Target: Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch
Goal: Call on the organization to disclose and eliminate ties to pro-war groups, and to commit to eliminating bias in its documentation of human rights violations around the world
Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims to shun all bias in its commitment to ending human rights abuses worldwide. To this end, the organization’s mission includes a commitment to refuse “support from any private funder that could compromise [its] objectivity and independence.” Why, then, would a group of 100 Nobel Peace Prize winners, activists and scholars write an open letter to HRW criticizing its bias?
It took a $100 million dollar gift from financier George Soros to make HRW what it is today: operating in more than 90 countries, and widely viewed as the world’s most influential human rights organization. The group also maintains close ties to military and security interests, as addressed in the open letter.
Former members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the State Department have gone on to hold prominent positions within HRW. The group advocates for strategies in post-genocide Rwanda which could actually increase the risk of future atrocities. HRW’s reports on human rights violations are often more critical of America’s enemies than of its allies–and according to the open letter abuses are sometimes even exaggerated, perhaps to stoke support for military action. In short, the letter’s authors cite concerns that “HRW’s close relationships with the US government suffuse such instances with the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Demand that HRW disclose and cut its ties with pro-war agencies like the CIA, and commit itself to eliminating bias from its reports on human rights abuses.
Dear Mr. Roth,
Human Rights Watch has greatly helped to elevate awareness about abuses around the world. Unfortunately this track record of service is in jeopardy because of the close ties your organization has maintained with pro-war groups like the CIA.
The reputation of HRW is being called into question following an open letter from 100 concerned individuals including several Noble Peace Prize winners. They criticize HRW’s support for “the illegal practice of kidnapping and transferring terrorism suspects around the planet,” and the revolving door which has granted former military and security officials unprecedented sway in their new roles within your organization.
A separate essay by former American diplomat Richard Johnson, titled “The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda,” has also challenged HRW’s image of impartiality. Johnson goes so far as to say that “the mendacity and bias of HRW’s political campaign against the post-genocide Rwandan government undermines the overall credibility of Western human rights advocacy.”
In order to continue your self-professed mission as an “independent, international organization that works as part of a vibrant movement to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all,” HRW must improve its transparency and accountability. I urge you to disclose and end ties with pro-war agencies like the CIA, and to commit to eliminating bias in your reporting of human rights abuses around the world.
[Your Name Here]
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