New Series: Perspectives from Impacted Countries

The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute has partnered with Just Security to launch a series of articles that is intended to make the discourse on U.S. national security policies more inclusive of individuals from countries affected by these policies. In the coming weeks, this series will include articles authored by experts and advocates from around the world, including Kenya, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Millions of people around the world are affected by U.S. armed conflict, security, and counterterrorism policies and practices. U.S. forces regularly carry out airstrikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and ground forces are deployed in Niger, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The U.S. provides security assistance—in the form of trainings, arms transfers, intelligence sharing, and technical support—to many countries, including Kenya, Mali, and Saudi Arabia. Decisions by U.S. policymakers have far-reaching consequences for civilians and communities, including on the political and economic stability of their countries, the functioning of their military forces, and the enjoyment of their rights to life, liberty, and security.

While communities in other states are affected by the United States’ national security decisions, discourse in the United States is generally dominated by American perspectives. The expert opinions and experiences of those directly impacted by U.S. policies are too often marginalized in discussions among U.S. policymakers, as well as in civil liberties and national security conferences, workshops, hearings, press coverage, and blogs. Just Security has been no exception. For example, since August 2017, the site published approximately 467 posts, but experts from countries directly impacted by U.S. counterterrorism policies authored only two submissions (see here and here). Similarly, at Lawfare, of the 378 posts that were published on a wide-range of topics since January 2018, only two posts (see here and here) were authored by experts from impacted countries.

Through the new series we are launching this week, and by proactively taking steps to ensure that experts from countries affected by U.S. security policies have access to prominent national security platforms, we seek to contribute to efforts to address this imbalance and enrich the discourse on national security with their views.

Why does this matter? Greater efforts to increase the representation of experts, advocates, and rights-holders from affected countries in U.S. discussions will help ensure their right to be heard on issues that affect them, and help policymakers and the American public to better understand the dynamics and effects of U.S. practices abroad. By improving direct communication between experts from affected countries and U.S. officials, policymakers, journalists, civil society, and the general public, transparency and accountability for U.S. actions can be improved, and more informed decision making by policymakers is possible.

The series will feature posts by academics, lawyers, advocates, and others with expertise in international law, security policy, counterterrorism, the effects of U.S. military operations, human rights, disarmament, and peace-building. Many of the contributors hail from Muslim-majority countries that are also subject to the so-called Muslim ban —which has undermined direct collaboration and exchange and makes this series which draws on their perspectives all the more vital.

In the first few weeks of the series, Just Security will publish posts from:

  • Abdillahi Sheikh Abukar, Executive Director of the Somali Human Rights Association (SOHRA), will discuss how Somalis impacted by counterterrorism operations are demanding accountability.
  • Sikander Ahmed Shah, Professor of Public International Law at Lahore University of Management Sciences, will analyze the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and what that means for stability and human rights in the region.
  • Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, a leading Yemeni human rights advocate, and Executive Director of Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, will evaluate U.S. lethal operations in Yemen and will argue that U.S. policy in the country is contributing to harm and fueling resentment among the local population.
  • Elham Saudi, Riad Alakar, and Thomas Ebbs, advocates from Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) — a leading non-governmental organization promoting human rights in Libya — will explain how the United States’ military intervention in Libya has impacted human rights in the country.

Subsequent articles will look at a variety of other issues, including the impact of U.S. involvement in Syria, as well as how U.S. security assistance can impact rights protections.

We will continue to proactively identify a range of global voices, and to improve Just Security’s representation of the views of people from directly affected countries. Just Security readers can also have an important role to play in these efforts. To help us to continue to expand this series, we encourage readers to submit further posts, or to email us with suggestions for experts we should contact.

 

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

  

About the Author(s)

Rahma A. Hussein

Legal Fellow at Columbia Law School’s Project on Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict and Human Rights

Sarah Knuckey

Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, Director of the Human Rights Clinic, Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute, Former Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions (2007-2016) Follow her on Twitter (@SarahKnuckey).

Jameel Jaffer

Founding Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Former Deputy Legal Director at the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, Author of The Drone Memos, Follow him on Twitter (@JameelJaffer).

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin

U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism; This article is written in the author's personal and academic capacity; Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy, and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School; Professor of Law at the University of Ulster’s Transitional Justice Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Follow her on Twitter (@NiAolainF).

Alex Moorehead

Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School, Director of the Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute Follow him on Twitter (@apmoorehead).

John Reed

Managing Editor of Just Security Follow him on Twitter (@ReedJustSec).

Waleed Alhariri

Head of the New York Office - Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies (SCSS), Fellow-in-Residence at Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute Follow him on Twitter (@WaleedAlhariri).

Suraj Kandath Girijashanker

David W. Leebron Fellow working to document best practices for promoting the rights of LGBT people in the Middle East and North Africa.