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Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York Citymarker and it has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto, and Washington D.C.


Human Rights Watch was founded under the name Helsinki Watch in 1978 to monitor the former Soviet Unionmarker's compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Helsinki Watch adopted a methodology of publicly "naming and shaming" abusive governments through media coverage and through direct exchanges with policymakers. By shining the international spotlight on human rights violations in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Helsinki Watch contributed to the democratic transformations of the late 1980s. Americas Watch was founded in 1981 while bloody civil wars engulfed Central America. Relying on extensive on-the-ground fact-finding, Americas Watch not only addressed perceived abuses by government forces, but applied international humanitarian law to investigate and expose war crimes by rebel groups. In addition to raising its concerns in the affected countries, Americas Watch also examined the role played by foreign governments, particularly the United States, in providing military and political support to abusive regimes. Asia Watch (1985), Africa Watch (1988), and Middle East Watch (1989) were added to what was then known as "The Watch Committees." In 1988, the organization formally adopted the all-inclusive name Human Rights Watch. In 1988, all of the committees were united under one umbrella to form Human Rights Watch.


Robert Bernstein, one of the founders of HRW, has argued that "in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region." . Tom Porteus, director of the London branch of Human Rights Watch, replied that the organization rejected Bernstein's "obvious double standard. Any credible human rights organisation must apply the same human rights standards to all countries." Jane Olson and Jonathan Fanton wrote "we were saddened to see Robert L. Bernstein argue that Israel should be judged by a different human rights standard than the rest of the world" and "as long as open societies commit human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch has a vital role to play in documenting those violations and advocating to bring them to an end." Human Rights Watch noted that Bernstein brought his concerns to the Human Rights Watch Board of Directors in April 2009 and also noted that the board unanimously rejected his view that Human Rights Watch should report only on closed societies, and expressed its full support for the organization's work.

Human Rights Watch criticized the Jordanian governmentmarker 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 Iraqimarker leader Saddam Hussein's rule.

In 2007 HRW denounced Spainmarker for holding hundreds of migrant children in emergency centers in the Canary Islandsmarker. They were living in squalid, overcrowded conditions and faced the risk of abuse from their custodians and other children. The Canary Islands government, which runs the facilities, replied in a statement that the report lacked "rigor" and that "an internal investigation had failed to corroborate" Human Rights Watch's findings.

In 2008, Venezuela expelled the organization for its criticism of the regime.

Human Rights Watch made headlines in September 2009 when its Middle East military analyst, Marc Garlasco was suspended with pay pending an investigation after several media reports highlighted his interest in Second World War artifacts and accused him of collecting Nazi memorabilia. Garlasco has said that the allegations of Nazi sympathies were "defamatory nonsense, spread maliciously by people with an interest in trying to undermine Human Rights Watch's reporting." HRW has said the charges leveled against Garlasco are "demonstrably false" and fit "into a campaign to deflect attention from Human Rights Watch's rigorous and detailed reporting on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government". Corey Flintoff wrote that "critics of Human Rights Watch have suggested that Garlasco's enthusiasm for Nazi-era badges and uniforms goes beyond historical interest and makes him a Nazi sympathizer or anti-Semite."


Pursuant to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch opposes violations of what it considers 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.

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 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.

The current executive director of Human Rights Watch is Kenneth Roth at a salary of $350,000. He has held this position since 1993. Roth is a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown Universitymarker. His father fled Nazi Germany in 1938. Roth started working on human rights after the declaration of martial law in Polandmarker in 1981, and later became engaged in Haitimarker. 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 employs more than 275 human rights professionals comprised of country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics.

Financing and services

For the financial year ending June 2008, HRW reported receiving approximately US$44 million in public donations. In 2009, Human Rights Watch stated that they receive almost 75% of their financial support from North America, 25% from Western Europe and less than 1% from the rest of the world.According to a 2008 financial assessment, HRW reports that it does not accept any direct or indirect funding from governments and is financed through contributions from private individuals and foundations.

HRW published the following program and support services spending details for the financial year ending June 2008.
Program services 2008 Expenses (USD)
Africa $5,532,631
Americas $1,479,265
Asia $3,212,850
Europe and Central Asia $4,001,853
Middle East and North Africa $2,258,459
United States $1,195,673
Children's Rights $1,642,064
International Justice $1,385,121
Woman's Rights $1,854,228
Other Programs $9,252,974
Supporting services
Management and general $1,984,626
Fundraising $8,641,358

Notable staff

Some notable staff members of Human Rights Watch have included:

Issues and campaigns


Human Rights Watch World Report 2007

Human Rights Watch publishes reports on several topics
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 and the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker.

Comparison with Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are the only two western-oriented 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 Sudanmarker who have overseen a killing campaign in Darfurmarker. The group has also called for human rights activists who have been detained in Sudan to be released.

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.

There are some small differences in policy: for example, Human Rights Watch believes that women should have the right to wear a veil whereas Amnesty has no policy on this issue.


Criticism of Human Rights Watch may be classified into four major categories: accusations of poor research methods producing inaccurate reports, accusations of selection bias, accusations of ideological bias, and questions regarding their funding practices. In the second category, Human Rights Watch has been criticized for perceived biases that are anti-Israeli, anti-Western, anti-China, anti-Serb, anti-Sri Lankan, ignoring anti-semitism, anti-Ethiopian government, and pro-USA. In the third category, Human Rights Watch was recently accused of using anti-Israeli sentiment to elicit support while fund-raising in Saudi Arabiamarker.

See also


  1. The Guardian: Credible approach on human rights
  2. New York Times: Crossfire: A Rights Group and Israel
  3. Human Rights Watch: Why We Report on 'Open' Societies
  4. Middle east and North Africa,Human Rights Watch
  5. [1]
  6. Human Rights Watch says migrant children are at risk in Canary Islands,International Herald Tribune
  7. Reuters News retrieved September 22, 2009
  8. Israelis See Clear Bias in Activist, New York Times, John Schwartz, September 14, 2009
  9. WBUR
  10. Hellman-Hammett Grants,Human Rights Watch
  11. Human Rights Watch: Our People
  12. Rwandan genocide report,Human Rights Watch
  13. Congo report,Human Rights Watch
  14. Human rights group says activists detained in Sudan
  15. Discrimination in the Name of Neutrality
  16. Human Rights Watch hell-bent on attacking Sri Lankan government
  17. Human Right Watch is now trying to block the IMF loan
  18. Anti-Semitism in Europe: Fighting Back,Anti-Defamation League
  20. The government says Human Rights Watch got it Wrong. Really? Economist Feb 7, 2009, p. 41
  21. ZNet |Haiti | Haiti and Human Rights Watch
  22. Keinon, Herb. "Diplomacy: Israel vs. Human Rights Watch." Jerusalem Post. 18 July 2009. 18 July 2009.
  23. Bernstein, David. "Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia." The Wall Street Journal. 15 July 2009. 15 July 2009.

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