Posts Tagged ‘Kenneth Roth’

Kenneth Roth speaks plainly on international human rights: China a violator and US “unprincipled”

September 29, 2020

In Newsweek of 21 September 2020 did an interview with Kenneth Roth who has spent 27 years as the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in which he warns that China poses a threat to the global human rights system, that U.S. is no longer to be relied on as a supporter of human rights and how this has left a void, emboldening autocrats who have used the pandemic to undermine democratic societies.

China and the threat it poses to human rights both at home and around the world is a huge issue,” he says, identifying the current period as the darkest in China’s history when it comes to human rights since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. More than a million Uighur Muslims have been put in internment camps in the country’s Xinjiang province, According to the United Nations (U.N.). China says the camps serve as “re-education” centers designed to combat extremism, but those who have managed to escape share stories of forced labor, torture, medical experiments and rape. Roth says: “The Uighurs are the most severe example of worsening repression under Xi Jinping (China’s prime minister). It’s quite clear that this is the darkest moment in China in human rights terms since the massacre of Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, the Uyghurs have been the most grievous sufferers of that where a million or more have been detained essentially to force them to abandon Islam and their culture.” The worsening repression doesn’t just extend to minorities, it’s something Roth says we can see also occurring in Hong Kong and Tibet as well as against China’s own population more widely.

There is no independent civil society,” he says. “There is no independent media, human rights defenders are routinely imprisoned. There is a complete lockdown on any organized public dissent and that is just across the board, not just minority population areas. China’s also building this so-called social credit system which is designed to condition access to various governmental benefits on one’s social reliability. So it’s using high-tech tools to control the population.“…

….

On the human rights challenges facing Europe, Roth expresses particular concern about the situation in Belarus, where the man dubbed “Europe’s last dictator“, Alexander Lukashenko, is facing widespread protests over a disputed election. Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, with the government frequently accused of repressing the opposition….

Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

He also thinks India‘s Prime Minister Modi has got away with what he calls his systematic discrimination against the country’s 172 million Muslims because of the West’s desire to tap into Indian markets and use it as a counterweight against China, which Newsweek will be reporting on in the coming days.

Roth is highly critical of the Trump administration, accusing the president’s foreign policy of being driven by the guiding principle of “self-glorification” and only speaking out in defense of human rights when the offending country is a perceived adversary.

Trump is utterly uninterested in calling out any human rights violation by anybody other than a handful of perceived adversaries, China, Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua and Cuba and that’s about it, which is a completely unprincipled approach to human rights which does not attract any adherence and greatly weakens the force of US intervention,” he says. “Human Rights Watch has been living with Trump for four years now and we have already stopped relying on the U.S. as anything like a principled supporter of human rights.”

With the U.S. increasingly withdrawing from the world stage and with the European Union not really filling the void, as he says, is there a new approach to the defense of human rights emerging?

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/19/are-human-rights-defenders-making-a-comeback-kenneth-roth-thinks-so/

https://www.newsweek.com/human-rights-china-u-s-foreign-policy-trump-democracy-europe-human-rights-watch-1533239

Human Rights Watch issues World Report 2020 (covering 2019)

January 15, 2020

On 14 January 2020 Human Rights Watch published it 30th annual World Report (entitled 2020 but covering events in 2019). From the preface:

It summarizes key human rights issues in more than 100 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from late 2018 through November 2019. In a keynote essay, Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth examines the increasingly dire threat to the global system for protecting human rights posed by the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping. Deepening and increasingly sophisticated domestic repression show that China’s leaders view human rights at home as an existential threat. That, in turn, has led Beijing to see international laws and institutions for the defense of human rights as an existential threat. As a result, Chinese authorities seek to censor criticism of China overseas, mute attention to human rights in its global engagements, and weaken global rights mechanisms. At stake is a system of governance built on the belief that every person’s dignity deserves respect—that regardless of official interests, limits exist on what states can do to people. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/19/are-human-rights-defenders-making-a-comeback-kenneth-roth-thinks-so/]

Noting that global institutions are built in part “on the belief that every person’s dignity deserves respect, that regardless of the official interests at stake, there are limits to what states can do to people,” Roth concludes that China is not simply a new and emerging power finding its place, but a country that poses an existential threat to the international human rights system.

