State Department move to withdraw Cavallaro nomination to IACHR undermines academic freedom and the work of all human rights advocates.
DAWN joins over 450 leading human rights organizations, advocates, and academics sent a letter to U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken demanding he reverse course and reinstate James Cavallaro's nomination to the IACHR.
The full text of the letter can be read below.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken
2201 C St NW
Washington, DC 20520
RE: U.S. State Department withdrawal of leading human rights expert's candidacy to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Dear Secretary Blinken:
We the undersigned groups and individuals are deeply concerned and dismayed by the U.S. State Department's withdrawal of Professor James Cavallaro's nomination for commissioner to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("the Commission") of the Organization of American States ("OAS").
On February 10th, the State Department nominated Cavallaro because he is, in the State Department's own words, "a leading scholar and practitioner of international law with deep expertise in the region as well as the Inter-American human rights system." Cavallaro served on the Commission for the 2014-2017 term, including as Commission President from 2016-2017.
Cavallaro's recent nomination was welcomed by many in the human rights community in the United States and throughout the OAS region. Four days later, the State Department withdrew its nomination. The Associated Press reported that Cavallaro's statements about the Israeli government and criticisms of the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups led to the withdrawal of his nomination. The State Department noted that Cavallaro's statements "clearly do not reflect U.S. policy" and "are not a reflection of what we believe." Cavallaro reports that State Department officials informed him that the basis for the withdrawal of his nomination was his posts on Twitter about Israel and Palestine.
It is alarming that the State Department has reversed its decision and disqualified one of the most distinguished, independent human rights experts on the Americas from joining the region's human rights oversight body based at least in part on his well-grounded analyses of international human rights issues.
The State Department should reinstate Cavallaro's nomination for the following reasons:
- Cavallaro is one of the most distinguished human rights advocates in the Americas.
Following Cavallaro's leadership of the human rights programs at both Harvard and Stanford Law Schools, the State Department nominated him to the Commission in 2013. He served both as Commissioner (2014-2017) and President (2016-2017), as well as Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty. In these roles, his numerous achievements and contributions have had lasting consequences for victims' access to justice and the protection of human rights in the OAS region.
- Commissioners on the Inter-American Commission are independent human rights experts, not spokespeople for their country's foreign policies.
The effectiveness of the Inter-American Commission rests on the independence of its Commissioners from their governments. This is reflected in the Inter American Commission's Rules and Procedures, which prohibit commissioners from participating in discussions and voting on matters that concern the country of which they are a national.
- Cavallaro's criticism of the Israeli government is consistent with the findings of prominent human rights organizations.
Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organizations, advocates, and scholars have all published reports concluding that the Israeli government's repression of Palestinians amounts to apartheid.
- Withdrawing the candidacy of a distinguished human rights advocate for their criticism of human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine or any other context sets a dangerous precedent that impacts human rights advocacy across the globe.
Human rights practitioners and scholars should not fear professional reprisal for expressing their views about human rights violations, especially those carried out by U.S. allies. This undermines free expression, academic freedom, and the work of all human rights advocates, particularly those who do not have the same kind of platform as Cavallaro.
The State Department's move is harmful to the global human rights movement and undermines the credibility of the United States in advocating for human rights in other parts of the world.
- Human Rights Watch
- Center for Constitutional Rights
- American Friends Service Committee
- International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School
- Additional Signatories:
- Jewish Voice for Peace Action
- Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN)
- Freedom Forward
- Front Line Defenders
- Palestine Legal
- Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)
- International Human Rights Clinic, Boston University School of Law
- ReThinking Foreign Policy
- Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
- Andean Information Network
- Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine
- Jewish Voice for Peace Boston
- National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
- Haitian Bridge Alliance
- International Human Rights Clinic, Santa Clara Law
- Just Foreign Policy
- Center for Justice and Accountability
- Sons And Daughters of Africa, Inc
- Tackling Torture at the Top
- National Lawyers Guild International Committee
- Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East
- Project South
- Asheville Homeless Network
- Human Rights First
- Promoting Enduring Peace
- Disability Rights International
- Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
- Justiça Global – Brasil
- Gregório Andrade Advogados Associados
- Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law
- Classi Edizioni
- Comité de Acción Jurídica (CAJ)
- Water Protector Legal Collective
- Iniciativa Direito a Memória e Justiça Racial
- Instituto Silvia Lane
- USA Palestine Mental Health Network
- Sovrastrutture Paris
- J – Punto Einaudi Napoli
- Centro Estratégico en Justicia y Derecho para las Américas (CENEJYD)
- Rede de comunidades e Movimento contra violência
- Universidade Católica de Pernambuco
- Asociación de Detenidos Desaparecidos y Mártires por la Liberación
- Nacional ASOFAMD
- Lowenstein Human Rights Project, Yale Law School
- Defending Rights & Dissent
- Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights
- Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFK Human Rights)
- Brooklyn For Peace
- Instituto Braços – Centro de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos em Sergipe
- Freedom Imaginaries
- Colectiva Acción Directa Autogestiva
- Foro Cultural Karuzo
- Milynali Red
- Familias desaparecidos Orizaba – Cordoba
- Silvia Elida Ortiz Solís
- Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos "Todos los
- Derechos para Todas y Todos" (Red TDT)
- Voces unidas por la vida y la dignidad human
- Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
- Organización del pueblo kichwa Saraguro SA KIAT
- Técnicas Rudas
- Comissão de Direito Internacional da OAB/RJ
- ACAT-Brasil e da FENADV-Federaçao Nacional dos Advogados e
- Agenda Nacional Pelo Desencarceramento
- Rede Nacional de Mães e Familiares de Vítimas do Terrorismo do Estado
- Movimento Candelária Nunca Mais
- Frente Estadual Pelo desencarceramento do Rio de janeiro
- Coletivo de mães e familiares de pessoas privada de liberdade Rondônia
- Movimento Mães de Acari
- Frente Estadual Pelo desencarceramento do Rio Grande do norte
- Amafavv Espírito Santo
- Movimento de Mães Amar RJ.
- Laboratório de Gestão de Políticas Penais da Universidade de Brasília
- Chief Executive Officer, Ancient Song Doula Services, Brooklyn, NY
- Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee
- Council on American-Islamic Relations
- Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation
- MENA Rights Group
- Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (SEMPRI)
- BIPOCanalysis Collective
- MPower Change
- Middle East Crisis Committee (MECC)
- For the full list of signatories, please visit https://openlettertoblinken.com.