Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is a United States-based international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City.


Human Rights Watch was founded under the name Helsinki Watch in 1978 to monitor the former Soviet Union's compliance with the Helsinki Accords. As the organization grew, it formed other "watch committees" to cover other regions of the world. In 1988, all of the committees were united under one umbrella to form Human Rights Watch. Robert L. Bernstein was a president of the organization and is one of the original founders.


Pursuant to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch opposes violations of basic human rights, which include capital punishment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Human Rights Watch advocates freedoms in connection with fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion and the press.

Human Rights Watch produces 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 and 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. Human Rights Watch documents and reports 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 defence of human rights. [ [ Hellman-Hammett Grants] ,"Human Rights Watch"]

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 Human Rights Watch in investigating and exposing human rights abuses. [ [] ,"Human Rights Watch"]

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.

Human Rights Watch has more than 230 paid staff, and a budget of over US$30 million a year. [ [ Financial statement] ,"Human Rights Watch"]

The current executive director of Human Rights Watch is Kenneth Roth. He has held this position since 1993. Roth is a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University. His father fled Nazi Germany in 1938. Roth started working on human rights after the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981, and later became engaged in Haiti issues. [ [ Kenneth Roth Bio] ,"Human Rights Watch"]

Issues and campaigns

* Traffic in small arms
* Land mines
* Legalisation of abortion
* Gay rights
* Rights of AIDS patients
* Safety of civilians in war; opposes use of cluster bombs
* Child labor
* Child soldiers
* Street children
* Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity
* Torture
* Extrajudicial killings and abductions
* Legal proceedings against human rights abusers
* Trafficking in women and girls
* Abolition of capital punishment worldwide


Human Rights Watch made recent headlines by criticizing the Jordanian government for arresting elected officials who praised Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, at ceremonies held in response to his death. Human Rights Watch also spoke out against the mass killings and government-imposed famines during the last decade of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's rule. [ [,20 Middle east and North Africa] ,"Human Rights Watch"]

On July 26, 2007 HRW denounced that hundreds of migrant children held in emergency centers in the Spanish Canary Islands are living in [ squalid, overcrowded conditions] and face the risk of abuse from their custodians and other children. The Canary Islands government, which runs the facilities, replied in a statement [ [ Human Rights Watch says migrant children are at risk in Canary Islands] ,"International Herald Tribune"] that the report lacked "rigor" and that "an internal investigation had failed to corroborate" Human Rights Watch's findings.


Human Rights Watch publishes reports on several topics [ [ Publications] ,"Human Rights Watch"] and compiles annual reports ("World Report") presenting an overview of the worldwide state of human rights.

Human Rights Watch has published extensively on the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 [ [ Rwandan genocide report] ,"Human Rights Watch"] and the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [ [ Congo report] ,"Human Rights Watch"]

Comparison with Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are the only two, western orientated, international human rights organizations operating worldwide in most situations of severe oppression or abuse. Though close allies, the two groups play complementary roles, reflecting a division of labour. The major differences lie in the groups’ 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 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.

Its documentations of human rights abuses often include extensive analyses 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.


Human Rights Watch has been criticized for perceived anti-Western, anti-China, and anti-Israel bias while others have criticized it for having a pro-Western and pro-Israel bias. According to a report in the Egyptian press, "the government often accuses human rights groups [including Human Rights Watch] of importing a Western agenda that offends local religious and cultural values." [ [ Not just the Queen Boat: HRW is asking the Egyptian government to stop persecuting homosexuals and commit to reform] ] . Given the referenced roots of the organisation; to be orientated towards monitoring Soviet activities on the West's behalf, it is always open to criticism of continuation of this agenda with a pro-western bias. This is further compounded by its US location and dominant US managerial base.

ee also

*Amnesty International
*Democracy Watch (International)
*Freedom House
*Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
*Human rights
*International Freedom of Expression Exchange
*US Human Rights Network
*American Freedom Campaign


External links

* [ Human Rights Watch] (official website)
* [ Human Rights Watch World Report 2007]
* [ Human Rights Watch World Report 2006]
* [ Press info on Human Rights Watch World Report 2006]
* [ 2008 Report: Democracy Charade Undermines Rights]
* Edward S. Herman, David Peterson, and George Szamuely, [ Human Rights Watch in Service to the War Party: Including A Review of “Weighing the Evidence: Lessons from the Slobodan Milosevic Trial” (Human Rights Watch, December, 2006)] , ZNet, February 25, 2007
*Michael Barker, " [ Hijacking Human Rights: A Critical Examination of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Branch and their Links to the ‘Democracy’ Establishment] ", "Znet", August 3, 2007
*Neier, Aryeh (2006) [ "The Attack on Human Rights Watch"] , "New York Review of Books", 53(17) November 2, 2006, accessed 20 October 2006.
* [ Human Rights Watch claims US involved in secret detention of Somalis]

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