The rest of the volume consists of individual country entries, each of which identifies significant human rights abuses, examines the freedom of local human rights defenders to conduct their work, and surveys the response of key international actors, such as the United Nations, European Union, African Union, United States, China, and various regional and international organizations and institutions.

The book reflects extensive investigative work that Human Rights Watch staff undertook in 2019, usually in close partnership with human rights activists and groups in the country in question. It also reflects the work of its advocacy team, which monitors policy developments and strives to persuade governments and international institutions to curb abuses and promote human rights.  As in past years, this report does not include a chapter on every country where Human Rights Watch works, nor does it discuss every issue of importance. The absence of a country or issue often simply reflects staffing or resource limitations and should not be taken as commentary on the significance of the problem. There are many serious human rights violations that Human Rights Watch simply lacks the capacity to address.

The factors we considered in determining the focus of our work in 2019 (and hence the content of this volume) include the number of people affected and the severity of abuse, access to the country and the availability of information about it, the susceptibility of abusive forces to influence, and the importance of addressing certain thematic concerns and of reinforcing the work of local rights organizations.

The World Report does not have separate chapters addressing our thematic work but instead incorporates such material directly into the country entries. Please consult the Human Rights Watch website for more detailed treatment of our work on children’s rights; women’s rights; arms and military issues; business and human rights; health and human rights; disability rights; the environment and human rights; international justice; terrorism and counterterrorism; refugees and displaced people; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s rights; and for information about our international film festivals.

(The book was edited by Danielle Haas, senior editor at Human Rights Watch, with assistance from Naimah Hakim, Program associate. Grace Choi, director of publications and information design, oversaw production of visual elements and layout.)

Human Rights Watch takes populist leaders in UN to task

September 25, 2019

World leaders gathering for the United Nations General Assembly should reject the abusive policies of autocratic populists and promote greater respect for human rights worldwide, Human Rights Watch said ton 23 September 2019. Four leaders who have spearheaded aggressive attacks on human rights at home and at times abroad – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, US President Donald Trump, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – will open the annual General Debate at UN headquarters on September 24, 2019.

Are Human Rights Defenders making a comeback? Kenneth Roth thinks so!

January 19, 2019

Kenneth Roth – the executive director of Human Rights Watch – published on 17 January 2019 a long post in Foreign Policy which summarizes his introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2018. [for last year’s report, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/19/human-rights-watch-and-kenneth-roth-take-a-stand-against-trumps-dictator-friendly-policies/]. “With larger powers in retreat”, he says, “small countries and civil society groups have stepped up—and they have won some significant victories”. Here some large extracts:

A participant holds a banner with photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in front of the presidential palace during a demonstration on Dec. 21, 2018.

Read the rest of this entry »

Illustrative storm in a Zimbabwean teacup: billionaire vs HRW

January 3, 2019

 Human rights defender … Dewa Mavhinga, the southern Africa director for Human Rights Watch

In a Facebook post the billionaire Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa defended his wife Tsitsi’s philanthropic work ands lashed lashed out at an unnamed human rights defender while also appearing to demand his sacking by his employer. This person was soon identified as Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch.

Masiyiwa wrote: “Sadly, one of the foremost bullies is a Zimbabwean who works for an international organisation that is highly respected for its work on human rights. It’s founder, now 95, is a close family friend. I hope my human rights friend is happy now that he has stopped her from using Twitter. Maybe now he and others like him will stop this pathetic misogyny. What about the rights of women like my wife to also express an opinion?

