Human Rights Watch’s edicts and positions have often been suspiciously in line with US policy.
Let’s pretend that we want to start an organization to defend the rights of people across the globe that has no affiliation to any government or corporate interest. Which of the following characters should we therefore exclude from intimate roles in our organization’s operation? (You may choose more than one answer.)
- An individual who presided over a NATO bombing, including various civilian targets.
- An individual who was formerly a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, a speechwriter for Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff who in 2009 declared that, under “limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for the illegal CIA rendition program that has seen an untold number of innocent people kidnapped and tortured.
- A former US Ambassador to Colombia, who later lobbied on behalf of Newmont Mining and J.P. Morgan — two US firms whose track records of environmental destruction would suggest that human wellbeing falls below elite profit on their list of priorities.
- A former CIA analyst.
If you answered “all of the above,” you’re one step ahead of Human Rights Watch, which has played institutional host not only to persons matching descriptions A–D but to many others with similar backgrounds.
Javier Solana, for example, was NATO secretary general during the 1999 assault on Yugoslavia, an event HRW itself described as entailing “violations of international humanitarian law.” Solana is now on the group’s Board of Directors.
Tom Malinowski, whose partial CV appears in description B, was HRW’s Washington Director from 2001 to 2013 and has now returned to full-fledged government activity as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Myles Frechette, a former US Ambassador to Colombia, is a member of HRW Americas’ advisory committee, an entity that for many years also counted on the expertise of former CIA analyst Miguel Díaz, currently an Intelligence Community Associate at the State Department.
It’s no wonder, then, that despite its claims of independence and objectivity, HRW stands accused of participating in a revolving door scheme with the US government.
The apparent conflict of interest is the subject of a recent letter to its executive director Kenneth Roth which was signed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General Hans von Sponeck, and more than 100 scholars. Their proposed solution? Shut the door.