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Brian Dooley
As director of the Human Rights Defenders program, Brian leads Human Rights First’s efforts to ensure that human rights defenders can work free from harm and interference, engaging with the U.S. government and with other partners to end threats and obstacles to human rights work.

For the 20 years prior to joining Human Rights First, Brian worked for U.S., Irish and international NGOs. Most recently, Brian led Amnesty International’s work on partnering with national NGOs in the global South. Brian has also worked as Head of Media for Amnesty International in London and in Dublin, and as Director of Communications for Public Citizen in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books about civil rights and U.S. politics, and had early experience on the Hill, interning for Senator Edward Kennedy in the mid-80s as a legislative researcher, contributing to what ultimately became the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Act. Before that, he lived and worked as an English teacher and community organizer in a black township in South Africa in 1981-82, which was prohibited under apartheid’s racial segregation laws.

Brian has an MPhil in Government and Politics from The Open University in London, and a B.A. with honors in Political Science from the University of East Anglia.

Entries by Brian Dooley

Civil Society Should Not Be Locked Out of Syria Talks

(4) Comments | Posted February 4, 2016 | 9:31 AM

As talks aimed at ending the Syrian conflict got off to a shaky start in Geneva a few days ago and have now been suspended until February 25, Secretary of State John Kerry has urged "both sides to make the most of this moment." Kerry knows, of course,...

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Bahrain's Fake Human Rights Conference Is Another PR Disaster

(0) Comments | Posted January 22, 2016 | 11:28 AM

The Bahrain government is hosting a human rights conference tomorrow. Yes, really. It's a bit like Lance Armstrong holding a summit on ethics in sports, but Bahrain's PR strategy is so poorly advised that the kingdom is busily promoting and publicizing the conference, apparently oblivious to...

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Five Years On, Egypt's Uprising Flagged at Tahrir

(1) Comments | Posted January 20, 2016 | 11:42 AM

Clinging listlessly to the top of the pole in the middle of Tahrir Square the Egyptian flag projects absolute power, a signal of the old order restored after the mass anti-government uprising of 2011. Exactly five years after the first major protests it shows who's back in control now.


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What's Washington Going to Do in Response to Saudi's Execution of Sheikh Nimr?

(24) Comments | Posted January 2, 2016 | 5:16 PM

Rumors have swirled for some weeks that Saudi Arabia was preparing to execute about 50 people, possibly including leading Shia cleric Nimr al Nimr and his 21 year-old nephew Ali Mohamed Al Nimr.

Today 47 prisoners, including Sheikh Nimr, were executed. Most were killed by beheading, and the rest by...

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U.S. Allies Acting Like Soviet-Era Dictatorships

(2) Comments | Posted December 31, 2015 | 5:48 PM

Washington’s Gulf allies are looking increasingly like the repressive eastern European regimes of the 1980s. New Year's Eve in Bahrain saw a roundup of several key dissidents, including peaceful opposition figures and a leading moderate cleric.
Apart from the suffocation of opposition and of a free press, there's the rigged...

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Tear Gas and the Worldwide Shrug

(0) Comments | Posted December 29, 2015 | 9:15 AM

Tear gas is the biggest misnomer since Easy Listening. It sounds like something that might make your eyes bleary, right? Maybe force you to cry a bit.

As you might know, it's not like that at all. It sandpapers your retinas, roughly forces its way down your throat, grabs and...

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BNA - The Toaster in the Bathtub of Bahrain's Credibility

(0) Comments | Posted December 23, 2015 | 9:19 AM

Treat yourself over the holidays to a peek at Bahrain's state media website ( It's all you'd expect from an authoritarian regime's mouthpiece. There's the fawning updates on the ruling family's every move, reports on various sycophantic courtiers telling the king how great he...

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Lawyers Targeted, Prisoners Tortured; This Is Bahrain

(0) Comments | Posted December 2, 2015 | 4:11 PM

Warning: this article contains a graphic account of sexual abuse in police custody.

Bahrain's latest PR effort, the "This Is Bahrain" showcase, is a parallel universe version of the repressive kingdom. At the This Is Bahrain exhibition, there is free soft drinks, food, and electronics, promise the organizers,...

