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Kenneth Roth, 2008

Kenneth Roth is an American attorney and has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993.


Kenneth Roth, a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown Universitymarker, was drawn to human rights causes through his father's experience of fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938 and the Soviet imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981. Prior to working at HRW, Roth worked in private practice as a litigator and served as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington DC.

Human Rights Watch

From 1987-1993, Roth was deputy director of HRW and since 1993 has been the organization's executive director.

His online bio on the HRW website states he has "special expertise on: issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed in the quest for peace; military conduct in war under the requirements of international humanitarian law; counterterrorism policy, including resort to torture and arbitrary detention; the human rights policies of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations; and, the human rights responsibilities of multinational businesses."


Kenneth Roth has been criticized by certain groups such as the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor for allegedly being biased against Israelmarker. This organization has also attacked his references "to the Holocaust, his family history, and Jewish themes in order to bolster the credibility of his claims" against Israel.

On Oct. 20, 2009, HRW and Roth were criticized in a New York Times opinion piece by Robert L. Bernstein, who was Human Rights Watch chairman from 1978 to 1998 and is now its founding chairman emeritus. Berstein noted that HRW had begun to focus on "open" societies while turning a blind eye to "closed" societies. "Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East," Bernstein said. "The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet 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." Bernstein pointed out that Israel has at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world. By contrast, most Arab and Iranian regimes remained "brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent."

Roth replied to such accusations in an October 23, 2009, comment published in Haaretz.


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