Human Rights Watch Questioned Over Appointees and Views
A letter signed by two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, a former UN Assistant Secretary and over 100 other rights advocates and scholars request that the organization “institute immediate, concrete measures to strongly assert HRW’s [Human Rights Watch] independence.” In the strongly worded letter of May 14, 2014 to HRW Director Kenneth Roth, the authors listed multiple examples of former U.S. government officials being appointed to high-level HRW positions.
The letter cited numerous examples of potential conflicts of interest with HRW appointees. The letter was critical of the hiring of HRW’s Washington’s advocate director, Tom Malinowski. Malinowski had served under President Clinton as a special assistant as well as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madelyn Albright. Also, in 2013, Malinowski left HRW after he was nominated to a post under U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. The letter was critical of Malinowski’s past political position as well. In 2009, as the organization's advocacy director, Malinowski contended that there was “a legitimate place” for CIA kidnappings and the use of foreign countries to house CIA kidnapped prisoners.
In addition to Malinowski, the letter criticized the appointment of several other high-level HRW staff members. The list includes; Board of Directors' Vice Chair, Susan Manilow, “a longtime friend of Bill Clinton” and “highly involved” in fundraising for the Democratic National Committee, HRW’s Americas' advisory committee member Myles Frechette, once a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia, and Michael Shifter, a one-time Latin America director for the U.S. government-financed National Endowment for Democracy. Also, the letter was critical of the appointment of Miguel Díaz, a Central Intelligence Agency analyst during the 1990’s. Diaz was a member of HRW’s Americas' advisory committee from 2003-11. Currently employed at the State Department, Díaz serves as "an interlocutor between the intelligence community and non-government experts."
The letter criticizes the organization for being inconsistent in their human rights views and opinions and note that humans rights violations committed by the United States is often overlooked. The letter asks the organization to assert HRW’s independence and to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest that may favor U.S. policies. The letter suggest that HRW closes “what seems to be a revolving door” and “bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members.” Finally, The signatories suggest, “at a bare minimum, mandate lengthy ‘cooling-off’ periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and that arm of the government.”
Here is the letter referenced in the article:
The Corruption of Human Rights Watch
May 13, 2014
Over the years, U.S. “public diplomacy” has pulled reputable NGOs into the U.S. propaganda orbit, sometimes via funding, sometimes by creating a revolving door to government jobs, as a letter from over 100 scholars suggests happened to Human Rights Watch. Followed by HRW’s response to the criticism.
Dear Kenneth Roth [of Human Rights Watch],
Human Rights Watch characterizes itself as “one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights.” However, HRW’s close ties to the U.S. government call into question its independence.
For example, HRW’s Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2013, he left HRW after being nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under John Kerry.
In her HRW.org biography, Board of Directors’ Vice Chair Susan Manilow describes herself as “a longtime friend to Bill Clinton” who is “highly involved” in his political party, and “has hosted dozens of events” for the Democratic National Committee.
Currently, HRW Americas’ advisory committee includes Myles Frechette, a former U.S.ambassador to Colombia, and Michael Shifter, one-time Latin America director for the U.S. government-financed National Endowment for Democracy. Miguel DÃaz, a Central Intelligence Agency analyst in the 1990s, sat on HRW Americas’ advisory committee from2003–11. Now at the State Department, DÃaz serves as “an interlocutor between the intelligence community and non-government experts.”
In his capacity as an HRW advocacy director, Malinowski contended in 2009 that “under limited circumstances” there was “a legitimate place” for CIA renditions,the illegal practice of kidnapping and transferring terrorism suspects around the planet. Malinowski was quotedparaphrasing the U.S. government’s argument that designing an alternative to sending suspects to “foreign dungeons to be tortured” was “going to take some time.”
HRW has not extended similar consideration to Venezuela. In a 2012 letter to President ChÃ¡vez, HRW criticized the country’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, alleging that Venezuela had fallen “far short of acceptable standards” and questioning its “ability to serve as a credible voice on human rights.” At no point has U.S. membership in the same council merited censure from HRW, despite Washington’s secret, global assassination program, its preservation of renditions, and its illegal detention of individuals at GuantÃ¡namo Bay.
Likewise, in February 2013, HRW correctly described as “unlawful” Syria’s use of missiles in its civil war. However, HRW remained silent on the clear violation of international law constituted by the U.S. threat of missile strikes on Syria in August.
The few examples above, limited to only recent history, might be forgiven as inconsistencies or oversights that could naturally occur in any large, busy organization. But HRW’s close relationships with the U.S. government suffuse such instances with the appearance of a conflict of interest.
We therefore encourage you to institute immediate, concrete measures to strongly assert HRW’s independence. Closing what seems to be a revolving door would be a reasonable first step: Bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members. At a bare minimum, mandate lengthy “cooling-off” periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and that arm of the government.
Your largest donor, investor George Soros, argued in 2010 that “to be more effective, I think the organization has to be seen as more international, less an American organization.” We concur. We urge you to implement the aforementioned proposal to ensure a reputation for genuine independence.