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

Poland: Lawmaker Faces Charges for Pro-Choice Protest

Poland’s government should immediately drop charges against a member of parliament who participated in a pro-choice protest and stop targeting reproductive rights activists, Human Rights Watch said today.

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Libya: ICC Reignites Hope for Long-Delayed Justice

A visit to Libya by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has reignited hope for long-delayed justice for the victims of a militia that controlled a town during the 2019-2020 battle for Tripoli, the capital.

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Governments Should Prioritize Mental Health Support

This December 3, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, governments should commit to putting rights-based mental health support at the center of their policies, especially those related to crisis responses.

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France Should Denounce the Expulsion of Salah Hamouri by Israel

Several NGOs call on French president Emmanuel Macron to act immediately against the expulsion of French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri.

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Historic Moment of First Woman Referee in Men’s World Cup - and in Qatar too

Yesterday, in a historic first, a woman referee took charge at the Men’s Football World Cup.

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Top Human Rights Tweets of the Week

Trending rights tweets this week.

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New York Mayor Targets Unhoused Communities

This week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that he is empowering police and emergency service providers to forcibly hospitalize unhoused community members they perceive to have a mental health condition, including if they pose no discernable risk to others.

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Russia: New Restrictions for ‘Foreign Agents’


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New EU Migration Plan, Same Rights Violations

The European Commission’s action plan on the Central Mediterranean, proposed on November 21, 2022 and endorsed by home affairs ministers a few days later, is another missed opportunity for the European Union to reset its myopic and harmful policies on this crucial migration route.

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EU Takes Step Towards Banning Plastic Waste Exports

A Committee of the European Parliament voted today to ban plastic waste exports outside of the European Union: good news for communities around the world impacted by exports of European refuse.

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Ghana: Chaining People with Mental Health Conditions Persists

Ghana’s government has taken inadequate steps to end the chaining and inhumane treatment of people with real or perceived mental health conditions – psychosocial disabilities – in faith-based and traditional healing centers despite a 2017 ban on such treatment, Human Rights Watch said today.

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Hungary: Data Misused for Political Campaigns

The Hungarian government’s misuse of personal data during the 2022 national elections campaign undermined privacy and further tilted an already uneven playing field in favor of the ruling party, Fidesz.

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Uzbekistan’s Prosecution of Karakalpakstan Protestors Raises Many Questions

This week, the trial began of 22 people accused of various crimes related to street protests in July in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, that left 21 people dead and hundreds injured.

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How A New Declaration Can Help Protect Civilians During Wartime

A new political declaration to protect civilians from the devastating effects of explosive weapons when used in populated areas during wartime was adopted by 82 countries, in Dublin, on 18 November.

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Qatar World Cup Chief Publicly Admits High Migrant Death Tolls

Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, admitted in a TV interview this week that there have been “between 400 and 500” migrant worker deaths in response to a question about deaths “in the last 12 years from any construction related … to the World Cup.” It was a striking admission from a Qatari official.

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