HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (HRW)
“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.” (HRW Website, http://www.hrw.org/about/, accessed on 14 May 2008).
Human Rights Watch is a non-governmental international human rights monitoring and advocacy organisation based in New York. It was founded as “Helsinki Watch” in 1978 “to monitor the compliance of Soviet bloc countries with the human rights provisions of the” 1975 Helsinki Accords. In the 1980’s, ‘Americas Watch’ was set up as another committee to report on human rights abuses in Central America. “The organization grew to cover other regions of the world, until all the ‘Watch’ committees were united in 1988 to form Human Rights Watch.” HRW currently counts over 240 employees recruited among “lawyers, journalists, academics, and country experts of many nationalities and diverse backgrounds” (HRW Website, http://www.hrw.org/about/whoweare.html, accessed on 14 May 2008).
Governments and non-state actors in the respective countries; intergovernmental organisations such as the UN and the EU; foreign governments (especially the US government); local and international media; concerned individuals; academia and libraries (HRW Website, http://hrw.org/research/aboutpub.htm, accessed on 21 May 2008).
“Human Rights Watch’s principal advocacy strategy is to shame offenders by generating press attention and to exert diplomatic and economic pressure on them by enlisting influential governments and institutions.” (HRW Website, http://www.hrw.org/about/faq/, accessed on 9 June 2008).
Human Rights Watch conducts fact-finding investigations and publishes its findings in books and reports (which include policy recommendations), seeking to generate coverage in local and international media. By making human rights abuses public on an international scale, HRW seeks to embarrass the governments in question. Human Rights Watch representatives then meet with UN, EU and national government officials to urge changes in policy and practice. This includes pressing for withdrawal of military and economic support from governments that violate human rights (HRW Website, http://www.hrw.org/about/whoweare.html, accessed on 14 May 2008).
HRW states that it accepts no funding from governments or government-funded agencies. The majority of funds comes from private individuals and foundations worldwide. A smaller part of its funds are raised through special events, publication sales and investment (HRW Financial Statements 2007, http://www.hrw.org/annual-report/finStmt2007.pdf, accessed on 14 May 2008).
Scope of reporting:
Geographic focus: All countries worldwide. HRW currently covers more than 70 countries, including most countries of origin of asylum seekers. Africa and the CIS are best represented in terms of in-country presence and funding (HRW Financial Statements 2007, http://www.hrw.org/annual-report/finStmt2007.pdf, accessed on 14 May 2008).
Thematic focus: While HRW reports on emergencies as they arise and will typically report on major human rights issues and abuses in conflicts worldwide, in recent years campaigns and thematic priorities have included women’s rights, children’s rights, child soldiers, refugees, prisons, racism, caste discrimination, sexual orientation, academic freedom, religious freedom, human rights defenders and HIV/AIDS (ACCORD: Researching Country of Origin Information – A Training Manual, 2004 (updated April 2006), Annex, p.11-12, http://www.coi-training.net/content/doc/en-COI%20Manual%20Part%20I%20plus%20Annex%2020060426.pdf, accessed on 15 May 2008)
Apart from its New York headquarters, HRW maintains offices in Brussels, Bujumbura, Freetown (Sierra Leone), Kigali, Geneva, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, San Francisco, Santiago de Chile, Tashkent, Tbilisi, Toronto, and Washington. According to HRW, frequently temporary offices are set up in regions where in-depth investigations are conducted. Researchers regularly travel to the countries in question, unless this is prevented by security concerns.
When selecting cases to investigate, HRW considers “the severity of abuses, the number of people affected, and the possibility for impact.” The researchers’ ability “to obtain current and accurate information” is taken into account (HRW website, http://www.hrw.org/about/faq/, accessed on 9 June 2008).
Fact-finding-investigations are carried out “usually in close partnership with human rights activists in the country in question” (Kenneth Roth, Despots Masquerading as Democrats, In: HRW World Report 2008, p. 23: http://hrw.org/wr2k8/pdfs/wr2k8_web.pdf, accessed on 15 May 2008). Researchers conduct interviews with people who have either experienced or witnessed human rights violations. These include journalists, workers, activists, police officers, representatives from local and international NGOs and the UN. HRW seeks to conduct interviews on a one-to-one basis or with small groups. Interviews are conducted in the local language without interpreters (see also “Methodology” chapters in some of the recent reports available at http://hrw.org/doc/?t=pubs, accessed on 15 May 2008). In cases “[…] where a country mission is not possible […]”, information is gathered “by interviewing refugees, exiles and other sources considered reliable by HRW” (ACCORD: Researching Country of Origin Information - A Training Manual, 2004 (updated April 2006), Annex, p. 11-12: http://www.coi-training.net/content/doc/en-COI%20Manual%20Part%20I%20plus%20Annex%2020060426.pdf, accessed on 15 May 2008).
The reports contain descriptions of human rights violations, analysis as to their causes, and policy recommendations addressing the government of concern, foreign governments, and intergovernmental organisations (HRW Website, http://hrw.org/research/aboutpub.htm, accessed on 14 May 2008).
The annual HRW World Report is published in late December/early January for the previous year. It covers events up to approximately November of the reporting period.
Ad hoc reports, briefings and news releases are published frequently, but without a fixed publication cycle (at least 2-3 times per week).
English. Often translations in other languages are available: French, German, Russian (for the CIS-region), Spanish (for Spanish-language countries), and, less frequently, Arabic, Chinese and other languages.
Apart from English, versions of the HRW’s website are available in the following languages (but might not contain all documents available): Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Chinese, Dari, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish.
Navigation of website:
Publications on countries (including news releases, briefings, letters, articles and reports) can be accessed via the homepage by selecting “Info by Country” on the left-hand menu bar. This leads to a list of countries from which to select the country in question.
Global Issues on the menu bar gives access to information sorted by issues (eg arms, children’s rights, refugees)
Reports can specifically be accessed through “Publications” on the homepage menu bar. There, reports can be searched by “Country”, “Region”, or “Theme”.
HRW World Reports are also accessible via the “Publications” page. They are listed on the right-hand menu bar under the heading “Other Resources”.
ZNet: Human Rights Watch in Service to the War Party: Including A Review of “Weighing the Evidence: Lessons from the Slobodan Milosevic Trial” (Authors: Edward S. Herman, David Peterson, George Szamuely), 25 February 2007 (as published on Prof. Marc Herold's Website, University of New Hampshire)
http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mwherold/Herman_Peterson_Szmaely2007.pdf (accessed on 21 May 2008)