Debate Highlights Ways to Deter Atrocities

From left: Dr. Jack Snyder, Prof. Bryan Daves, and Kenneth Roth.

Feb 24, 2005 — Kenneth Roth and Dr. Jack Snyder, experts and policy makers in the field of human rights abuse, were featured speakers in a debate on human rights and sovereignty Feb. 23 at the Beren Campus. The event was the first in a series of lectures sponsored by the Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf Scholar-in-Residence Program at Stern College for Women, and was coordinated by Prof. Bryan Daves, assistant professor of political science at YU.

At issue in the debate were questions about how to stem imminent or ongoing mass slaughter, when international intervention is appropriate, and what tactics of intervention will succeed in light of the affront to national sovereignty that such intervention usually poses.

According to Mr. Roth, who is executive director of Human Rights Watch, the largest US-based international human rights organization, most governments resist foreign pressure to make them maintain order and reduce conflict (though in some cases a country will invite intervention because its government has lost control). He said the threat of international tribunals has been a successful tool in the push to make them abide by international human rights norms.

Dr. Snyder, who is Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations in the political science department and Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, disagreed that tribunals are effective deterrents. He said that justice follows, rather than leads to, political change and that meaningful change depends on having a strong political coalition behind it that adheres to strong political norms.

The “Human Rights and Sovereignty” series commemorates the 60th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. The next lecture, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” is slated for March 1, 8 pm at the Schottenstein Cultural Center on the Beren Campus (239 East 34th Street between Second and Third Avenues). It will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government faculty member and founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. The lectures are free and open to the public with a valid photo ID.

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