In December, Mavhinga took issue with a post by Tsitsi Masiyiwa, in which she suggested human rights causes should only be supported after establishing the motive of those sponsoring them.“Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause. Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes,” Tsitsi said in a December 18 tweet. In reply, Mavhinga told Masiyiwa’s wife: “If you are implying that all and any outcry and pursuit of justice is sponsored, then that really is sad. When your husband pursued his fight to be licensed [Econet mobile phone network] it was a just cause. In such position of privilege, you should choose your words more carefully, lest you promote injustice.” Mavhinga was not the only one to see this post an an effort to brush up the government’s human rights record and many others expressed similar dismay. As a result Strive Masiyiwa and his wife wife both felt forced to close their Twitter accounts. 

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth on Wednesday weighed in on the side of Mavhinga, telling Masiyiwa that their employee “didn’t bully anyone”. Roth said Tsitsi’s comment “closely paralleled the claim of President Mnangagwa and some of his supporters that critics of human rights conditions under his rule are not genuine but are sponsored by outsiders.” He insisted that Mavhinga’s response was “entirely fair – an appropriate way to ensure that your wife’s comment, despite what her intentions might have been, wasn’t understood as an endorsement of the president’s and his allies’ attacks on human rights critics.”

Strive Masiyiwa and his wife

With no further instigation, others took up the theme as well, so your wife chose to close her Twitter account,” he added. “Unlike your statement here, the responder (Mavhinga) didn’t bully anyone – and certainly not your wife – but simply responded to what he feared, whatever her intentions, would be taken as an attack on t he credibility of the human rights movement. That others picked up on this point, without any encouragement or prompting by him, does not make him a bully but speaks to the resonance of his comment,” said Roth. Roth was also dismissive of the claim that Mavhinga was a misogynist, insisting “he would have responded to comments along the lines that your wife made regardless of who had made them.

Zimbabwean lawyer Brighton Mutebuka said he was “thrilled” that Human Rights Watch had backed Mavhinga.  “To seek to use his influence inappropriately to get Dewa fired is unacceptable. Human Rights Watch is a global brand. They would not have taken making such a swift rebuttal and backing Dewa lightly,” Mutebuka said, writing on Facebook. “Whilst Strive and his wife are entitled to their very optimistic views concerning the political trajectory that Mnangagwa’s government is on, they should be aware that a great many people do not share those views. They should also stand ready to be challenged on that, provided that such exchanges are nuanced, proportionate and civil. This is what democracy is founded on.”

Mavhinga and Human Rights Watch had come out of the exchanges as “principled, fearless and uncompromising” whilst Masiyiwa and his wife came across as “petulant, haughty, entitled, patronising and intolerant of divergent views”, he added.

https://www.zimlive.com/2019/01/human-rights-watch-rejects-strive-masiyiwa-bid-to-get-its-southern-africa-director-fired/

Human Rights Watch and Kenneth Roth take a stand against Trump’s dictator friendly policies

January 19, 2018

In its annual report on the state of human rights around the world for 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said growing intolerance in states like the US represented “an enormous threat” to minority groups in those countries. Donald Trump‘s public admiration for strongman leaders and breaking of “taboos against racism and xenophobia” have encouraged oppression around the world.

Its executive director, Kenneth Roth, struck out at the US President who he said “displays a disturbing fondness for rights-trampling strongmen”. He cited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte, of the Philippines, as examples, saying: “This makes it much more difficult to stigmatise these authoritarian leaders when Trump says these are great guys.”

Mr Roth added in a post accompanying HRW’s 2018 world report that in the past year, ”Secretary of State Rex Tillerson largely rejected the promotion of human rights as an element of US foreign policy while more broadly reducing the role of the US abroad by presiding over an unprecedented dismantling of the State Department.” “He refused to fill many senior posts, dismissed several veteran diplomats, slashed the budget, and let the department drift. Many career diplomats and mid-level officials resigned in despair,” .

