Analysis and Commentary on Human Rights

Notorious P.I.G.: Rape Culture Meets Presidential Politics

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah L. Brake analyze the infamous video of Donald Trump boasting about what he can do to women, as well as the response of the Trump campaign. Grossman and Brake argue that Trump’s words in the video, and his non-apology following its release, epitomize the formula that creates rape-prone culture: deny harm, deflect responsibility, and normalize what happened.

My Friend Michael

Cornell University Law professor Joe Margulies reflects on the life and accomplishments of his friend and colleague Michael Ratner, who passed away last week as a result of complications from cancer. As Margulies points out, Ratner recognized that dignity withheld from some is denied to all, and he suffered greatly for the great work he did.

War Crimes in a Punitive Age

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies discusses the challenges of comprehensive criminal justice reform. Even for victims of wrongful detention and torture, he argues that war crimes prosecutions are not the answer. With an eye toward a crime-free society, Margulies presents a compelling argument as to why the current, punitive nature of our carceral state should be dismantled.

Enough

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on Donald Trump’s recent declaration that not only does he support torture, but that if he becomes president, he would utilize it more, regardless of whether it “works.” Margulies explores these statements as well as the identity of those who support him and his views.

Who Gets to Be Human?

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies continues his discussion of the role of dignity as a condition of a legitimate criminal justice system. Margulies argues that it is dignity that saves us from the conceit that we may decide who gets to be human, but he laments that many people are not yet ready to give up that conceit.

Torture and Myth, Part One

In this first of a two-part series of columns, Cornell University visiting law professor Joseph Margulies debunks the widespread belief that Americans’ support for torture occurred immediately following the attacks of 9/11. In Part II, Margulies will discuss how support for torture took off only after it became a partisan issue, and an argument took shape that made torture sound congenial to American values.

The New Torture Report: Expect Little Other Than Talk

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean discusses the recent report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence describing the CIA’s use of torture to interrogate suspected terrorists. Dean predicts that the report will not likely lead to any prosecutions or policy changes, but instead might only result in the more frequent torture of Americans captured around the world.

The Reclamation of Torture

Guest columnist and professor of law and government at Cornell University, Joseph Margulies discusses the use of the term “torture” in American media and the public sphere. Margulies describes the change in language after 9/11 and explains the significance of the word’s return to the public’s vocabulary.

The Death Penalty in the United States and the Force of Regional Human Rights Law

Justia guest columnist and U.C. Berkeley School of Law professor Saira Mohamed discusses how the recent botched execution in Oklahoma signals the impact regional human rights laws can have beyond borders. Mohamed explains how the development of various European laws and corporate policies have contributed to changes in lethal injection practices in the United States. She notes that European opposition to capital punishment led to the adoption of a European Union regulation restricting trade in drugs that could be used for the purpose of lethal injection. Mohamed concludes that despite the common perception that human rights laws are toothless, limited laws such as those in Europe demonstrate the capacity of human rights law to have wide application, shape state practices, and impact human lives.

Seven Ways of Looking at Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and the Supreme Court Under Chief Justice John Roberts

Justia guest columnist and Touro Law Center professor Rodger Citron analyzes the Supreme Court's decision in the Kiobel case, which concerned the scope of the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), a federal statute relied upon by lawyers asserting claims of human rights violations. In particular, Citron focuses on how Kiobel fully illustrates the judicial philosophy of Chief Justice Roberts. In addition, he offers seven different ways of looking at the decision.

Legal Limits on the Forced Feeding of Hunger-Striking Guantanamo Bay Detainees

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on the law applicable to the forced feeding, via tubes, of those Guantanamo detainees who refuse to eat, as they are on a hunger strike, and are becoming dangerously weak. Human rights groups condemn the forced feeding as cruel, but the government says that it is better than the detainee’s dying. With U.S. law unclear on the force-feeding issue as it related to detainees, Dorf analyzes the situation, citing two relevant Supreme Court precedents and other legal sources that might shed light on the issue. He also suggests that the detainees’ best hope, in this situation, might be to invoke international law, though their chances of prevailing will still be slim.

Some Good News for Human Rights Lawyers in the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of the Alien Tort Statute

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Alien Tort Statue (ATS), which had been interpreted by many human rights attorneys as opening the way for serious foreign wrongs to be litigated in U.S. courts, including the Supreme Court. The conservative Justices rejected that interpretation, however, and their votes won the day, angering and disappointing human rights lawyers. Still, Dorf finds a few positives for the human rights law community in the Court's decision, as well, citing a handful of ATS approaches that may remain to be used.

Unstated Findings of the Detainee Treatment Report: Bush/Cheney & Co. Are War Criminals

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the bipartisan Detainee Treatment report that was recently released by The Constitution Project (TCP). Dean characterizes the report’s findings as nothing less than devastating. In particular, Dean notes that the report leads Dean—who serves on the TCP committee on Liberty & Security—to conclude that Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as others, engaged in war crimes. Dean focuses especially on TCP’s most notable findings in his column.

Is Obama’s Policy of Targeted Killings Really Worse than Bush’s Torture Policy?

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf contrasts Obama’s policy of targeted killings of persons believed to be leaders of al Q’aeda, with George W. Bush’s prior policy of authorization of the use of torture. The issue is timely in the wake of the release of an Obama Administration white paper on the targeted-killing issue. Dorf notes that the Administration is drawing criticism from both the right and the left on that issue. Dorf argues that the Administration is right to seek to craft a policy that complies with both the U.S. Constitution and the international law of war. He also examines the views of controversial conservative law professor John Yoo on which is worse: the Obama Administration’s targeted killing policy, or the Bush Administration’s torture policy. Dorf also looks at such questions from the point of view of not just law, but also morality.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar, a Professor of Law at The George Washington Univ... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.  Bef... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more