Posts Tagged ‘Kenneth Roth’

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.

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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 »

UN Watch and Human Rights Watch – two very different animals but how clear does one make it?

January 9, 2013

Phyllis Bennis, a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, wrote in her blog through Al-Jazeera, on 9 January 2013, a very informative piece under the title: “Human Rights Watch: Time to stand with human rights defenders” with the provocative byline: It is disappointing to see HRW’s unwillingness to stand with those who are working to promote and defend human rights.

The full article one should certainly read at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/20131781532514238.html but what matters here is the policy question to what extent a (decent) NGO (i.c. HRW) should take to task another (very biased) NGO (i.c. UN Watch).

In short, the pro-Israeli, UN-bashing UN Watch discovered that the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, US lawyer Richard Falk, was still ‘on the Board’ of HRW. HRW quickly replied that he was only a member of HRW’s local support committee in Santa Barbara, California, where he lives and that it was an oversight that he still held this honorary position and that it was rectified (“longstanding policy, applied many times, that no official from any government or UN agency can serve on any Human Rights Watch committee or its Board. It was an oversight on our part that we did not apply that policy in Richard Falk’s case several years ago when he assumed his UN position”).  UN Watch of course cried victory implying that Falk was expelled an enemy of human rights or because he is anti-Semitic.

The author of the blog finds fault with HRW’s meek response that did indeed not amount to a strong defense of Richard Falk’s credentials, impartiality and expertise. Should HRW not have made clear that substantively it stands with Richard Falk, that he was removed for technical reasons only and would be welcomed back as soon as he ceases to be UN Rapporteur? These are policy question that each NGO should answer for itself but in the context of UN Watch’s obsession to undermine the work of the UN in general and Richard Falk in particular a more robust stance would have been useful. I think that the similarity – even confusion –  in name should also have led HRW to take a tougher public stand.

Phyllis Bennis concludes with: “Given his Middle East staff’s consistent work, there is no question that Ken Roth and the HRW board understand that human rights criticism of Israeli occupation is well-grounded in fact, and that such criticism remains a crucial element in changing the public, media and policymaking discourse in the United States. If we are ever to have any hope of changing US government policy in Palestine-Israel towards one grounded in human rights and international law, consistent human rights criticism and a willingness to stand with human rights defenders like Richard Falk when they face attack, remain crucial tools – for all human rights activists, including the leadership of Human Rights Watch.


Human Rights Watch honors HRDs from Congo, Libya

August 14, 2012

English: Human Rights Watch logo Русский: Лого...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two courageous and tireless advocates for human rights have been selected as recipients of the prestigious Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism. Abbé Benoît Kinalegu from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Salah Marghani from Libya are leading voices for justice in their countries, working relentlessly to protect the rights and dignity of others. They will join four other international recipients of the award as they are honored at the Human Rights Watch Voices for Justice Annual Dinners in 15 cities worldwide in November 2012.

The award is named for Dr. Alison Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch’s Africa division for almost two decades, who died in a plane crash in New York on February 12, 2009. Des Forges was the world’s leading expert on Rwanda, the 1994 genocide, and its aftermath. Human Rights Watch’s annual award honors her outstanding commitment to, and defense of, human rights. It celebrates the valor of people who put their lives on the line to create a world free from abuse, discrimination, and oppression.

“These human rights defenders have spoken out and helped people who needed protection in some of the most dangerous and difficult situations in the world,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They show that courage and persistence can make a difference even during periods of conflict and violent transition.”

The recipients of Human Rights Watch’s 2012 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism are:

  • Abbé Benoît Kinalegu, a Congolese priest and director of the Dungu-Doruma Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace, who exposes abuses committed by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and works to rehabilitate its victims; and
  • Salah Marghani, a Libyan human rights activist and lawyer, who has worked to reveal the truth about human rights atrocities under Muammar Gaddafi and abuses still happening.

Recipients of the 2011 award, who will also be touring North America and Europe this year, are:

  • Sihem Bensedrine, a Tunisian journalist and activist who heads the Arab Working Group for Media Monitoring and serves as a spokesperson for the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, traveling to Amsterdam and Geneva;
  • Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care, a leading Indonesian organization working to protect the rights of millions of migrant workers, traveling to Oslo and Zurich;
  • Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Research and Development in eastern Zimbabwe and a leading voice against the abuses taking place in the Marange diamond fields, traveling to London, Munich, and Paris; and
  • Consuelo Morales, director of Citizens in Support of Human Rights, based in Monterrey, which brings abuses in Mexico’s “war on drugs” to light, traveling to Chicago, New York and Toronto.

Human Rights Watch staff members work closely with the human rights defenders as part of the organization’s research into some 90 countries around the world. The defenders will be honored at the 2012 Voices for Justice Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners in Amsterdam, Beirut, Chicago, Geneva, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Oslo, Paris, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Silicon Valley, Toronto, and Zurich.

Awards for Rights Activists from Congo, Libya | Human Rights Watch.