Sarah Mendelson

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Sarah Mendelson is Director, Human Rights and Security Initiative, and Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She serves on the steering committee for the Europe and Central Asia program of Human Rights Watch, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a research associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center, and a member of the Program on New Approaches to Russian Security.

Current work

At CSIS, she manages several projects that explore the links between security and human rights. Her research includes collaborative work with large-scale, random sample surveys on how Russians think about democracy, human rights, Chechnya and the military.

She was the lead author of "Closing Guantanamo", which provides a large part of the content of the Obama Administration on that subject. [1] Among the recommendations is to explore a European suggestion of a rehabilitation center in Yemen and possibly Afghanistan, since the prisoners that can be released are almost all from those two countries. She said "There is lots of really good expertise on rehabilitation, and the administration needs to invest in it." The CSIS report was a significant input into the January 2010 Obama Administration Executive Order; according to a Cornell University magazine article, it produced 90% of the content. The study began in September 2007, with Ford Foundation funding. [2]

Past experience

Previously, she was a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. From 1997 to 2000, she directed a collaborative study, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, evaluating the impact of Western democracy assistance to Eastern Europe and Eurasia. In 1994 and 1995, she served on the staff of the National Democratic Institute’s Moscow office, where she worked with Russian political activists. From 1995 to 1998, she was an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Albany. From 1997 to 1998, she was a resident associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She has also been a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and Princeton University’s Center of International Studies.



  1. Sarah Mendelson (September 2008), Closing Guantanamo: from Bumper Sticker to Blueprint, Center for Strategic and International Studies
  2. George Lowery (12 February 2009), "Guantánamo closing author assails 'bloody mess'", Cornell University Chronicle Online