Live Blog of the Human Rights Summit – Day 2

4:55 – 4) strengthening multilateral institutions to support human rights. “We would be better off trying to fix [the UN human rights] council from the inside rather than lobbing criticisms from without.”

4:52 – On Syria, the Obama admin has deployed a range of non-lethal means to support opposition. “The results are not satisfying, not be a longshot.”

4:44 – 3) protecting people at risk. The directive on LGBT rights. Obama has prioritized atrocity-prevention like no president before him. Establish APB.In addition to the gravity-sanctions, he specifically barred entry of people responsible for crimes against humanity into the United States. “The Atrocity Prevention Board is not a Atrocity Panacea board.”

4:37 – 2) checks and balances within emerging democracies. Obama administration has sought to use its diplomacy and dollars to support civil society and democratic institutions abroad. Dual track diplomacy: all US officials are encouraged to meet with civil society activists. SOS Clinton has so regularized meetings with activists they will be the norm. Also bolsters multilateral capacity to support civil society. “The most modern check and balances we promote in the internet.”

4;35 – 1) leading by example – health care bill, LGBT rights, women’s rights abroad. 4:34 – Samantha Power: will discuss four ways in which President Obama has advanced human rights.

4:15 – Julius Kaggwa says the “Kill the Gays” bill is still the “Kill the Gays Bill” – the death penalty provision has not been removed.

3:56 – Oleg Kozlowsky – expresses support for Magninsky bill – when Russia expelled US Aid, there was almost no response, at least initially, from the US government.” “Fact is Russians do want the United States to help.”

3:48 – Rula Al Saffar – the US has dealt with Egypt with Libya and Yemen similarly but Bahrain is different. There’s a phobia of Iran that the regime play on. The medics were accused of being Iranian agents. “We have nothing to do with Iran. We are an independent country.” Instead of merely “expressing concern,” the United States need to do more — “Why can’t the Obama administration take the leadership role in protecting human right?” She says the US ought to says it will move the 5th Fleet unless the regime stops abusing and imprisoning people.

3:46 – Cristina Hardaga says Mexican activists have grown to trust US diplomats and policy makers, come to believe that they might actually care about their cause, yet when they meet with the Mexican government it’s as if human rights concerns don’t even exist. Mexicans activists now have confidence to go US embassy to tell them about human rights abuses, but when it comes to structural changes, we don’t see that.

3:25 – Inconsistency of US support for human rights. What’s the difference between what the US does and what it says it stands for? Haris Azhar says the founder of a group was killed by a group in the name of “fighting terrorism.” Need to develop channels of communication between the US and Indonesian defenders via the US Embassy. Cites needs for defender guidelines.

3:22 – Cristina Hardaga: What do Mexican human rights activists want from the US? Discusses the impact of the security (anti-drug) measures supported by the US, which has contributed $1.9 billion to this effort. A devastating human rights impact, some 60,000 people have died. “People who stand up for justice are targeted by organized crime and corrupt officials.” Meanwhile, the cartels remain as powerful as ever.

3:19 – Haris Azhar, Indonesia’s democraticization effort is 14 years old now, and the US was play a productive role in the early years — then 9-11 happened, and security concerns came to dominate.

3:17 – Kaggwa says US government has opposed the “Kill the Gays” bill — which is scheduled to come up again in the next couple of days — but much of the support has come from American faith leaders.

3:15 – Panel of activists discussing their struggles and what the United States can do to help. Cristina Hardaga (Mexico), Haris Azhar (Indonesia), Julius Kaggwa (Uganda), Oleg Kozlovsky (Russia), Dr. Rula Al Saffar (Bahrain).

3:10 – A video message from Ai Weiwei.

3:03 – Elisa Massimino reads letter from Chen Guangcheng about his nephew, who has been detained with access to his family or the lawyers of his choice for many months. After Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest, thugs broke into his brother’s house and attacked him and his wife. Their son — Chen Guangcheng – fended off the attackers but was arrested.

2:58 — What can the US do now to protect Alawites and other minorities from violence in a post-Assad Syria? The best way is to promote the democratic groups and make sure they have a strong say in the future. It’s almost impossible to have an Islamic government. Another way is a UN peacekeeping force, which will be needed to prevent partition and chaos.

2:56 – “Without Russian support and Chinese support, we would not have this situation.” The moment it becomes militarized, the opposition relies on outside support.