The report urges democratic governments to address the problems that allowed populism to prosper in 2017, such as income inequality, fears of terrorism and growing migration. HRW hailed Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France’s elections as a “turning point”, saying he had “openly embraced democratic principles” on his way to defeating the far-right Marine Le Pen.  HRW also criticised the “hesitancy” of the EU to intervene in specific cases of rights abuse: “President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decimated Turkey’s democratic system as the EU focused largely instead on enlisting his help to stem the flight of refugees to Europe and security cooperation. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi crushed public dissent in Egypt with little interference from the US or the EU, which accepted his claim that he was providing stability.

In the USA, HRW’s report said, “civic groups, journalists, lawyers, judges, many members of the public, and sometimes even elected members of Trump’s own party” had reacted against what it called the President’s “regressive” outlook.

(The Trump administration did make interventions in support of human rights in a limited number of countries such as Iran and Cambodia.)

Helas, the HRW report confirms what many feared earlier in 2017, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/donald-trump-human-rights-watch-world-report-hrw-oppression-encourage-news-media-a8165381.html

http://fp-reg.onecount.net/onecount/redirects/index.php?action=get-tokens&js=1&sid=b8ofn3rfd1a65vca5imc12g270&return=http%3A%2F%2Fforeignpolicy.com%2F2018%2F01%2F18%2Fhow-to-stand-up-for-human-rights-in-the-age-of-trump%2F

Tony Blair’s Children’s Award in contrast with his PR work for a dictator

November 27, 2014

This blog has always had keen interest in awards and in celebrities abusing their reputation. The current row over Tony Blair receiving an award from Save the Children USA as described by Katie Nguyen of Reuters on 26 November 2014 is exactly at the crossroads of these two interest.

Quartet Representative to the Middle East and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair attends the International donors conference on financing the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in Cairo October 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Files
(former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at International donors conference on October 12, 2014. 
CREDIT: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/FILES)
Save the Children’s U.S.A chapter gave its annual Global Legacy Award to former British prime minister Tony Blair last week. It stated that it was to recognise Blair’s role in persuading the G8 to agree to debt relief of $40 billion for the poorest nations. Staff working for the charity were furious about the award, the Guardian newspaper reported and more than 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Save the Children revoke the award.

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Side event on Egypt as a human rights emergency

September 8, 2014

During the current session of the Human Rights Council there will again many side events in Geneva. I will refer to some of them not only in the hope that you may able to attend, but also to illustrate the concerns of the NGO movement:

On Tuesday 9 September from 12.00 to 13.30 (Palais des Nations, Room XXI) there will be a side-event organised jointly by Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch, FIDH, ISHR and the International Bar Association. Speakers are:

  • Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Souhayr Belhassen, Honourary President, International Federation for Human Rights FIDH
  • Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program, Amnesty International
  • Phillip Tahmindjis, Director, International Bar Association Human Rights Institute
  • Moderator: Yves Magat, Journalist, Télévision Suisse Romande
via Egypt: A human rights emergency | ISHR.

Petty: Human Rights Watch Refused Entry to the Emirates

January 27, 2014

The United Arab Emirates [UAE] authorities have refused to allow Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch, to enter the country on 24 January, 2014, for a planned two-day visit to Dubai. The move followed the country’s forced cancellation on 23 January of a Human Rights Watch news conference to release its annual World Report 2014 in the UAE. Whitson had traveled to the UAE on numerous occasions.“These petty tactics by the UAE authorities to muzzle Human Rights Watch only demonstrate the government’s intolerance of free speech and fear of critical discussion,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director. “Human Rights Watch will continue to document abuses in the UAE and to urge the government to comply with its most basic human rights obligations.” “While UAE newspapers regularly use the work of Human Rights Watch from around the world, it’s a pity the government can’t tolerate any review of its own record,” Roth added.

via UAE: Human Rights Watch Official Refused Entry | Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Defenders from Russia, US, Libya, Chad named for Alison des Forges Award

August 29, 2013

Clockwise: Hassan al-Amin, Consuelo Morales, Natalia Taubina, Jacqueline Moudeïna, Alina Diaz, and Abbé Benoît Kinalegu.

On 28 August Human Rights Watch announced the 2013  recipients of its Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism: Read the rest of this entry »