Analysis and Commentary on Human Rights

Pay for Slay?

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler discusses the decision by Hamas to pay funds to those wounded and to the families of those killed by Israeli military forces and considers whether such payments ought to be condemned as “pay for slay” disbursements. Wexler concludes that due to the unconditional nature of the offer, at least some payments made by Hamas might be appropriate because they are not conditioned on affiliation with or motivation by Hamas’s military wing.

Risk and Reward for International Prize Revocation: Aung San Suu Kyi, Genocide, and the Nobel Committee

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler considers whether institutions such as the Nobel Committee should revoke awards for illegal or immoral behavior by its recipients. Wexler points out that empirical evidence suggests that revocation can sometimes lead to crackdowns or repressions, rather than motivating the recipient to improve their behavior, and thus that revocation should be considered with caution.

Lessons From the Gina Haspel Imbroglio

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies explains why we should withhold judgment about President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel. Margulies points out that, notwithstanding what we do know about Haspel’s role in facilitating torture at CIA black sites, there is much information we still do not yet know that could inform our assessment of her. He calls upon both the Left and the Right to reduce knee-jerk reactions and instead seek to make careful assessments based on complete information and facts.

Are Animal Rights and Human Rights in Tension?

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers four ways in which human rights successes might seem to impede the progress of animal rights (and vice versa) and explains why none of these four ways stands up to critical analysis. Colb concludes that a commitment to human rights is perfectly consistent with an embrace of animal rights and that rather than being in conflict, to support one without the other is incoherent.

Sorry Lessons

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler considers the apologies issued by celebrity men recently accused of sexual misconduct and argues that they ultimately fall short of making genuine amends to their victims. Wexler breaks down the components of a sincere apology, discusses the question of compensatory amends, and ultimately concludes that both the United States government and the celebrity men in question have failed to issue apologies of any true substance to those they have wronged. To highlight her point, Wexler compares contemporary examples in which the Canadian government has stepped up to offer proper apologies and provide compensation to victims of its past harmful policies.

Oh, Those Crazy Commissions

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes the ongoing military commissions operating at Guantanamo, costing US taxpayers over $90 million per year. Margulies explains why the commissions are are all symbol and no substance but why politicians will never suggest that they be shut down.

Symbols and Distractions

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the announcement by the White House that it would expand the U.S. prison at Guantanamo. Margulies describes the role that Guantanamo has taken on—including its extremely high cost of operations—and the symbolic role it has for Donald Trump and his supporters.

The High Long-Term Costs of Engaging in Torture

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler explains the significance of the Canadian government’s recent settlement with and apology to Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old Canadian member of al-Qaeda who fought against the United States in Afghanistan. Wexler explains that while a majority of Canadians oppose the settlement, Prime Minister Trudeau has chosen to pay the political and economic price for his predecessor’s decision to allow Canadian interrogators to participate in the Guantanamo regime and for his refusal to seek Khadr’s return to Canada.

What Women Are Not Getting for Valentine’s Day This Year: Access to Reproductive Health Care Under the Trump Administration

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman discusses the grave risks to women’s health under the Trump Administration, both within the United States and worldwide. Grossman explains the unprecedented breadth of President Trump’s executive order reinstating what is known as the “global gag rule” and vastly expanding its scope.

Who Cares?

Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies argues that rather than see certain individuals as monsters undeserving of empathy, we should see the humanity in every person. To illustrate his point of humanity, Margulies describes in detail the life and background of Dante Owens, who was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.

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.

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 and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... 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. Befo... 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 country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... 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... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior... more