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When Closing Civil Society Space Means Killing Human Rights Defenders

(0) Comments | Posted November 29, 2015 | 10:06 AM

Worrying about the reduction of civil society space is all the rage in Washington. Policy pundits present papers at public panel discussions outlining increasingly repressive laws aimed at NGOs.

Legislation from Ethiopia to Cambodia to Egypt to Israel to Kenya and elsewhere threatens civil society organizations and...

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More Sisters Vanish into UAE Police Custody

(0) Comments | Posted November 24, 2015 | 2:27 PM

It's a familiar story. A hundred years ago British suffragettes Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurt went to jail for advocating women's right to vote. Dominican sisters Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal were imprisoned and eventually assassinated (along with another sister Patricia) in 1960 for their opposition to the violent Trujillo dictatorship....

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Obama Administration Should Match Words with Deeds on CVE

(0) Comments | Posted November 9, 2015 | 3:04 PM

Washington's allies aren't buying President Obama's ideas on including civil society in the fight against terrorism. In Nairobi this year, he told a group of activists that "one of the important lessons that we've learned is that you can't just fight terrorism through military and the police. You...

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FIFA, Man United, and Torture in Bahrain

(0) Comments | Posted October 27, 2015 | 1:00 AM

The 2011 targeting of footballers and other athletes in Bahrain following the pro-democracy protests there is threatening Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa's bid for the FIFA presidency.

Al Khalifa of Bahrain's ruling family has announced his candidacy for the post this week saying ...

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Inchworm Week At Slowmo Guantanamo

(0) Comments | Posted October 23, 2015 | 10:12 PM

It's been an action packed week in Guantanamo's court, said a leading defense lawyer today without irony - even though there have only been a total of about five hours of public sessions this whole week in the case of the September 11 attacks, which took place 14 years ago.

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Who Needs to Know at Guantanamo

(0) Comments | Posted October 22, 2015 | 4:52 PM

Before he even spoke, military Judge Pohl opened this morning's hearings in the September 11, 2001 case at Guantanamo with a telling, heavy sigh.

His exasperation at the continual dithering and delays is increasingly obvious as unexpected issue after unexpected issue crops up, putting back the planned...

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Guantanamo -- Washington's Expensive Mistake

(1) Comments | Posted October 21, 2015 | 11:17 AM

We've all spent money on things we shouldn't have. As a teen, I blew my Saturday job earnings on a stud earring I thought would make me irresistible. A few weeks ago my brother-in-law impulse-bought a kilt. But the richer you are, the more spectacular the mistake you can make.

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Guantanamo September 11 Detainee Suggests Becoming His Own Lawyer

(0) Comments | Posted October 20, 2015 | 4:04 PM

Dominating the Guantanamo war court today was yesterday's suggestion by Walid Bin Attash that he represent himself. He's accused of organizing an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan where two of the September 11, 2001 hijackers trained, and charged with murder and a series of other crimes related to that mass killing...

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Smiles Jar in Guantanamo Court Drama

(0) Comments | Posted October 19, 2015 | 6:05 PM

They don't sit together, the five men in the Guantanamo court accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks. It's not a classic defendants together in the dock situation. Not much about these hearings is classic at all. Fourteen years after the crime in question, the military judge is making...

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No Stamp Required: All Too Easy for #Bahrain Twitter Trolls

(0) Comments | Posted September 25, 2015 | 10:42 AM

In what might be shocking news to younger readers, trolling predates the internet. When in 1987 the UK magazine The Spectator ran an article featuring a description of anti-apartheid activist Marion Sparg as "grossly fat and unattractive," I wrote a letter of complaint to the editor, which was...

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United Arab Emirates: Lift Travel Ban on Political Dissidents

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2015 | 4:37 PM

It's hard to describe how scared people in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are of the secret police. The State Security apparatus, as it's spookily known, is the UAE's Stasi. Human rights activists and others I met secretly in the UAE a few months ago told me that many of...

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Americans Jailed in UAE for a Year Without Charge

(6) Comments | Posted August 19, 2015 | 8:43 PM

Next week will mark a year since U.S. ally United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrested two U.S. citizens - Kamal Ahmed al Darat, age 58, and his son, Mohammed Kamal al Darat, who is 33. Neither have been charged or tried, and both have been swallowed into the UAE's feared State...

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