Live Blog of the Human Rights Summit – Day 1

1:44 Ahsan said there if the United States were to hold American torturers accountable it would have a “dramatic effect to the torture that its allies and its allied dictatorships are capable of inflicting on their own populations.”

1:10 – Kasparov says he support the Magninsky bill but is sad to see it limited to Russia. Calls the reset policy a complete failure.

12:52 – Aitzaz Ahsan, member of the Pakistani Senate and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, echoing Kasparov, criticizes the inconsistent policy of US toward Pakistan and Afghanistan, citing its failure to back Pakistan’s democrats in 1988 and to support bin Laden’s allies. To the US:  “Bin Laden is your product.”

12:46 – Our panel on what the US can do to promote human rights where such efforts aren’t working. Gary Kasparov, former Russian chess master and democracy advocate. Echoes Maryam Al-Khawaja’s point about double standards and urges the United States to be consistent and to not promote democracy unless it can do it well.

12:36 – In stirring speech, Maryam Al-Khawaja slams US double standard on the Middle East. Expresses the hope that what passport you hold doesn’t determine whether you’re entitled to human rights and dignity. She says — a paraphrase — my human rights are worth more than a barrel of Saudi oil. She, noting that her message can be depressing, ends with a note of optimism — and defiance: “You can imprison the revolutionaries, but you cannot imprison the revolution.”

12:30 – Bill Zabel’s introduces Baldwin award winner the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, accepted by Maryam Al-Khawaja, vice president and daughter of the founder. Thanks Elisa Massimino for going to Bahrain and seeing what’s happening on the ground; cites Elisa’s op-ed in the Washington Post.

12: 20 – Aryeh Neier says Roger Baldwin, whom he knew personally, says he would’ve been proud to have an award in his name given to the Bahraini Center for Human Rights.

11: 16 – Ladhiri ends with a strong plea for the US to show “a long-term commitment to support democracies in the Middle East.”

10:55 – In the Q-and-A Rula Al Saffar, one of the Bahraini medics imprisoned by the regime, points out the double standard and hypocrisy of US policy toward the region. US supports the rebels in Tunisia and Egypt, but what about Bahrain. As for Wahabbism, which Wright had denounced, who, says Al Saffar, funds it other than the great American ally, Saudi Arabia.

10: 45 – Audience member says the very frame – Is Islam compatible w/democracy – smacks of prejudice, because we don’t ask whether other religions are compatible w/ democracy. We need to escape from this Western frame. 10: 38 – Asked about blasphemy laws, Ladhiri says such a measure was not included in the draft constitution.

10: 30 – Asked by Kagan what makes his party Islamic, Ladhiri says Islam is a starting point and that Islam informs his belief in human rights. “I can be a democratic without being less Muslim.”

10: 25 – Wright: the democratic culture that is being born is as important as democratic institutions. Quotes a woman who says there are 20 factions within the Muslim Brotherhood. “A long way to go in this evolution, which is in its embryonic stage. It could go either way.”

10: 20 – Robin Wright says the most important thing to watch for is not elections but the drafting of constitutions, and this, she says, is an organic process.

10:15 – Kagan notes that to hear Ladhiri speak, you wouldn’t know he’s a member of an Islamic party.

10: 12 – Ladhiri stresses the importance of American support for the democratic transition particularly economic development. “We need to succeed together, and we need to enter the human rights community.”

10: 05 – Ladhiri, reminding us that the situation is different in each democratic transition, discusses the promising draft constitution. Says the democratic transition faces a tough test as unemployment and economic hardship persist. Tunisia, he says, accomplished a lot in terms of democratization, but all that will be threatened if it fails to improve people’s lives. Difficult, because the democratic transition is, because of uncertainty, anti-growth.

9:58 – Zied Ladhari, member of Tunisia’s Constitution Assembly of the political bureau of al-Nahdha, points out that “political Islam” is not a homogeneous phenomenon, and that it’s important to distinguish the democratic forces from the anti-democratic forces. 9: 54 – A panel on the compatibility (or the lack thereof) on the compatibility of political Islam and democracy-human rights — “one of the most profound issues of our time,” says moderator Robert Kagan.

9:10 – Gallup CEO Jim Clifton gives talk abut global views on American leadership and human rights. Stress to sell human rights policies to world leaders they need to be tied to economics.

9:00 – Our board member Ken Feinberg — the “quintessential problem solver,” in the words of Elisa Massimino in her intro — talks about Human Rights First. “We don’t just talk the talk. For an organization our size, we are extremely effective.” Says he was drawn to the organization because we’re committed to find concrete ways to advance human rights and human dignity. “Remember that word: dignity. You’re going to hear a lot about dignity over the next two days.”

8: 55 – Video Message from SOS Hillary Clinton expresses appreciation that we will be honoring Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Says American leadership on human rights is inextricably linked to American leadership in general.

8: 50 – Our CEO and President Elisa Massimino kicks off the event, explains why we organized it: to identify areas of consensus and build momentum for change. “We build bridges because that’s the way to make change in Washington and because a bipartisan consensus has historically been the linchpin of American leadership on human rights.”

8:20 – We’ll be bringing you the highlights of our first ever Human Rights Summit, which is set to begin at

8:50. For a roundup of today’s events see here.


Published on December 4, 2012


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