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The Weaponisation of Human Rights

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Human rights, once a rallying cry to free prisoners of conscience and curb government abuses, is increasingly deployed as a justification for war, from Libya to Iraq, from Niger to Colombia. Human rights lawyers in and out of government are weighing in on how wars should be fought: in the United States, the phrase “human rights-based approach to drones” passes without much comment in the legal academy and mainstream media. As human rights professionals enter the civilian and military institutions of government throughout North America and Western Europe, what is the effect of these humanitarian legal doctrines on warfare–and vice versa? Will this blossoming relationship bring about more humanity in warfare? Or is human rights being conscripted into ever more militarized foreign policy?


Chase Madar is an attorney, author and journalist from New York. He is the author of The Passion of [Chelsea] Manning: The Story behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower (Verso, 2013) and a contributor to the New York Times, Guardian, London Review of Books, Le Monde diplomatique, The Nation, The American Conservative, Jacobin, TomDispatch, Bookforum and the TLS , among other venues. He has lectured widely on law and society, from Oxford and Cambridge to Occupy Wall Street and the Mississippi State capitol, and is a frequent participant in academic conferences and workshops on international law, criminal justice and U.S. foreign policy. He has translated one book each from French and his own reporting has been translated into a dozen languages.

A graduate of Stanford and NYU Law School, Madar was previously a staff attorney at Make the Road New York where he provided a wide variety of low-tech legal services to Spanish-speaking immigrants and carried out larger advocacy projects including the first-ever empirical investigation into employment discrimination against transgender job-seekers and much work on school security reform. The most recent course he taught was a seminar on “Criminalization and its discontents” at Wallkill Correctional Facility through the NYU Prison Education Program.

This talk is part of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights Events series.

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