A few weeks ago Human Rights Watch made news when it was revealed in the Wall Street Journal that the group had sent representatives to Saudi Arabia to tout HRW’s battles with “pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations” as part of a fund-raising pitch to wealthy Saudi donors, including one member of the royal family’s Shura council.
The deputy director of HRW’s Middle East section, Joe Stork, has a long history of doing battle with pro-Israel groups of all kinds. As this magazine pointed out at the time, Stork “attended a conference on ‘Zionism and Racism’ in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
There he made a presentation that lamented the ‘devastating defeat’ of the Six Day War, which he attributed to ‘imperialist collusion that lay behind the Israeli blitzkrieg.’ A decade later, Stork was still railing against ‘the pernicious influence of the Zionist lobby.’”
Well, apparently that was only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Israeli paper Ma’ariv (via Commentary’s Noah Pollak), Stork once praised the “achievement” that was the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972:
“Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement,” the statement said, “But we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action…It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.”
These are the words of the second in command for the Middle East section at an organization that routinely condemns Israel for violating the laws of war, as Human Rights Watch did last week when it accused Israel of targeting civilians waving white flags based on nothing more than the testimony of a few Palestinian “witnesses.”
The IDF shot back with video showing a Hamas terrorist planting a roadside bomb before trying to flee Israeli forces disguised as a white flag-waving civilian. There is a pattern here -- biased staffers with radical views making allegations without any evidence and paying no price for doing it.
And it’s a pattern that is being played out in other parts of the world where HRW maintains a presence.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is now going after the (UN’s) International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for not prosecuting enough members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the forces of President Kagame that drove the genocidaires out of Rwanda and into Congo back in 1994.
In a press release, HRW’s Ken Roth effectively accused the ICTR of being complicit in a “political whitewash and a miscarriage of justice.”
For its part, the Tribunal, through Hassan Jallow (its chief prosecutor and undersecretary general of the UN) is firing back...big time, saying that (surprise!) HRW has failed to produce any evidence to support its allegations. (You can read the letter, which came in response to a previous HRW allegation using the same language, here.)
HRW’s shoot before aiming approach seems to be part of a pattern. Earlier this year, the group publicly defended a professor at Goucher College in Maryland who stands accused of genocide and war crimes (including murder and extermination).
He has an Interpol Red Notice on his head, and yet, in February HRW told the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, and anyone else who would listen that the charges against Munyakazi were bogus.
What they didn’t mention to those outlets is that HRW has never investigated the case. Within days of HRW coming to his defense, Homeland Security arrested Munyakazi, and he now has the distinction of being perhaps the only professor in America to live in university housing while wearing an ankle bracelet and being under indictment for genocide and war crimes.
Here you have a group (HRW) that claims to be at the forefront of global efforts to end impunity and stop war crimes that is attacking a UN tribunal which has spent well over a decade working to end impunity and bring justice to the victims of the Rwandan genocide.
The Tribunal is not buying HRW’s efforts to peddle its own (insane) historical narrative: that all parties in 1994 engaged in war crimes and are to some degree equally culpable.
HRW claims that the RPF killed 25,000 to 45,000 people. It’s a claim that the UN tribunal, for one, does not seem to agree is rooted in fact and does not take into account: (a) the reality on the ground -- that Kagame and his forces (the RPF) were trying to root out a civilian militia (the interahamwe) that was fully integrated into the local population and weren’t exactly wearing uniforms; (b) the fact that the interahamwe and the then-Rwandan Army (known as the FAR), killed 800,000-1,000,000 people by comparison; and (c) that in the handful of cases where RPF soldiers did step out of line, they were prosecuted -- to the satisfaction of the UN Tribunal no less.
But as is the case with HRW’s activity in the Middle East, the group’s statements and reports appear to be driven almost entirely by the ideology and politics of its staff -- and the need to do damage control.
Earlier this month HRW finally released a report on the the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas against Israeli citizens. The report concludes that these attacks were “unlawful.” Did it take HRW six months to reach that conclusion, or did the group simply feel the need to show just a little even-handedness after the Saudi fundraising story had become such an embarrassment for the organization?
Just remember -- an organization that criticizes the American government for violations of international law has among its senior staff a man who celebrated the “achievement” of murdering eleven Jews on the Olympic stage.
The Rwandans, the Israelis, and our own government officials might be forgiven for thinking that Human Rights Watch ought to get its own house in order before pointing the finger at democratically elected officials who are trying to make the best of bad situations.
This article appeared on weeklystandard.com