As 2012 winds down, it is time again to reflect on the year’s human rights developments. Unfortunately, the bad seemed to outweigh the good this year, as many authoritarians held on to power and continued upheaval in the Middle East threatened to derail any democratic progress.
In April 2012, President Obama went all-in rhetorically when he asserted that preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a "core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States." Such statements are in part an outgrowth of the American public's horror at the genocide and atrocities of recent decades in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. But as the limited U.S. response to the ongoing conflict in Syria illustrates, there is not yet a full understanding of the centrality of preventing mass atrocities to our national security.
Meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, on August 18, the leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) extended indefinitely their 18-month suspension of the SADC Tribunal. Delivering a major blow to hopes for the rule of law in the region, the 15 SADC member states also determined that a successor court, if ever constituted, would have no authority to hear cases brought against national governments by individuals, businesses, or organizations on human rights or any other matter. Instead, only governments would have access to the tribunal, and only for the purpose of resolving intergovernmental disputes over the terms of the SADC treaty.