Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organization, headquartered in New York City, that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. The group pressures some governments, policy makers and human rights abusers to denounce abuse and respect human rights, and the group often works on behalf of refugees, children, migrants and political prisoners.
Human Rights Watch in 1997 shared in the Nobel Peace Prize as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and it played a leading role in the 2008 treaty banning cluster munitions.
|Human Rights Watch|
|Founded||1978 (as Helsinki Watch)|
|Focus||Human rights activism|
|Headquarters||Empire State Building|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Product||non profit human rights advocacy|
James F. Hoge, Jr.
Human Rights Watch was co-founded by Robert L. Bernstein and Aryeh Neier as a private American NGO in 1978, under the name Helsinki Watch, to monitor the then-Soviet Union's compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Helsinki Watch adopted a practice of publicly "naming and shaming" abusive governments through media coverage and through direct exchanges with policymakers. By shining the international spotlight on human rights violations in the Soviet Union and its European partners, Helsinki Watch says it contributed to the democratic transformations of the region in the late 1980s.
Americas Watch was founded in 1981 while bloody civil wars engulfed Central America. Relying on extensive on-the-ground fact-finding, Americas Watch not only addressed perceived abuses by government forces but also applied international humanitarian law to investigate and expose war crimes by rebel groups. In addition to raising its concerns in the affected countries, Americas Watch also examined the role played by foreign governments, particularly the United States government, in providing military and political support to abusive regimes.
Asia Watch (1985), Africa Watch (1988), and Middle East Watch (1989) were added to what was known as "The Watch Committees". In 1988, all of these committees were united under one umbrella to form Human Rights Watch.
Pursuant to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW) opposes violations of what are considered basic human rights under the UDHR. This includes capital punishment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. HRW advocates freedoms in connection with fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of the press. HRW seeks to achieve change by publicly pressuring governments and their policy makers to curb human rights abuses, and by convincing more powerful governments to use their influence on governments that violate human rights.
Human Rights Watch publishes research reports on violations of international human rights norms as set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and what it perceives to be other internationally accepted, human-rights norms. These reports are used as the basis for drawing international attention to abuses and pressuring governments and international organizations to reform. Researchers conduct fact-finding missions to investigate suspect situations also using diplomacy, staying in touch with victims, making files about public and individuals, and providing required security for them in critical situations and in a proper time generate coverage in local and international media. Issues raised by Human Rights Watch in its reports include social and gender discrimination, torture, military use of children, political corruption, abuses in criminal justice systems, and the legalization of abortion. HRW has documented and reported various violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law.
Human Rights Watch also supports writers worldwide, who are being persecuted for their work and are in need of financial assistance. The Hellman/Hammett grants are financed by the estate of the playwright Lillian Hellman in funds set up in her name and that of her long-time companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett. In addition to providing financial assistance, the Hellman/Hammett grants help raise international awareness of activists who are being silenced for speaking out in defense of human rights.
Each year, Human Rights Watch presents the Human Rights Defenders Award to activists around the world who demonstrate leadership and courage in defending human rights. The award winners work closely with HRW in investigating and exposing human rights abuses.
Human Rights Watch was one of six international NGOs that founded the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 1998. It is also the co-chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a global coalition of civil society groups that successfully lobbied to introduce the Ottawa Treaty, a treaty that prohibits the use of anti-personnel landmines.
Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of non-governmental organizations that monitor censorship worldwide. It also co-founded the Cluster Munition Coalition, which brought about an international convention banning the weapons. HRW employs more than 275 staff—country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics – and operates in more than 90 countries around the world. Headquartered in New York City, it has offices in Amsterdam, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Nairobi, Seoul, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington, D.C., and Zürich. HRW maintains direct access to the majority of countries it reports on. Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Iran, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela are among the handful of countries that have blocked access for HRW staff members.
The current executive director of HRW is Kenneth Roth, who has held the position since 1993. Roth conducted investigations on abuses in Poland after martial law was declared 1981. He later focused on Haiti, which had just emerged from the Duvalier dictatorship but continued to be plagued with problems. Roth’s awareness of the importance of human rights began with stories his father had told about escaping Nazi Germany in 1938. Roth graduated from Yale Law School and Brown University.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are the only two Western-oriented international human rights organizations operating in most situations of severe oppression or abuse worldwide. The major differences lie in the group's structure and methods for promoting change.
