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HRW’s false testimonial

HRW’s false testimonial

Bereket Gebru 11-04-16

Among the set of non-governmental organizations acting as agents of Western governments, HRW has time and again come up with extremely negative reports about Ethiopia. Although the U.S. sponsored “quasi-governmental” organization does not even have an office in Ethiopia, it just loves to weigh in on every matter that involves Ethiopia rather too heavily.

Just recently, HRW provided the Human Rights sub-committee of the European Union Parliament with a highly skewed briefing on the deadly stampedes that marred this year’s Irecha celebrations. The “quasi governmental” organization asked the European Union to pressure the Ethiopian government into allowing an independent foreign investigation into the deaths at the Irecha celebration and other cases.

The agency also described the number of deaths at the Irecha celebration as unidentified crudely stating that it is perhaps in the hundreds. It also stated that the cause of death was live and tear gas shots from government security forces. Everyone who attended the ceremony, including local and foreign journalists, provided their testimonials that the security forces did not fire live ammunition and that the stampedes were the main reason behind killings. The agency has obviously not spoken to eyewitnesses as it does not have an office in Ethiopia and resorted to adopt the claims of the extreme Ethiopian opposition groups stationed in Europe and America.

The agency’s complete lack of investigation into the sad event that bereaved the whole of Ethiopia and yet its audacity to come up with a highly accentuated report that implicates the Ethiopian government with no evidence is just a reflection of the very purpose of its creation. It is sickening that such organizations are in the business of coming up with false reports that can potentially incite unrest in a country and still get away with it.     

Time and again has HRW come up with reports denouncing the human rights records of countries not completely in compliance with the policies the US government throws at them. On the other hand, it has overlooked the gross human rights abuses of friendly states and the US.

More serious accusations from across the world put the NGO behind some of the most notable color revolutions. Especially the Eastern European states of the former Soviet Union have repeatedly pointed their fingers at HRW and its partners in crime for the unconstitutional regime changes in their countries. Some of these countries have banned the organization from operating in their territories.

HRW’s official website states:

Human Rights Watch began in 1978 with the creation of Helsinki Watch, designed to support the citizens groups formed throughout the Soviet bloc to monitor government compliance with the 1975 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 dramatic democratic transformations of the late 1980s.

The colorful and rosy presentation of Helsinki watch by HRW’s website is rather presented suspiciously by the Eastern Europeans. The ‘dramatic democratic transformations of the late 1980s’ refer to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and other Socialist states into numerous small states that have increasingly fallen under western influence since then. Whether or not those transformations were democratic is still a debatable topic. However, the lack of democracy in the countries despite American interference to put in place its puppets is a fact.  

As has been stated above, Human Rights Watch admittedly boasts about its role in the collapse of the Soviet Union. The public naming and shaming of Helsinki Watch in Eastern Europe using media coverage and direct exchanges with policymakers also depicts the long standing collaboration of these bodies. It further gives insight into the backing HRW enjoyed even in its early days from the political establishment that has managed to pronounce these assists further especially in the 21st century.

The HRW is well known for its revolving door policy with the U.S. government. In an article entitled: “Is Human Rights Watch too close to the U.S. government?” Latifah Azlan of Foreign Policy In Focus wrote about the cozy relationship between the three. She stated: “HRW experts routinely testify before Congress, and HRW scholars enjoy access to a range of media outlets—from the New York Times on down to Foreign Policy In Focus.”

The article mainly dealt with the “revolving door” relationship HRW has with the U.S. government. A revolving door policy refers to the cycle of exchange of personnel between governmental offices and the private/NGO sector. In such cases, government officials hold positions of leadership in private firms and NGOs for a certain time before they move back to public office. On the other side, executives of private firms or NGOs join the public sector for a certain time only to move back to related private sector jobs after a while. The conflict of interest and the use of office to promote the interests of the offices they go back to are very much vivid in such cases. When these people go back to the sector they came from, they take with them the accumulated knowledge and relationships and intimate understanding of the functioning of the offices to their new positions.

The article raises the issue of a letter signed by two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and over 100 academics, journalists, and human rights activists. “The letter called on the organization to end its exchange of personnel with the U.S. government, arguing that the relationship has affected HRW’s research and advocacy against human rights abuses, particularly those committed by the U.S. government.”

The executive director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, and its spokesperson Reed Brody denied the allegations as baseless. However, another letter popped up in response to their comments. The writer of the article included the interview with Keane Bhatt, the activist who initiated the original sign-on letter and I have used some of the most informative pieces of his account of the “revolving door” relationship.

