Counterterrorism measures that result in war crimes and crimes
against humanity, and elections providing opportunities for racist
demagoguery and nativist discrimination have been recent topics of
To enhance our understanding of the complex and sometimes
counter-intuitive relationships among these concepts, experts from
leading human rights organizations and universities in New York
State will gather at UB on April 27 for a daylong
“International Symposium on Counterterrorism, Electoral
Politics and Human Rights.”
Presenters will range from Julia Hall, expert on
counterterrorism and human rights at Amnesty International, to Eric
Topfer, senior researcher and policy adviser for the German
Institute for Human Rights.
The free, public event will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in
107 Capen Hall, North Campus.
It will be followed by a scholarship fund dinner in Buffalo that
benefits students interested in human rights.
Both the symposium and dinner honor the memory of Alison L. Des
Forges, a member of the UB community who fought to call the
world’s attention to another great humanitarian crisis: the
genocide in Rwanda.
Des Forges, an internationally known historian and Buffalo
native, was an adjunct member of the UB history faculty during the
1990s and received an honorary doctorate from SUNY during
UB’s 155th general commencement ceremony in 2001.
She was one of the world’s leading authorities on Rwanda,
serving as an expert witness in 11 trials at the United Nations
International Criminal Court for Rwanda. Her award-winning book,
“Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda,” was
a landmark account of the 1994 genocide, and her tireless efforts
to awaken the international community to the horrors that occurred
earned her a MacArthur Fellowship in 1999.
The symposium will open with registration and welcoming remarks
at 9 a.m., followed by panels focusing on Africa, Europe and the
The Africa panel, which runs from 9:30-11 a.m., includes
the following presentations:
- “Human Rights in the Context of Elections in Burundi,
Uganda and Rwanda”
Sarah Jackson, deputy regional director, Amnesty International
This presentation will discuss elections and human rights abuses in
Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda.
- “International Responses to Human Rights Crises in
Sudan and Southern Sudan”
Jehanne Henry, senior researcher, Africa Division, Human Rights
Henry first will discuss Sudan and how international responses
to crises there have been fueled by competing priorities. She then
will talk about how the referendum that led to South Sudan’s
independence in 2011 failed to address the long legacy of conflict,
deep deprivation or the absence of democratic institutions,
resulting in a newly independent country soon becoming mired in a
new civil war.
- “Political Process, Inclusion and Citizen Satisfaction
with Governance in West Africa”
Ryan Dalton, program officer, Central and West Africa,
National Democratic Institute
While conflict is a ubiquitous and healthy part of a democracy, the
risk of violence and terrorism mounts when a political system is
characterized by weak, unaccountable institutions, exclusive
policies that favor some groups at the expense of others, and
marginalized groups’ lack of access to political power.
Dalton will discuss activists in West Africa who are working to
make the political process more inclusive and to hold elected
officials to account.
The Europe panel, which runs from noon to 1:30 p.m.,
includes the following presentations:
- “Recasting Refugees as Terrorists: Populist
Exploitation of the National Security Narrative in European
Julia Hall, expert on counterterrorism and human rights,
A number of European politicians have deliberately conflated the
refugee crisis with terrorism, raising fear and distrust among
their populations of refugees and migrants seeking safe haven in
Europe. With elections in Germany, Netherlands, France and Turkey
in 2017, Hall will discuss the ways that political leaders have
exploited the refugee crisis for electoral gain, and the necessity
of confronting the notion that refugees bring terrorism to Europe
and pose a threat to national security.
- “European Complicity in U.S. Drone Attacks and Mass
Eric Topfer, senior researcher and policy adviser, German
Institute for Human Rights
The prosecution of European complicity in more recent human
rights violations in the “global war on terror” is
still at an early stage. Topfer will outline how revelations about
the role of Ramstein Air Base in the U.S. drone war and the
contribution of German intelligence to “targeted
killings” have been explored through the
parliamentary investigation of global mass surveillance and
- Turkey’s AKP after the July 15 Coup Attempt: Moving
toward End Game”
Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of history, St.
An attempted military coup this past July has shaken Turkey in
fundamental ways. Taking to social media, Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called his supporters to the streets,
where they faced down tanks. By daylight, the attempted coup was
broken. However, Erdoğan used this victory to accelerate his
crackdown on potential opposition, detaining more than 100,000 and
sacking more than 125,000 civil servants. Turkey’s once
vibrant and diverse civil society has been gutted and its democracy
is in tatters. It now faces an uncertain future of authoritarianism
The United States panel, which runs from 2-3:30 p.m.,
includes the following presentations:
- “National Security and Human Rights in the
Naureen Shah, director, Security with Human Rights, Amnesty
Shah will discuss ways in which the Trump administration has
threatened human rights in the name of national security, the
effectiveness of public resistance and barriers created by
the normalization of a global war paradigm that has existed since
the 9/11 attacks.
- “U.S. Counterterrorism and Human Rights Post
Laura Pitter, senior U.S. national security counsel, Human
U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump made counterterrorism the
cornerstone of his campaign. But there is a problem: The policies
he espoused during the campaign are not only contrary to U.S.
values, but pursuing them threatens U.S. national security. Pitter
will discuss the dangers these campaign proposals pose, and the
damage many of them have already done to U.S. national security,
human rights, the rule of law and the ability of the U.S. to
promote these values globally.
- “National Security and Recent Changes in U.S.
Nicole Hallett, assistant clinical professor of law and
director, Community Justice Clinic, UB School of Law
Hallett will discuss the securitization of U.S. immigration policy,
including the “Muslim Ban,” and reframing of the U.S.
refugee resettlement program; the Central American refugee crisis;
and illegal immigration as national security threats. However,
lesser-known policy changes have the potential to affect the human
rights of an even greater number of immigrants within the U.S.
Hallett will discuss these policy changes and explore avenues for
protecting the human rights of immigrants affected by them.
Sponsors include the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee;
Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy; Community for Global Health
Equity; Department of Comparative Literature; the Office of Equity,
Diversity and Inclusion; Department of History; Humanities
Institute; James Agee Chair in American Culture; Samuel P. Capen
Chair, Department of Philosophy; Department of Political Science;
and the Office of the Vice Provost for International Education.
A scholarship dinner and discussion after the symposium will
support an endowment that funds Alison L. Des Forges Memorial
Scholarships for Buffalo Public Schools graduates demonstrating a
strong interest in pursuing studies at UB related to human rights
and social justice.
The dinner, which costs $100 per seat, takes place from
6:30-9:30 p.m. on April 27 at the Jacobs Executive Development
Center, 672 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.
Reservations are required, and guests may RSVP by contacting
Kathleen Curtis at 716-645-2077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.