Amnesty International is a mass-membership organization. Mobilization of those members is the organization's central advocacy tool. Human Rights Watch's main products are its crisis-directed research and lengthy reports, whereas Amnesty International lobbies and writes detailed reports, but also focuses on mass letter-writing campaigns, adopting individuals as "prisoners of conscience" and lobbying for their release. Human Rights Watch will openly lobby for specific actions for other governments to take against human rights offenders, including naming specific individuals for arrest, or for sanctions to be levied against certain countries, recently calling for punitive sanctions against the top leaders in Sudan who have overseen a killing campaign in Darfur. The group has also called for human rights activists who have been detained in Sudan to be released.
Its documentations of human rights abuses often include extensive analysis of the political and historical backgrounds of the conflicts concerned, some of which have been published in academic journals. AI's reports, on the other hand, tend to contain less analysis, and instead focus on specific abuses of rights.
In 2010, The Times of London wrote that HRW has "all but eclipsed" Amnesty International. According to The Times, instead of being supported by a mass membership, as AI is, HRW depends on wealthy donors who like to see the organization's reports make headlines. For this reason, according to The Times, HRW tends to "concentrate too much on places that the media already cares about", especially in disproportionate coverage of Israel.
For the financial year ending June 2008, HRW reported receiving approximately US$44 million in public donations. In 2009, Human Rights Watch stated that they receive almost 75% of their financial support from North America, 25% from Western Europe and less than 1% from the rest of the world.
According to a 2008 financial assessment, HRW reports that it does not accept any direct or indirect funding from governments and is financed through contributions from private individuals and foundations.
Financier and philanthropist George Soros of the Open Society Foundation announced in 2010 his intention to grant US $100 million to HRW over a period of ten years to help it expand its efforts internationally. He said, "Human Rights Watch is one of the most effective organizations I support. Human rights underpin our greatest aspirations: they're at the heart of open societies." The donation increases Human Rights Watch's operating staff of 300 by 120 people. The donation was the largest in the organization's history.
Charity Navigator gave Human Rights Watch a three-star rating overall for 2018. Its financial rating increased from three stars in 2015 to the maximum four as of June 2016. The Better Business Bureau said Human Rights Watch meets its standards for charity accountability.
Human Rights Watch published the following program and support services spending details for the financial year ending June 2011.
|Program services||2011 expenses (USD)|
|Europe and Central Asia||$4,123,959|
|Middle East and North Africa||$3,104,643|
|Health & Human Rights||$1,962,015|
|Management and general||$3,130,051|
Human Rights Watch published the following program and support services spending details for the financial year ending June 2008.
|Program services||2008 expenses (USD)|
|Europe and Central Asia||$4,001,853|
|Middle East and North Africa||$2,258,459|
|Management and general||$1,984,626|
Some notable current and former staff members of Human Rights Watch:
Human Rights Watch publishes reports on many different topics and compiles an annual World Report presenting an overview of the worldwide state of human rights. It has been published by Seven Stories Press since 2006; the current edition, World Report 2017: Demagogues Threaten Human Rights, was released in January 2017, and covers events of 2016. Human Rights Watch has reported extensively on subjects such as the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, Democratic Republic of the Congo and US sex offender registries due to their over-breadth and application to juveniles.
In the summer of 2004, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University in New York became the depository institution for the Human Rights Watch Archive, an active collection that documents decades of human rights investigations around the world. The archive was transferred from its previous location at the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The archive includes administrative files, public relations documents, as well as case and country files. With some exceptions for security considerations, the Columbia University community and the public have access to field notes, taped and transcribed interviews with alleged victims of human rights violations, video and audio tapes, and other materials documenting the organization’s activities since its founding in 1978 as Helsinki Watch.
HRW has been criticized for perceived bias by the national governments it has investigated for human rights abuses, by NGO Monitor, and by HRW's founder, and former Chairman, Robert L. Bernstein. Bias allegations have included undue influence by United States government policy, claims that HRW is biased both for or against Israel (and focuses undue attention on the Arab–Israeli conflict). HRW has also been criticized for poor research methodology and lax fact-checking, and ignoring the human-rights abuses of less-open regimes. HRW has routinely publicly addressed, and often denies, criticism of its reporting and findings.
