Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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Torture Admission by US at UN Treaty Body Review

Image: Witness Against Torture/flickr

By Cynthia Banham,

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

The United States official left the UN Committee Against Torture in no doubt when he appeared before it last month: the US used torture as a matter of policy after 11 September 2001.[1]

‘[W]e do not claim to be perfect,’ Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski, told the Committee. ‘A little more than ten years ago, our government was employing interrogation methods that, as President Obama has said, any fair-minded person would believe were torture.’[2] In the same breath, Malinowski also noted that torture not only devastates its victims, but harms people and countries that use it and is employed to coerce false confessions – or to inflict suffering for its own sake.

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Image by Judy van der Velden on on Flickr under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Thanks to all our readers and contributors for another lively year of engagement with human rights related issues. Our final post for the year, by Regarding Rights regular, Cynthia Banham, will be published next Friday (more on this below). As this is our final ‘news and events’ post for the year, we wish you all happy and peaceful holidays, and we look forward to renewing our conversation in January 2015.

Eve Darian-Smith and the Global Commons

The CIGJ calendar is not complete without a visit from the intellectually generous and ever gregarious Eve Darian-Smith. We marked Human Rights Day this week with Eve’s seminar on the global commons. First delivered as the keynote address for this year’s conference of the Law & Society Association of Australia & New Zealand, Eve’s seminar focused on re-thinking the public/private divide in light of unique governance issues raised by humanity’s shared interest in threatened global resources.

The Regarding Rights Year in Review

The Regarding Rights year started with Hilary Charlesworth’s ‘The Internationalist Dream’, a review of two major works on international law and the global order. Significant issues subsequently canvassed included the rights of indigenous peoples (with posts by Jackie Hartley and Mhairi Cowden); prisoners’ rights (Anita Mackay), transitional justice mechanisms (Cheryl White); internet surveillance (Natasha Tusikov); freedom of expression and racial vilification (Emma Larking); the death penalty (Betheli O’Carroll); and asylum seeker and refugee policy (Marie-Eve Loiselle, Jonathan Kent, Jacky Parry, Angela Condello and Christoph Sperfeldt). Contributors examined the role played by the ICC (Rosemary Grey) and the UN and its human rights mechanisms in promoting and in some cases, undermining, human rights (Christoph Sperfeldt, Fiona McGaughey, Mandira Sharma We looked as well at the domestic impact and significance of international human rights (Nara Ganbat and Emma Larking).

Many of our posts have been republished on the Live Encounters blog, which also recently published an interview with Regarding Rights editors, Ben Authers and Emma Larking. Our year will end with next week’s post, which discusses the recent appearance by the United States before the Committee Against Torture. ‘Torture admission by US at UN treaty body review’ is part of Cynthia Banham’s sustained consideration for Regarding Rights of how the UK and US are dealing with the legacy of their use of torture during the ‘War on Terror’ – an issue that has been in the news again this week with the release of a critical US Senate report.

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Fighting Government Surveillance with Industry Transparency Reports

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Natasha Tusikov

Baldy Centre for Law and Social Policy, University of Buffalo,  State University of New York

Classified files leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the Internet surveillance programs operated by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its allies are heavily reliant upon data drawn from U.S.-based Internet firms like Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Apple and Facebook. Reaction to the Snowden files continues to reverberate worldwide with anger from political leaders and the public directed towards the NSA and companies that facilitate its surveillance programs. Continue Reading →