Human Rights Watch

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A nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to protecting human rights around the world. HRW produces reports on human rights violations as a means of focusing media and government attention on the issue.


Human Rights Watch came from the group Helsinki Watch which publicly named governments (specifically the Soviet Union) and specific people within them who violated the Helsinki Accords and other human rights. In the 1980’s other watch groups were formed, Americas watch Asia watch and Africa watch. All of these combined to create Human Rights watch in 1988.

Current objectives and activities

Human Rights Watch investigates suspected human rights violations locally and from their main offices around the world[1] and produce regular reports on their activities. The annual World Report highlights the current human rights situation around the world. They are known for publicly shaming governments by exposing their activities to the media and pushing issues to the eyes of the world media. Media exposure is their main tool for eliminating human rights violations. Their goal is to uncover and end violations. Human Rights Watch has also taken on the issue of health concerns such as AIDS/HIV.

Organizational structure

Since 1993 Kenneth Roth has been executive director, having been deputy director since 1987.[2] He was formerly an Assistant United States Attorney.

Human rights watch consist of different watches for each region, Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. They all have local researchers that generate reports. HRW employs over 275 people including layers, journalists, and academics.[3]


HRW are one of a network of organisations that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for their collaboration in the campaign to stop the use of mine (land warfare)|landmines, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. They pushed for the removal of all landmines along with their trade and creation,[4] and were an important influence on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines.


See also: Lawfare

While HRW claims to have no political bias, DiscoverTheNetworks (DTN) criticized them as being a politically left organization that often criticizes the United States. DTN is one example of a group critical of lawfare, or the use of international humanitarian law to limit the options of the United States of America and other nations. In general, the more an organization treats national sovereignty as a priority, the more it disapproves of NGOs.

Examples include: HRW wanted a legal response to the 9/11 attacks opposing a violent war. HRW supports the removal of border protection along the U.S Mexican border. They also support amnesty for illegal aliens. They are also accused of being too critical of State of Israel|Israel during their war with Hezbollah.[5]

NGO Watch describes the use of lawfare by NGOs including HRW and Amnesty International in the Israel-Palestine Conflict.[6] Kenneth Anderson said NGOs such as Human Rights Watch “focus to near exclusion on what the attackers do, especially in asymmetrical conflicts where the attackers are Western armies” and tend “to present to the public and press what are essentially lawyers’ briefs that shape the facts and law toward conclusions that [they] favor… without really presenting the full range of factual and legal objections to [their] position."[7]

HRW actively supports the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.[8] HRW's Executive Director, Kenneth Roth, critiqued Henry Kissinger's questioning of universal jurisdiction. [9]


  1. Research Methodology
  2. University of Winnipeg Kenneth Roth Biography
  3. About HRW, Human Rights Watch
  4. International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  5. Human Rights Watch (HRW), DiscoverTheNetworks
  6. Anne Herzberg (September 2008), NGO “Lawfare”: Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, NGO Watch
  7. = Kenneth Anderson (23 August 2006), Questions re: Human Rights Watch’s Credibility in Lebanon Reporting,, Kenneth Anderson Laws of War Blog
  8. NGO Lawfare, p. 10
  9. Kenneth Roth (September/October 2001), "The Case for Universal Jurisdiction", Foreign Affairs (magazine)

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