The donation, the largest single gift ever from the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist, is premised on the belief that U.S. leadership on human rights has been diminished by a decade of harsh policies in the war on terrorism.
The 2017 Atarib airstrike was an air strike by the Russian Air Force on the Free Syrian police station of the town of Atarib, Syria on 13 November 2017 that killed at least 84 people and injured 150.Capital punishment in Somalia
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the East African nation of Somalia. Most of executions in Somalia are through shooting, but Sharia courts also use beheading and stoning. In 2011 three soldiers were executed for murder by the Transitional Federal Government. The activist NGO Human Rights Watch noted in 2014 that summary executions were on the rise in the nation. At least 14 executions were carried out in 2016, and the rate of executions rose in 2017, which human rights groups mainly attributed to military courts and the militant jihadist group Al-Shabaab. The European Union requested that Somalia enact a moratorium on the death penalty as a result.Criticism of Human Rights Watch
The international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been the subject of criticism from a number of observers. Critics of HRW include the national governments it has investigated, NGO Monitor, the media, and its founder (and former chairman), Robert L. Bernstein.
The criticism generally falls into the category of alleged bias, frequently in response to critical HRW reports. Bias allegations include the organization's being influenced by United States government policy, particularly in relation to reporting on Latin America, and the misrepresentation of human-rights issues in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Accusations in relation to the Arab–Israeli conflict include claims that HRW is biased either against Israel, or pro-Israel. HRW has publicly responded to criticism of its reporting on Latin America and the Arab–Israeli conflict.Fallujah killings of April 2003
The Fallujah killings of April 2003 began when United States Army soldiers from the American 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division fired into a crowd of Iraqi civilians who were protesting their presence at a school within the city of Fallujah. The soldiers claimed they were receiving fire from the crowd, whereas the civilians said they were shot at first. Human Rights Watch, which inspected the area after the incident, found no physical evidence of shots fired at the building where U.S. forces were based.Gaza beach explosion (2006)
On June 9, 2006, an explosion on the beach near the Gaza Strip municipality of Beit Lahia killed eight Palestinians. At least thirty others were injured. The aftermath of the incident was captured on video and showed a distressed eleven-year-old girl, Huda Ghaliya, reacting to the loss of family members, most of whom were killed in the incident. The footage of Ghaliya, which received considerable media attention, was broadcast on news networks around the world, making her a symbol of Palestinian suffering. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung questioned the reliability of the video footage.On 9 June 2006, between 4:31 and 4:50 p.m., Israeli artillery and a navy gunboat fired 8 artillery shells at the beach, with two shells landing 200 metres away from the family. The Israeli army and Israeli officials initially took responsibility. A subsequent investigation by the Israeli Defence Forces concluded that the explosion was not caused by the shelling of the beach and blamed it on a Palestinian land mine. This investigation was criticized by Human Rights Watch and The Guardian. The IDF acknowledged a flaw in the report in that it omitted mention of two 76mm naval shells, the IDF maintains had landed too far away to have caused the explosion. At this point, the IDF acknowledged that the cause of the blast may have been an unexploded 155mm artillery shell from an earlier shelling, but suggested it might have been used as an improvised explosive device (IED) by Palestinians. The Human Rights Watch final report published in July 2007 provided a detailed analysis as to why the revised IDF conclusion involving an IED was the least likely of three scenarios. HRW concluded "The availability of significant evidence that the IDF has not examined or taken into account casts serious doubt on its conclusions and underscores the need for an independent investigation of the incident." The Palestinian authorities supported this proposal. The Israeli government declined to take part.The head of an IDF investigative committee into the beach deaths, Major General Meir Kalifi, reported that the security establishment had received information that Ilham Ghalia said that “Daddy touched something and then there was an explosion”. The IDF viewed her alleged statement as supporting its contention that an IDF shell was not the cause of the deaths. The next day Haaretz reported that the information was of unclear reliability and unsubstantiated. The IDF shelved the claim.Helsinki Watch
Helsinki Watch was a private American NGO established by Robert L. Bernstein in 1978, designed to monitor the former Soviet Union’s compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords. Expanding in size and scope, Helsinki Watch began using media coverage to document human rights violations committed by abusive governments Since its inception, it has produced several other watch committees dedicated to monitoring human rights in other parts of the world. In 1988, Helsinki Watch and all its companion watch committees were combined to form Human Rights WatchHuman rights in Asia
The topic of Human Rights in Asia is one that encompasses an immense number of states, international governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. All these institutions contribute a variety of services and perspectives towards human rights, covering topics including the enforcement, monitoring, and criticisms of human rights in Asia. There is no single body that covers all of human rights in Asia, as such a diverse and widespread region requires a number of institutions to properly monitor the multitude of elements that fall under the scope of human rights. There have historically been numerous criticisms of human rights in Asia, but a variety of new treaties and conventions now strive to accomplish a level of human rights as they are known on the international stage.
