What is the code of ethics that HRW practices?


– by Shenali D Waduge

Human Rights Watch says the proposed Code of Ethics for Media in Sri Lanka gags freedom of speech. Well there’s much that we can ask about HRW’s own code of ethics and none of which gives HRW any credibility. Our questions are many.

HRW’s was (formerly known as Helsinki Watch brainchild of Robert L. Bernstein, the president of Random House.) a private American NGO in 1978 to monitor former Soviet Union’s compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The Watch Committees which covered America, Asia, Africa and Middle East became united under Human Rights Watch in 1989.

HRW’s mission statement says “Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice. We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable. We challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.”

  • Did HRW not justify the Gulf War taking the side of the oil giants and corrupt US politicians?
  • Did HRW not help justify the invasion by providing fake reports and deliberately spreading wrong information?
  • Did HRW under President Clinton not promote pro-intervention – The 1990s were supposed to be the “good wars” when Clinton took over Bosnia and Kosovo. Then came Iraq in 2003
  • without UN sanction but a supposed “WMD” was sufficient to invade Iraq.
  • Did HRW not also play a role to justify western intervention in Syria?
  • On what ethics did HRW come with its “Arbitrary arrests and abuse of detainees” when it watched NATO missiles pound Libya for 7 months using depleted uranium killing thousands of Libyan civilians?
  • Where is HRW’s report on residential areas of Libya being bombed by NATO?
  • Where is HRW’s report on the use of depleted uranium
  • What justification can HRW give when US bombed Iraq into submission and thereafter invaded the country?

The defense of HRW is that it ONCE said George Bush should be prosecuted over torture. They said that in 2011 that was after 10 years of destroying Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2011, Bush was already out of office and the damage already done.

The HRW chargesheet was limited to Bush’s approval for waterboarding of detainees, airborne torture, Cheney for illegal detention and unsanitary interrogation techniques, former defense secretary Rumsfeld for hands-on involvement in specific interrogations, ex-CIA director George Tenet for authorizing the whole torture and interrogation program. These were no startling revelations and the tortures were publicized well before HRW thought of finally adding them to a report years after it was already publicly known. What is highlighted is what took HRW so long to wake up and what was the reason behind the report unless it was to whitewash its obvious bias by bringing out an outdated report.

HRW only speaks about “torture” what about “crimes against humanity”?

  • Has HRW ever given a thought to the effects of depleted uranium on millions of civilians in Afghanistan and Iran and their effects on new-born children?
  • Why is HRW mum on the use of cluster bombs and white phosphorus, the destruction of civil infrastructure (roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, water etc)

Therefore we really are at a loss to understand why HRW is selective about its “victims” and why in the face of evidence HRW simply is a mouthpiece of the culprits attempting to whitewash their crimes producing false documentation and false scenarios to justify why their donors have invaded nations.

HRW and similar organizations thrive because of a similarly linked media who also exist on handouts by the very sources that lead these false interventions.

The “both sides to blame” story

This has become a signature line in virtually all international communications be they NGO or statements coming from foreign governments.

If what the Nazis and the Japs did was wrong equally wrong was what the British did during colonial rule, Boer Wars, in Dresden and well the American list is a bit too long but then for any acceptable “accountability” to exist “both sides” cannot mean only one side gets all the lawsuits. The most hysterical thing is that the other party to the “both side” story is the one bringing the allegations and no one stops to say “wait a minute – your crimes are no better and you must go on trial first for initiating the chaos”.

Who is behind Human Rights Watch? 

  • Does HRW not have close links to US foreign policy elite – thus nullifying their claim of being “concerned private citizens”?

This allegation is proved by the HRW board member being past and present US govt employees who have direct links to foreign policy lobbies in the US. Not a single non-American has served on its director board (only those who are non-American US citizens). This itself shows classism and elitist mentality while preaching to others on equality of employment.

In short can HRW deny that it came into being as a result of George Soros and the US State Dept and now Soros has gifted $100million to HRW – we can but wonder for what!

If HRW is an almost US-American organization is it not following the Anglo-American version of human rights? The proof is really in the pudding.

Soros appointed his tax lawyer to the HRW Board in 2004 as well as his legal advisor William D. Zabel exposing what we knew all along. Others in that 2004 Board included Soro’s publisher who was the CEO of Public Affairs, the Vice Chair Alice Henkin is a member of Council of Foreign Relations. Other names that can checked out are Henri Barkey, Jonathan Fanton, Stephen Del Rosso, Alan R. and Barbara D. Finberg, Felice Gaer a NGO member of the US delegation to UNHRC in Geneva where according to Voice of America she denounced Sudan saying US “cannot accept those who invoke Islam or other religions as justification for atrocious human rights abuses”. She had also suggested UN should not investigate prison rapes in US! Michael Erwin Gellert, Bill Green, Stanley Hoffman, Jeri Laber (a founder of HRW), Kati Marton President of Committee to Protect Journalists and wife of Richard Holbrooke and lobbied for the Soros-funded (through the NED) B92 radio in Belgrade which played a key role against Milosevic. B92 was also funded by BBC, British Foreign Office, USAID, EU and the Soros Open Society Foundation. Others on HRW Board include Prema Mathai-Davis, an Indian immigrant and CEO Jack Matlock of YWCA, former US Ambassador to Soviet Union, Patricia M. Wald, US Judge, appointed to the Yugoslavia Tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague (Soros had paid for the equipment for the Tribunal questioning judicial impartiality), Joel Motley, member of Council of Foreign Relations, Herbert Okun, Barnett Rubin – Soros-institutes advisor, member of US State Dept Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. What more is there to say when George Soros is the chief financier of HRW!

Prominent HRW members include Morton Abramowitz, a former undersecretary of state, Warren Zimmerman and Paul Goble, director of Radio Free Europe.

