are dropped without guidance from helicopters hovering just above antiaircraft range, typically hitting the ground with huge explosions and the widespread diffusion of deadly shrapnel. They pulverize neighborhoods, destroy entire buildings and leave broad strips of death and destruction.…  Seguir leyendo »

The primary international treaty against torture, the Convention against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1994, contains two key requirements. First, it bans torture, without exception, as well as other inhumane treatment. Second, it requires that torturers be prosecuted.

President Obama has been firm in stopping torture. On his second day in office, he ordered an end to the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” — a euphemism for torture — and the closure of the secret CIA detention centers where torture was carried out.

But Obama has utterly failed in the second requirement. He has flatly refused to investigate the torture, let alone prosecute those responsible.…  Seguir leyendo »

Barbed wire fence surrounding a military area is pictured in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland, Jan 24, 2014. The facility was allegedly used as a “black site” by the CIA. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The publication of the long-awaited summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s torture provides a useful moment to consider the lessons learned from this sorry chapter in American history and the steps that might be taken to avoid its recurrence. With the truth now told about this blatantly illegal policy, President Barack Obama has a chance to reverse his misguided refusal to prosecute the officials who authorized the torture, ending the impunity that sets a horrible precedent for future United States presidents and governments worldwide.

There will undoubtedly be much debate about its finding that torture did not “work” — that it produced little if any intelligence of value that was not or could not have been obtained by lawful means.…  Seguir leyendo »

By most measures, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is the gold standard for international justice.

With 69 convictions, it has brought to justice many of the people behind the ethnic cleansing of the 1990s Balkan wars — the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II. Some three million people were forcibly displaced across the region and well over 100,000 killed in Bosnia alone, including nearly 8,000 murdered in the genocide centered on the town of Srebrenica that began 18 years ago Thursday.

But as the tribunal winds down, it has suddenly established a precedent that, unless changed, could cripple future efforts to prosecute senior officials responsible for human rights crimes.…  Seguir leyendo »

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making waves. Known for his aggressive efforts to revive Japan’s economy, his nationalist rhetoric and his openness to military strength, he is also pushing Japan toward a new assertiveness on human rights.

Despite a vibrant democracy at home, the diplomats who guide Japan’s foreign policy are famous for their caution on human rights. To avoid interrupting friendly relations with other countries, harming Japan’s economic interests or risking criticism of Japan’s war record, they discuss human rights, if at all, only quietly, behind closed doors. Tokyo generally votes with its Western allies on human rights matters at the United Nations, but almost never takes the initiative, fearful of sticking its neck out.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Syrian people are caught in a horrible downward spiral. The government’s slaughter seems only to intensify as President Bashar al-Assad pursues a ruthless strategy of draining the sea to get the fish — attacking civilians so they will flee and leave the armed opposition isolated.

Meanwhile, the sprawling collection of militias that constitute the armed opposition includes some that are themselves torturing and executing prisoners and promoting sectarian strife. While not on a par with the government-directed slaughter, their abuses encourage Syria’s minorities to stick with the murderous Assad rather than risk an uncertain future under rebel rule.

The Syrian National Coalition was created to provide a unified command structure that could replace Assad, rein in abusive rebel forces, promote minority rights and pursue a transition that left the state sufficiently intact to avoid a chaotic collapse.…  Seguir leyendo »