Human rights in Asia are monitored by many organizations (both governmental and non-governmental), a few examples being the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and Human Rights Watch. Tolerance of these organizations varies from state to state, with voluntary intergovernmental programs (i.e. ASEAN) often seeing more state-cooperation than neutral non-governmental organizations would typically receive.
The number of criticisms towards Asian states has dramatically increased in recent decades, with many human rights advocates calling for increased transparency and greater international pressure upon Asian states to refrain from any human rights infractions. Aforementioned calls for international pressure have gone unanswered, however, as most of the international community finds it increasingly difficult to challenge the actions of the growing Asian powers: particularly China. While states have put forward somewhat muted complaints in recent years, non-governmental organizations continue to 'name and shame' states that have shown themselves to be guilty of human rights infractions.Human rights in Syria
The situation for human rights in Syria is considered egregiously poor among international observers. A state of emergency was in effect from 1963 until April 2011, giving security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention.From 1973 to 2012, Syria was a single-party state. The authorities have been accused of harassing and imprisoning human rights activists and other critics of the government. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, freedom of expression, association and assembly are strictly controlled, and women and ethnic minorities face discrimination. According to Human Rights Watch, President Bashar al-Assad failed to improve Syria’s human rights record in the first 10 years of his rule, and Syria's human rights situation remained among the worst in the world. According to Amnesty International, the government may be guilty of crimes against humanity based on "witness accounts of deaths in custody and extrajudicial executions, torture, rape, and arbitrary detention and forced disappearances during the crackdown against the 2011 uprising and during the Syrian Civil War. The regime has also conducted chemical attacks against its own civilians.Human rights in Uzbekistan
Human rights in Uzbekistan have been described as "abysmal" by Human Rights Watch, and the country has received heavy criticism from the UK and the US for alleged arbitrary arrests, religious persecution and torture employed by the government on a regional and national level.Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth (born 23 September 1955) is an American attorney who has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993.Khojaly Massacre
The Khojaly Massacre, also known as the Khojaly tragedy, was the killing of at least 161 ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly on 26 February 1992. According to the Azerbaijani side, as well as the Memorial Human Rights Center, Human Rights Watch and other international observers, the massacre was committed by the ethnic Armenian armed forces, reportedly with help of some military personnel of the 366th CIS regiment, apparently not acting on orders from the command. The death toll claimed by Azerbaijani authorities is 613 civilians, including 106 women and 63 children. The event became the largest massacre in the course of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.Western governments and the western media refer to it as the "Khojaly massacre", "Khojaly tragedy" or the "Battle for Khojaly". Azerbaijani sources occasionally refer to the massacre as the "Khojaly genocide" (Azerbaijani: Xocalı soyqırımı) and the "Khojaly tragedy" (Azerbaijani: Xocalı faciəsi).Mabahith
The Mabahith (Arabic: المباحث العامة, al-Mabāḥiṯ al-ʿĀmmah, General Investigation Directorate), also spelled Mabaheth, is the secret police agency of the Presidency of State Security in Saudi Arabia, and deals with domestic security and counter-intelligence.Marc Garlasco
Marc Garlasco (born September 4, 1970) is an American former Pentagon senior intelligence analyst, now senior civilian protection officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and senior military advisor for the Human Rights Council (HRC). Having served for seven years at the Pentagon, becoming chief of high-value targeting, Garlasco left in 2003 and joined Human Rights Watch (HRW) as a senior military expert, specializing in battle damage assessment, military operations, and interrogations for the Emergencies Division, where he investigated human rights issues in a number of different conflicts zones. The author of a World War II German anti-aircraft medals reference book, Garlasco was suspended by HRW with pay, "pending an investigation", on September 14, 2009 after it was alleged that he had collected Nazi memorabilia. Garlasco downplayed the controversy, indicating he collected German and US World War II memorabilia because of family history and his interest in military history. He resigned from HRW in February 2010. He served as senior civilian protection officer for UNAMA in 2011, heading the UN's Protection of Civilians office. In early 2012, as the U.N. senior military advisor for the HRC's Independent Commission of Inquiry on Libya, he investigated civilian casualties while leading a survey of NATO's activities in Libya.Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman
Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman (محمد عمر عبدالرحمن) is an Egyptian who was in United States custody in one of the CIA's "black sites". Also known as "Asadullah" (i.e. The lion of God.)Human Rights Watch reports he is the son of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the "blind sheikh" who was convicted of involvement in the first al Qaeda bombing of the World Trade Center, in 1993. Mohammed is alleged to have run a training camp, and to have had a role in operational planning.