Effective October 2013 the Co-Chairmans of HRW will be Joel Motley and Hassan Elmasry. Elmasry went to Saudi in 2009 and spoke nothing of the Saudi kingdoms human rights violations but requested Saudi businessmen and the Arab world to support HRW.

Why we say HRW is biased – its reports are biased.

HRW Donors – the HRW is not legally bound to disclose who donates money but its $20million or more donations come from foundations and individual donors 75% . HRW’s annual reports claim it does not accept government funds “indirectly or directly”. HRW may like to then explain how Dutch Novib (part of Oxfam-which is funded by UK Govt, USAID and EU). Oxfam and Novib funded the HRW report on Rwanda Genocide – what can HRW say about not taking funds from Governments?

HRW is a member of the International Helsinki Federation. In the case of Chechnya, these Helsinki Group “locals” functioning on behalf of HRW were in the thick of the conflict collecting data which were used only to project a scenario of genocide demanding military intervention.

Can HRW and other celebrity NGOs and Human Rights Organizations deny that their sensational reports are merely to attract donors and serve nothing but self promotion?

Its bias on Venezuelan former President Chavez was clear when its reports highlighted disregard for basic human rights when under Chavez all citizens received adequate food and housing, free healthcare and education (UNESCO says Venezuela is “illiteracy-free” while the FAO says there is no one hungry in Venezuela is hungry either. HRW does not refer to any of these achievements in its report.

When HRW has been voicing concerns about media freedom in Venezuela after Chavez’s Government refused to renew RCTV’s broadcast license, HRW conveniently omitted to say that RCTV was directly involved in a military coup in 2002. In the case of RCTV – HRW took into consideration the individual “civil” rights of the elite Venezuelans over the “social” rights of the majority.

HRW also criticizes Veneuzela’s Supreme Court which restricted foreign funding to NGOs avoiding to say that the reason was because US has been funding civil society’s who are opposed to a particular government. USAID, National Endowment for Democracy have all been involved in programs to depose or destabilize nations. Russia has declared foreign NGOs as “foreign agents”. It is upto the HRW to prove that these NGOs are not agents.

In 2009 the Congo Government accused HRW of issuing sensation reports on the situation in the DRC going on to say that if HRW “has a score to settle with Joseph Kabila, they shouldn’t try to use the situation in eastern Congo to do it. They are simply trying to weaken and demoralize us in our existential right of resistance against terrorist movements”.

Ethiopia has also accused HRW of “hidden agendas” in 2011 when HRW criticized press freedom. Ethiopia says that there are enough of private newspapers criticizing the government even through cartoons.

Incidentally, being one of the 6 international NGOs that formed the Coalition to Stop the use of Child Soldiers in 1998 has seen little merit in pursuing the LTTE’s the worlds worst abuser of children for no other terrorist organization hands over cyanide to children and asks them to commit suicide.

HRW omits social and economic rights of people

Human Rights Watch claims it is an advocate of international human rights law. Firstly, there is a big question mark about why we disagree with HRW’s “claim” primarily because “international” “human rights” “laws” are all Eurocentric and designed to suit the West ignoring legal systems that existed long before the West took over the world using their “laws”.

HRW’s focus is on political and civil rights ignoring social and economic rights (because that would mean it would have to undermine the capitalist faults)

From a socialist view, in a capitalist system financial gains of the wealthy are gained by exploiting the poor violating their economic and social rights. HRW cannot speak on civil and political rights when the majority are suffering economic and social rights. HRW never highlights the influence of powerful foreign imperialist forces who often contribute towards destabilizing operations to ensure their elitism is unchallenged.

No human rights champion can look at issues thinking that everything in the world is equal. Therefore unless any group considers the unequal power dynamics with wealthy imperialists controlling the world no issue will find proper roots.

  • Who says that US or its organizations can impose US values on other countries?
  • Who says Europe can do the same too? What did the Belgian “civilizing mission” to Congo end up doing – it killed half the Congo population!
  • Who has the right to restructure society simply because some “human rights violation” is supposed to have been committed?

Suzanne Nossel

The bias of HRW and Amnesty is revealed when both recruited as its head Suzanne Nossel who was a former US State Dept official whose task was to discredit the Goldstone Report which charged Israel with war crimes against Palestinians. She was also Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Affairs under Hillary Clinton. Her mission is to turn US HR organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive wa and to support imperialism. She joins a list of other power women “humanitarian interventionists” who include Samantha Power and Susan Rice. Suzanne also represented US at the UN Human Rights Council declaring that “top of our list is our defense of Israel, and Israel’s right to fair treatment at the Human Rights Council”. While with Amnesty she ran billboards on bus stops “Human Rights for Women and Girls in Afghanistan-NATO: Keep the Progress Going” urging Democrats to stay in Iraq and she openly supports armed intervention in Libya and Syria and has called for a military strike against Iran.

Why would Amnesty International and HRW include as their head a person advocating War as a Smart Power – an organization that claims to be unbiased?

So, HRW with such a decorative “ethics” record is now claiming Sri Lanka’s decision to have a Code of Ethics for media tantamount to gagging the press. HRW says little or nothing of how gagged the US press now is and ignores commentary on the inquiry (Judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British Press following the Murdock phone hacking scandal) into UK media ethics by Lord Leveson which has exposed excruciating details how tabloid reporters and their sidekicks bullied, stole and cheated with impunity, while their bosses hobnobbed with police officers and politicians – yes, this is not Sri Lanka or a Third World nation but the mighty UK.

If William Hague can tell the British public there is nothing for them to worry about following the US NSA scandal why is HRW so upbeat about the Code of Ethics for Media in Sri Lanka given that such exists in other nations too?