Human Rights, National Security, and the Role of Lawyers in the Resistance


From the article:

President Donald Trump came to power suggesting, at times, that he would round up millions of undocumented immigrants, expand stop-and-frisk policing nationwide, torture suspected terrorists and murder their families, intensify surveillance and profiling of domestic communities, and ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. Since his election, Trump has nominated individuals to several key national security posts who share his hostility to human rights, undocumented immigrants, and Muslims. Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions voted against legislation to ban torture, defended Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration, and staunchly opposed a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Incoming National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn once called Islam a “malignant cancer,” questioned its status as a religion at all, and served as an adviser to an anti-Muslim hate group. The contempt for human rights and racial equality demonstrated by the President and key members of his administration, as well as their apparent belief in a global clash of civilizations, portends a dark period ahead for rights and liberties.

What can ordinary lawyers and law students do to counteract the impending threats to human rights from U.S. national security policies? One place to start, in venturing answers, is recent history: as extreme as the new challenges are, they grow out of policies proposed, and in some cases implemented, during the past fifteen years. The lessons of human rights advocacy in that period can inform social justice lawyering today—most importantly, in spurring greater attention to the need for popular participation and mobilization in resisting unjust national security policies.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Shirin Sinnar, Human Rights, National Security, and the Role of Lawyers in the Resistance, 13 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 37 (2017).
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