2:54 – Best option is to shield it from regions power. A “Syrian solution for Syria.”

2:52 – What’s needed to change the balance of power on the ground? Low cost – no fly zone. There’s no good reason why the west (Friends of Syria) haven’t put one in place. Needed: anti-aircraft weapons.

2:48 – Question about chemical weapons. Kodmani: “The risk [of Assad using chemical weapons] is high.” Russia and China will have to reconsider their support for regime if this happens.

2:46 – Q & A — audience member notes that the coalition, which has 40 members but no women. Dr. Kodmani says this is a crucial issue, and will be a long term struggle to get more rights for women.

2:43 – I think “we will get the cooperation of Russia once there is a plan.”

2:41 -The ominous conclusion that many Syrians are drawing is that “It takes the extremist groups to get rid of a regime like Assad.”

2:40 – Dual strategies are called for, whereby1)  the US supports the movement as a whole but favors the groups it wants to prevail. 2) it provides decisive military support and seeks a political solution.

2:38 – The best way to protect minority is to empower the democratic forces. “The US will not have credibility unless it provides the support that tilts the balance of power on the ground.”

2:36 – Addresses the concern that aid will go to Islamic fundamentalist sources – says the best way to avoid is this is to give aid to the coalition, which has mechanisms to distribute aid fairly and wisely.

2:32 – Military aid is reaching people more effectively than humanitarian aid, which is a “vital component” of the resistance.

2:30 — Not enough, says Dr. Kodmani, to recognize is politically, diplomatically — it should recognized legally.

2:26 – What Should the West Do? Dr. Kodmani says the US should recognize the opposition. “It’s important to trust this coalition..It can be concretely trusted with support, and that support can be increased once the mechanisms are in place…”Standing on the side and putting conditions before recognizing the coalition is one way of weakening it and allowing divisions to emerge and allowing the regime to manipulate some groups.” Talks about the infiltrations of all factions by the government.

2:18 – Dr. Bassma Kodmani, leading figure in Syrian opposition, says that for a year and a half Syrian have called for a no-fly zone and other forms of help — asking for “decisive action.” But the message has been that this isn’t coming. Cites rationales-excuses that the west have used for failure to act – the presence of extremists among opposition, the geopolitical complexity.

2:00 Questioned by audience about how killing without due process fits into the rule of law, Verma and Dunlap assert that they’re legal, citing the 2001 AUMF and IHL.

1:55 – Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr. USAF (ret) foresees a future in which drone technology is married to facial recognition technology and long-loiter capability to allow the US to send out a drone in search of one person.

1:50 – Moderator Richard Fontaine — president of the Center for New America Security – asked about how we draw distinctions between what the US does and what the US doesn’t want other countries to do, considering some 70 other countries are developing drones.

1:47 – Mona Sutphen, Managing Director UBS AG, notes that there’s a difference between what we’ve had up to this point — areas where the US has had a hundred thousand troops — and what we’ll have going forward and raises profound and difficult questions.

1:45 – Verma: Are drones creating more terrorists? “Have we somehow created a situation where we will have ten, twenty, thirty more targets?”

1:30 – human rights implications of new technologies – a discussion of drones — Richard Verma, partner Steptoe & Johnson LLP, says drones have made us safer and is confident the way the US govt is being legal, but think there needs to be a system of oversight.

1:20 – Eric Biel, trade and labor rights can go hand in hand — win, win — cites the example of Haiti, where he said companies can establish solid investment and more durable brand by protecting worker rights.

1:15 – Elliot Schrage of Facebook urges businesses and the US government to work together to protect internet freedom around the world.

1:10 — Posner: need to be looking for opportunities to reinforces pro-human rights moves companies are making for their own business interests. Notes that Shell, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars on security in Nigeria, is training security forces.

1:00: Eric Biel, Associate Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, notes the divergence between what’s happening at headquarters and what these companies’ lobbying offices are doing. Notes the pushback against the modest disclosure requirement in Dodd-Frank.

12:37 – Mike Posner — one of the things Secretary of Clinton often says is “We need to lead by example.”

12:05 – Panel on businesses and human rights.

11:27 – Asked about Congo – why is there so little interest? – Sen. McCain says these problems are often viewed as insoluble — wrongly. Congo requires an international effort.

11:25 – Asked what we would do on Syria, he renews call for a no-fly zone, so that rebels have a safe-haven like Benghazi.

