Source description last updated: 18 August 2020

In brief: Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organisation, headquartered in New York City, which seeks to protect human rights worldwide.

Coverage on

Reports and press releases

Covered monthly on, for countries of priorities A, B and C (annual report (“World Report”) also for D and E)


“Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide. We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice.” (HRW website: About Our Research, undated)

“Human Rights Watch investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world. We are roughly 450 people […] who are country experts, lawyers, journalists, and others who work to protect the most at risk, from vulnerable minorities and civilians in wartime, to refugees and children in need. We direct our advocacy towards governments, armed groups and businesses, pushing them to change or enforce their laws, policies and practices. […]

Our researchers work in the field in 100 some countries, uncovering facts that create [a] […] record of human rights abuses.” (HRW website: About Us, undated)

“We publish our findings in more than 100 reports and hundreds of news releases each year.” (HRW website: Frequently Asked Questions, undated)


“We are a fully independent non-governmental organization, supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. In order to maintain our independence, we accept no money from any government, directly or indirectly.” (HRW website: Frequently Asked Questions, undated)

Scope of reporting:

Geographic focus: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe & Central Asia, and Middle East & North Africa

Thematic focus: arms; business & human rights; children's rights; disability rights; environmental health rights; terrorism & counterterrorism; health & human rights; international justice; LGBT rights; refugee rights; women's rights


“Human Rights Watch researchers rely heavily on communication with a network of contacts from the outset, and throughout all stages of research. […] In addition to preliminary communication with contacts, researchers will conduct extensive background research before beginning witness or victim interviews. […]

Human Rights Watch researchers conduct interviews when investigating reported human rights abuses in order to understand accurately what occurred. Human Rights Watch seeks to interview those directly involved with the abuses: victims and witnesses. […]

Human Rights Watch researchers often begin their research by interviewing those with direct knowledge of the rights violations that have occurred or of the relevant issues. This includes local human rights organizations and activists and members of local civil society. These initial discussions help Human Rights Watch researchers identify and locate victims and witnesses to interview. Aside from initial background discussions, our researchers will also interview a range of individuals such as representatives from local and international nongovernmental organizations, UN representatives, journalists, doctors and medical experts, lawyers and legal experts, community leaders, law enforcement officials, diplomats, and civil society leaders in order to corroborate information from witnesses and victims, and to better understand the social, political, and cultural contexts of the situation Human Rights Watch is reporting.

In addition to victims and witnesses, Human Rights Watch always attempts to contact government officials, military leaders, rebel or militia groups, or any other accused perpetrators of abuses in order to receive information, explanations and accounts of incidents, and to communicate our concerns. In many instances, requests for such interviews have been refused or have gone unanswered, however. […]

Some of the most commonly employed techniques used for interviewing witnesses and victims are to conduct interviews in private settings, one-on-one with the researcher, and to focus the interview on the details of what occurred. […]

Interviews are always conducted in a language in which the interviewee is fluent (usually the interviewee's first or native language). In most cases, the Human Rights Watch researcher is fluent in the language of the interview. […]

Interviews are always conducted in-person when possible. On the occasion where it is absolutely impossible to conduct an in-person interview, Human Rights Watch researchers have conducted interviews with witnesses or victims via telephone and other modes of communication.”

Besides interviews, researchers conduct “extensive reviews of media reports, domestic legislation, international law, policy papers, academic reports, and civil society reports during the initial stages of, and throughout, the research process. Trial materials, government reports, conviction and sentencing materials are all often used to make cases in Human Rights Watch reporting. Data collected from sources such as the UN, regional intergovernmental bodies, and domestic government agencies are also often analyzed to prove the existence and extent of human rights abuses. […]

Human Rights Watch researchers have used forensic tools to document human rights violations. Researchers have photographed bodies for injuries and scars, documented locations of destruction, documented spent ammunition casings, and measured and analyzed craters due to explosions. Human Rights Watch has also used GPS coordinates and satellite imagery to visually expose the locations of rights abuses.” (HRW website: About Our Research, undated)

Languages of publication:

Publications are produced in English but may be translated into Arabic, French, and Spanish and to a lesser extent into Chinese, German, Japanese, and Russian.

Further reading / links:

Time: China Refutes Human Rights Report, Insists the Country's Record 'Is at Its Historical Best', 15 January 2020

The Nation: Is Human Rights Watch Too Closely Aligned With US Foreign Policy?, 23 September 2016

HRW – Human Rights Watch: Why We Report on 'Open' Societies, 20 October 2009

HRW – Human Rights Watch: Frequently Asked Questions, undated

Welch, Claude E., Jr. [ed.]: NGOs and Human Rights: Promise and Performance [chapters 3 & 4], 2001


All links accessed 18 August 2020.