Keane Bhatt explained:

The conflict of interest is immediately understandable when you see people from the State Department coming into HRW and then going back to the State Department—as is the case with Tom Malinowski, who served as the senior director of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, then as HRW’s Washington director, and is now an assistant secretary of state for President Obama.

Or when you see people like Miguel Díaz who have had experience working for the CIA—which is easily the Western hemisphere’s largest institutional human rights violator over the past half century—spend eight years on HRW’s advisory committee before going into the State Department with the explicit objective of facilitating greater interaction between the U.S. intelligence community and NGOs like HRW. How can HRW associates be expected to not hold back in their criticisms of U.S. abuses around the world when they plan to help manage U.S. foreign policy in the future?

As has long been the case with other U.S. governmental offices under the guise of NGOs such as NED, the CIA works closely with them in its dealing all over the world. These institutions are used to collect information, disseminate ideological paradigms, organize the youth in various countries and incite violence on behalf of the CIA. As Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, said in 1991: "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."


As has been clearly indicated above, Human Rights Watch also has affiliations with the CIA. The self-righteousness and high ethical standards that HRW tries to portray all come crumbling down in light of scandalous information such as this. The general trend in the Least Developed Countries that attaches considerable suspicion to international NGOs has its roots in the implementation of such shady relations.

HRW’s possible use as an intelligence weapon also rules out the highly opinionated reports it comes up with against socialist and broad-based developmental states. It rather clearly depicts the intent behind the ruthless attacks on these states by an agent of a state that has set out to colonize the whole world by any means.

In providing a detailed account of the revolving door relations, Keane Bhatt raised numerous U.S. government officials who were involved in human rights catastrophes across the world. One of them is Myles Frechette, former U.S. Ambassador to Colombia under Clinton “during plan Colombia that facilitated the displacement of millions of people and gave the Colombian government free reign to commit the worst human rights atrocities in the hemisphere over a decade and more.” Keane Bhatt explained that “Frechette went on to serve as a lobbyist for corporations engaged in major human rights violations in the hemisphere, like Newmont Mining, Barrick Gold, Exxon-Mobil, and Texaco.”Frechette worked in HRW’s advisory committee for the Americas. 

Keane’s more implicating citations include those of Michael Shifter who also served in HRW’s advisory committee for the Americas along with Frechette. Keane went on to say

He (Michael Shifter) once directed the National Endowment for Democracy’s Latin America and Caribbean program. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is financed by the U.S. government and is widely recognized to have funded destabilization efforts against various governments. There is very clear documented evidence, in the cases of Venezuela and Haiti, that the NED was financing opposition groups and helping to overthrow the democratically elected governments of both countries. It continues to fund political groups in Venezuela against Venezuelan law.

Another egregious case is Marc Garlasco, who served in the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and was involved in bombing targets in Iraq. He was quoted on This American Life saying, “I walked out of the Pentagon. And it was a Friday. And then on Monday morning I walked into Human Rights Watch, and suddenly I’m now a human rights advocate. And got on a plane and flew to Iraq to see my handiwork.” The Washington Post offered him a sympathetic profile, but the headline was telling: “The Man on Both Sides of Air War Debate.” This is just another case of a broader phenomenon that corrupts HRW’s priorities and really diminishes its reputation worldwide.

Although not part of the revolving door relations between HRW and the U.S. government, the appointment of Javier Solana as a member of the board of directors of HRW is raised as a flagrant breach of ethics. Keane Bhatt stated that “he (Solana) initiated an illegal war against Yugoslavia in 1999 and presided over the use of cluster munitions and atrocities like the deliberate bombing of civilian targets—including a television station, where 16 civilians were killed.” Then he goes on to describe the man as “a U.S.-allied war criminal.” He was once the subject of HRW’s campaigns on accountability for NATO war crimes. Javier Solana has thus become a member of the board of directors of an organization that accused him of being a war criminal just a few years earlier.

The recent European Union Parliament briefing by HRW about the death at Irecha is just the agency carrying out its venomous agenda. For all the countries it attacked, the violence it incited and the states it derailed, it is incredible that states around the world have not created an organization that strictly follows the activities of HRW and other governmental agencies to expose their real purpose and pursue justice. It is also about time that these agents are denied the right to operate in LDCs through the concerted effort of the countries. 

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