This month, Elisa Massimno appeared on the talk show Conversations in the Digital Age with Jim Zirin to discuss the state of human rights in the world today. On the heels of her inspiring keynote address at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Massimino assessed both the progress and deterioration on human rights in the areas of counterterrorism, Guantanamo, extremism and anti-Semitism in Europe, and refugees around the world.

Massimino noted that by upholding the rule of law and respecting human rights, we can combat the sense of hopelessness felt by those who are tempted by extremist views. Respect for human rights is an essential tool of any effective counterterrorism strategy.

Guantanamo Bay remains a sore spot in Obama’s legacy since he campaigned on its closure. Despite opposition from Congress, there are steps the President could’ve taken—and still could take—to shut it down.

The rise of extremism and anti-semitism in Europe is deeply concerning. Israel’s actions in Gaza are no excuse for anti-Semitic reactions. Ultimately it is a nation’s leaders that are responsible for allowing extremism to take root, Massimino points out. Instead of passing laws that limit free speech, they should openly condemn hate speech for what it is.

To get an assessment on the state of human rights today, look no further than the world’s refugees. “Refugees are the physical manifestations of human rights abuses,” says Massimino. Between the Central Americans entering the United States on the southern border to the three million refugees of Syria, how we as a nation deal with those fleeing violence and persecution speaks to our commitment to uphold human rights and American ideals.

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Published on October 21, 2014

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