U.S. leadership cannot turn its back on human rights and international law

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Contributors: Gerald Neuman ’80 and Tyler Giannini

Gerald Neuman ’80, the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School, and Tyler Giannini, a clinical professor of law, serve as co-directors of Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. Giannini also co-directs Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

This tribute is part of a series of reflections from HLS faculty, staff and alumni on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. View all tributes.

We must always be the opponents, not the perpetrators, of murder and torture and degrading treatment.

We must always be the opponents, not the perpetrators, of murder and torture and degrading treatment. The attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 were horrific acts, carried out by a group that rejected on principle all the constraints of international law and universal human rights. Back in 2001, most of the world stood in solidarity with the United States against the perpetrators. But not long thereafter, the U.S. leadership turned its back on human rights and international law, alienating many of its sympathizers in the process. Although the following administration has reengaged with those commitments, we can see that their roots have not yet sunk deeply into national politics and public opinion, and work remains to be done. As the struggle against Al Qaeda, and ISIL, and their imitators, continues into a new administration, we need to say “never again.”