This Art Belongs to the Artists: Art as Human Rights

A collaboration between the UNC School of Law (Professor Deborah M. Weissman and students in the Human Rights Policy Lab) and the UNC Department of Art and Art History (Professor Hồng-Ân Trương and students in Art as Social Action) resulted in an art exhibition and a day-long symposium that helped to expand our understanding of the ongoing impact of state violence and the extralegal prison Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp through the framework of art and law. The exhibition, held from April 12-17, 2024, in the Hanes Art Center Hallway Gallery, featured original art created at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp (GBDC). It culminated in a symposium on April 12, 2024, which addressed the sovereign, political, and legal dimensions of detainee art. The symposium included virtual participation from several released detainee artists and legal experts who discussed the inter-related international law issues and the paradox within claims to human rights, focusing on art and the rights of detainees to own and control their creative work. This project celebrated the resiliency of these former detainees, whose art was a practice of creative resistance, and provided a deeper understanding of their experiences during incarceration.

Between 2009 and 2017, detainees at GBDC were provided with art supplies and allowed to participate in art classes. Much of this artwork was transferred from the Detention Center to attorneys representing Guantánamo detainees. Some detainees were permitted to claim some of their art upon their release. In late 2017, however, after a series of successful curated showings of this art across the United States, detainees remaining in Guantánamo were prohibited from transferring their art and denied ownership of their work. After intervention by human rights advocates, including two UN Special Rapporteurs, detainees were granted a limited right to take some of their artwork as deemed by the government as “practicable” upon their release while remaining subject to government claims that the art remains the property of the United States.

A Growing Share of Hong Kong People Support Same-Sex Couples’ Rights

60 Percent Support Same-Sex Marriage

The new report is jointly issued by the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong; the Sexualities Research Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong; and the Human Rights Law Program at the University of North Carolina School of Law. The report is based on the longest running study to track public opinion in Hong Kong concerning same-sex marriage using representative samples. The research was led by Holning Lau from the University of North Carolina, Kelley Loper from the University of Hong Kong, and Yiu Tung Suen from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The team conducted a telephone survey of Hong Kong residents in 2013, repeated the survey in 2017, and repeated it again earlier this year. 

“Guantánamo Two”: Upholding the Rights of Resettled Former Detainees

The United States has unlawfully detained men at Guantánamo Bay for decades. Although the United States began releasing detainees during the Bush administration, a process that continues at the time of the writing of this report, the men who have been released were not and have not been afforded their full human rights. Many have been transferred to countries where they had never been and where they had no family or other social contacts. These transfers occurred through secret resettlement agreements brokered by the United States.

This policy report with appendix examines the unique status of these released detainees. It considers the rights of detainees through a historical lens regarding the treatment of people outside of their country of origin and compares former Guantánamo detainees’ rights to the rights of persons in analogous categories – stateless persons, refugees, and those with mental health issues – under domestic and international law. It includes a brief review of the U.S. government’s efforts to repress the art produced by detainees in an effort to obscure their status as fully dimensional human beings.  The report examines the harms perpetrated on former detainees and explores how they may be able to regain the status of persons with fundamental human rights—a status to which they are unambiguously entitled.

Cruel, Inhuman, & Degrading: A Comparative Analysis of Solitary Confinement Using the United Nations Nelson Mandela Rules

Solitary confinement is a human rights problem which plagues the criminal legal systems of the United States. Incarcerated persons subjected to solitary confinement suffer serious  mental and physical health crises with long-lasting and often permanent debilitating consequences.  These practices of isolating individuals generate a heavy toll on families, communities, as well as state economies.  

In 2015, in the midst of the decarcerality movement in the United States, the United Nations formally adopted the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners (“the Nelson Mandela Rules”) which limit solitary confinement for use only “in the most exceptional cases, as a last resort,” and prohibit solitary confinement for detainees with mental health issues likely to be “exacerbated by such measures.” Under the Mandela Rules, solitary confinement lasting more than fifteen consecutive days is deemed torture and is prohibited under any circumstance.

This policy report reviews current prison isolation practices in the United States with a focus on North Carolina and seeks to reconcile those practices with human rights norms established by the Mandela Rules and other international human rights standards. It is clear that a change to the current system is necessary in order to fulfill the state’s obligation to respect, comply with, and champion human rights.