11:22 Q & A – Asked about Bahrain, McCain says he will travel to Bahrain this weekend. Not a pure issue, citing Iranian influence in the uprising, which happens, he says, as these conflicts drag on.

11:19 – urges human rights movement to demand the their leaders take up the cause of human rights.

11:15  – McCain: Around the world “there is not just a longing for human rights but a longing for American leadership on behalf of them.”

11:12 – “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest.” Faults both the White House and Republicans for failing to lead on human rights. Criticizes Senate Republicans for voting down Disability Treaty.

11:04 – Sen. McCain: We need you now more than ever.

11: 02 – Sen. McCain: “What makes America special is that in the final calculation is that our interests are our values, and our values are our interests.”

11:00 – Sen. McCain: says Human Rights is “close to his heart.” Thanks the organization and Elisa Massimino’s for the work opposing torture.

10:55 Elisa Massimino, introducing Sen. McCain: “he fundamentally changed this debate about torture from one about fear to one about values.”

10: 50 Williamson: Congress should pass a law requiring the State Dept. to issue a report on genocide indicators.

10: 45 –  Soderberg: “There are indicators that are very obvious before a crisis occurs.”

10:42 – Williamson:  “Early engagement is the single most important thing.”

10:40 – Williamson says he was surprised and disappointed by the inability of the activist community to make their political leaders “pay a price” for failing to act on atrocities.

10:37 – Action requires presidential engagement, or at least the engagement of the National Security Adviser; otherwise, there’s drift.

10: 27 – Williamson agrees about the importance of processes, but they’re not a silver bullet. “We need to back up and say: why do these things happen? Powerful people open up the gates of hell to solve their problems.” It’s a tool the political leaders use. In Sudan, it was basically 12 people who got together and decided what to do in South Sudan.

10:23 – Soderberg –  “The Atrocity Prevention Board is something that can be real.” 4 things, she says, have to be done to make it real. 1. executive order that would set out its priorities  2. needs serious staffing and budget 3. needed extra tools. 4. need to build international APBs

10:20 – Soderberg: “I was in the Clinton White House during the Rwanda genocide. All of us who were there are haunted by our failure to stop that.”But she says prevention is key.

10: 16 – Ambassador Nancy Soderberg. The best case of prevention was in 2008 in Kenya. The Responsibility to Protect requires in the international community to act — but who? “Until you have one country willing to stand up and drive it, you’re not going to move forward.”

10:10 – Ambassador Richard Williamson, Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, points out that there is high risk and low political payoff in intervening to stop atrocities. Libya was a unique circumstance. “I give the President and his team great credit in how they handled Libya.” But Libya was a unique circumstance; Syria is more typical.

10:05 – Panel on Atrocity Prevention. Moderator Michael Abromowitz, director of the Committee on Conscience, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, says the world is beginning to take the challenge of tackling genocide and mass atrocities more seriously.

9:38 – Lofgren: “the real decision is with the Republican leadership, and I think they’ve made the decision to move forward.”

9:31 – Zigler, agreeing with Lofrgen, says piecemeal reform isn’t going to work – has to be comprehensive.

9:25 – Rep. Lofgren, people come to this “beacon of freedom” and we throw them in jail. “How can these be the policies of the United States?” And she points out the absurdity of “doubling down” on enforcement in a broken system. We need to fix the system, then do enforcement.

9:19 James Zigler says the broken system results in “human rights abuses, human rights violations,” citing the one-year filing deadline.

9:14 Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention: “The American people are ahead of their political leaders on this issue. They’re ready for comprehensive reform.” Yes, there’s a window, he says, but “we’re in a narrow window.”

9:12 Mac McClarty explains why the moment may be ripe for comprehensive reform — at least 3 factors: improved border control, the political landscape with the “wake-up call” to the Republican Party, and the improving economy in Mexico.

9:10 – Edward Alden of the Council of Foreign Relations, moderator of the panel discussion on finding common ground on immigration reform, says there’s a window for reform.

9:00 – Congresswomen Zoe Lofgren opens discussion of immigration reform. “I think we have a real opportunity at this point to do top-to-bottom reform.” It has to be done on a bipartisan basis, she says, and given the number of prominent Republicans who’ve come out for comprehensive reform in the wake of the election, there’s a good chance of it happening.


Published on December 5, 2012


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