National Security


Government leaders are often tempted to violate rights in times of insecurity.  

The coronavirus has been one such challenge, where US government authorities have claimed nonviolent protests have threatened national security and deployed a military response, using chemical weapons to disperse demonstrators.  The Trump administration has also regularly called the media an “enemy of the state” and incited violence against members of the press, and has not significantly addressed cyberthreats by countries attempting to influence America’s electoral process, which have benefited the party in power. 

The U.S. government's response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 provides another example.  The 9/11 attacks tested America's commitment to established domestic and international human rights laws, such as prohibitions on torture, secret prisons, and indefinite detention without trial.  Some government officials argued that these actions were necessary to gain intelligence and save lives. Critics, including many national security experts, argued that torture and other cruelty was not only illegal and immoral, but produced false confessions and unreliable information. The executive branch of the government also maintains a targeted killing program, using armed drones to strike terrorism suspects with little oversight or accountability.

People all over the world feel the effects of U.S. security and counterterrorism policies because US behavior influences that of other nations. Following the lead of the United States, many oppressive rulers have tried to justify abuses by citing the US government’s example. 

External Resources

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Trending rights tweets this week.

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Palestinian authorities are systematically mistreating and torturing Palestinians in detention, including critics and opponents.

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Honduras’ new government should enact reforms to better protect basic rights and the rule of law after years of setbacks since the 2009 coup, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing a letter to President Xiomara Castro. The letter and accompanying 12-page report lay out the main human rights challenges in Honduras and key recommendations to address them.

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Lesbian Parents in the US Should Not Need to Adopt Their Own Children

When the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade on June 24, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people across the United States were horrified to learn that, in addition to having protection of key reproductive rights rolled back, their marriages and relationships could be next.

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Ukraine: Russian Missile Kills Civilians in Shopping Center

(Poltava, Ukraine, June 30, 2022) – Russian forces launched a missile which struck a shopping center in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, on June 27, 2022. The attack killed at least 18 civilians, according to local authorities, and wounded dozens of others, Human Rights Watch said today. On June 29, 36 people remained missing, as rescue efforts continued.

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Turkey: Mass Arrests, Anti-LGBT Violence at Pride

Turkish police attacked and arrested hundreds at the Istanbul Pride March last weekend, in a sweeping display of violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as journalists attempting to report on the June 26 event. The number of arrests in 2022 is three-times more than the arrests during the previous seven Istanbul Pride marches combined. Thirty-four of those arrested were youth, according to Kaos GL, a Turkish LGBT rights group.

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