Michael Posner discusses new  Country Reports On Human Rights Practices (VIDEO)

On March 12, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner headlined a panel discussion at the Law School on trends in human rights. The occasion was the Department of State’s release of its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices one day earlier. After unveiling the report in Washington, he came to NYU as part of the State Department’s effort to reach out to nongovernmental organizations. Members of that community assembled in Furman Hall, where Posner was joined by Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston, who is John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law and faculty director and co-chair of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ). The event was sponsored by the Law School’s Institute for International Law and Justice, the CHRGJ, and the Hauser Global Law School Program.

Following Posner’s remarks, panelists and audience members chimed in with observations and questions; while polite, they did not pull their punches. Alston, for example, praised the country reports as “an unrivaled source of information,” but also said he wasn’t sure they measured up in the area of women’s rights. The first question from the audience asked why the U.S. had not held itself accountable for torture. Posner, who was founding executive director of Human Rights First, described the extraordinary scope and depth of the reports, noting that they contain more than two million words and runs thousands of pages. Speaking with unusual candor for a government official, he also acknowledged shortcomings in both the reports and U.S. policies in certain areas. Additionally, he noted that the atmosphere in the U.S. for people promoting human rights remained difficult, despite a change in administrations, because of those invoking national security concerns.  “I was stunned about how intense the politics of fear were and how much it has resurfaced,” he said. There is “an enormous campaign now to paint people like me as dangerous to society.”

Posted March 19, 2010


Watch the full event (1 hr 54 min):