An e-mail from Mohammed led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.Human Rights Watch reported that Mohammed was captured in February 2003, in Quetta, Pakistan.Mohammed was later extradited to Egypt and was released in 2010.On December 9, 2014, the United States Senate Intelligence Committee published the 600 page unclassified summary of a 6,000 page report on the CIA's use of torture.
While some of the CIA's captives were identified as only been subjected to torture that had been authorized from Washington, other captives, like Asadallah, were identified as having been tortured by CIA officials who did not have authorization. According to the National Journal, the Intelligence Committee described how "Interrogators used water dousing, forced nudity, and cramped confinement on Asadallah without having sought or received authorization from CIA Headquarters."Musaad Aruchi
Musaad Aruchi was a Pakistani courier who worked in connection with al Qaeda before his capture in April 2004. Some of his files, secured when he was captured, led to the capture of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was later released without charge.It was later determined that Aruchi was the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and not a "senior member of the al Qaeda leadership" as previously reported.Human Rights Watch lists Aruchi as one of detainees in CIA custody.Rape during the Kashmir conflict
Since the onset of the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in 1988, rape has been used as a weapon of war by Indian security forces; comprising the Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security personnel, against the Kashmiri population. The numerous rapes of Kashmiri Muslim women by Indian state forces is generally ignored. Many women have become victims of rape and sexual assault in the conflict. According to scholar Seema Kazi, separatist militants have also committed rape to some extent, although not comparable in scale with that by the Indian state forces.There have been events of mass rape also in the history of Kashmir conflict, which include the ones carried out by Dogra troops as well as Hindu and Sikh mobs, and by Pakistani armed tribesmen when the conflict broke out in 1947.Religion in Saudi Arabia
Islam is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and its law requires all citizens to be Muslims. Public worship by adherents of religions other than Islam is forbidden. Any non-Muslim attempting to acquire Saudi Arabian nationality must convert to Islam. Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its implementation of Islamic law and its human rights record.Slavery in Sudan
Slavery in Sudan began in ancient times, and recently had a resurgence during the 1983 to 2005 Second Sudanese Civil War. During the Trans-Saharan slave trade, many Nilotic peoples from the lower Nile Valley were purchased as slaves and brought to work elsewhere in North Africa and the Orient by Nubians, Egyptians, Berbers and Arabs.
Starting in 1995, many human rights organizations have reported on contemporary practice, especially in the context of the Second Sudanese civil war.
According to reports of Human Rights Watch and others, during the war the government of Sudan was involved in backing and arming numerous slave-taking militias in the country as part of its war against the SPLA. It also found the government failed to enforce Sudanese laws against kidnapping, assault and forced labor, or to help victims' families locate their children.)
Another report (by the International Eminent Persons Group) found both the government-backed militias and the rebels (led by the SPLA) guilty of abducting civilians, though the abducting civilians by pro-government militias was "of particular concern" and "in a significant number of cases", led to slavery "under the definition of slavery in the International Slavery Convention of 1926. The Sudanese government maintained that the slavery is the product of inter-tribal warfare, over which it had no control.According to the Rift Valley Institute, slave raiding and abduction "effectively ceased" in 2002, although an "unknown number" of slaves remain in captivity.Tom Malinowski
Tomasz P. Malinowski (born September 23, 1965) is a Polish-born American politician and diplomat who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor from 2014 to 2017. A Democrat, he is the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 7th congressional district, a rural and suburban district, having defeated Republican incumbent Leonard Lance in the November 2018 midterm election.