INSIGHTS : Has Human Rights Watch Lost Its “Moral Compass”?

Human rights are central to the wellbeing of humans: they are the basic rights, which it is generally considered, all people should have; such as justice and the freedom to say what you think. We all need and deserve them. Anyone who has had the misfortune of being denied his human rights knows that he/she lost part of his/herself. Nothing, therefore, disappoints like watching global human rights watchdogs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) deviate from their stated mission and become tools used by groups or interests to reach their goals.

Human rights are central to the wellbeing of humans: they are the basic rights, which it is generally considered, all people should have; such as justice and the freedom to say what you think. We all need and deserve them. Anyone who has had the misfortune of being denied his human rights knows that he/she lost part of his/herself.

Nothing, therefore, disappoints like watching global human rights watchdogs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) deviate from their stated mission and become tools used by groups or interests to reach their goals.

Under the leadership of its perennial and seemingly, after 17 years in office, life Executive Director, Kenneth Roth, HRW has continued to degenerate into a mouthpiece of groups whose Human Rights  credentials are unknown.

HRW has published verbatim allegations and hate campaigns of suspected and known criminals groups hiding from justice in Rwanda.

It has based on the imaginations and ignorance of the country and its history on part of its Agents to vilify the government of Rwanda.

According to the NGO Monitoring Group, “Under Roth’s leadership, HRW’s activities have shifted towards an emphasis on reports, allegations, and campaigns that criticize democracies, rather than addressing the systematic violations of basic freedoms and human rights in closed, totalitarian societies”. 

In an article, published in The Los Angeles Times of 11th April, 2009, with a screaming headline, “The power of horror in Rwanda”, Kenneth Roth with the stereotype arrogance of an air conditioned-armchair-executive states, “There is no meaningful opposition.

The press is cowed. Nongovernmental organizations are under attack.” The article was meant to paint a picture of state sponsored anarchy and tumult in Rwanda.

Whereas sensational and inflammatory has been characteristic of Roth’s statements about the government of Rwanda, the article shows disregard for institutions and the people of Rwanda. With 10 political parties operating in the country, it is an insult to Rwandans for Roth to say that there is no “meaningful” opposition in Rwanda whatever he means by “meaningful”.

There are over twenty three newspapers and magazines, some with the audacity to publish comparing President Kagame to Hitler, attacking the private lives of individuals or asking for bribes in exchange for not publishing information; one wonders the source of Roth’s assertion that the press in Rwanda is cowed.

With dozens of NGOs operating in the country the hypocrisy of Roth’s assertion stinks to the high heavens.

Mr. Roth stated thus, “In the 15 years since the extremist government was ousted, Rwanda has become an island of stability in a volatile region. The economy is booming, the distinction between Hutu and Tutsi is officially downplayed, and ethnic and political violence has been largely eradicated... But Kagame’s strategy is short-sighted and dangerous.

He claims to be building a society in which citizens are only Rwandans, not Tutsi or Hutu… That makes it more likely that in moments of tension Rwandans will resort to their ethnic identity…” Roth should know that Rwandans are not the only people with “ethnic identity” and the identity did not determine whether one should kill others; evil leadership did.

The idea that people should identify themselves and possibly carry ethnic cards has been practiced in Rwanda and its consequences are there for all Roth and his ilk to see.

On 10th February, 2010, HRW published a report “End Attacks on Opposition Parties Intimidation of Political Opponents Increases in Advance of Presidential Election” in which characteristic of its publication on Rwanda, stated, “Opposition party members are facing increasing threats, attacks, and harassment in advance of Rwanda’s August 2010 presidential election”.

The report said that “In the past week, members of the FDU-Inkingi and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda - new opposition parties critical of government policies - have suffered serious incidents of intimidation by individuals and institutions close to the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)”.

If the HRW is not reporting basing on imagination and speculation, they are not helping in the advancing of Human Rights by not naming names to the Police to apprehend the “individuals and institutions close to the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)”.

But again one can see through the reporting of the group when it states that, “The attack appeared to have been well coordinated, suggesting it had been planned in advance” and in the case of struggling Green Party’s Frank Habineza who was “approached” by a man “who would not give his own name, asked Habineza to recruit him to the Green Party” HRW states that, “The man’s identity remains unclear, but his comments indicate that he may have close government connections”.

By making reports based on “appeared”, “suggesting” and “his comments indicate” shows the effort the group puts in its work to vilify the government.

On 20th January, 2010, HRW published its World Report 2009 - Rwanda and reported that, “According to the SNJG [National Service of Gacaca Jurisdictions], gacaca courts have decided nearly 1.6 million genocide cases since their start in 2002.

Recent cases increasingly related to government silencing of political dissent and private grievances, rather than events from 1994, led many Rwandans to flee the country to escape condemnation or perceived threats of renewed prosecution”.

HRW either lacks honesty in what it reports or by default its policy is to write and where there is nothing to write then “cook up” and report what is negative about Rwanda.

From the inception of Gacaca courts, the Organization denounced the proposal traditional Kinyarwanda community courts try suspects accused of participating in the Genocide.

With the success of the Courts and reintegration into communities of convicts who have completed their sentences and those carrying out community service and of the attendant reconciliation among the survivors and their tormentors, HRW is reporting that the courts have caused “many Rwandans to flee the country to escape condemnation or perceived threats of renewed prosecution”.

It is people and groups who are conditioned to seeing and prophesying doom  against Rwanda like HRW that opposed and scared suspects into trying to evade justice by fleeing into neighbouring countries when Gacaca courts started and now that courts have been successful they are eager to hype how the courts have made people to “flee”.      

The 2009 report went back to Mr. Kenneth Roth’s decades old project, “Rwanda strongly opposed renewed calls for prosecution of members of the now-governing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who committed crimes during the genocide... At an international conference assessing the legacy of the ICTR in July, many participants deemed the prosecutor’s decision not to indict any RPF crimes to be the Tribunal’s greatest failure” said the report.

In May 2009, the Executive Director of HRW wrote to the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR in Arusha, that, “...we write to argue you once more to prosecute crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1994...we ask that you immediately announce your intention to pursue these cases so as not to leave the Security Council with the false impression that the Tribunal’s core work at indictment level is complete.”

In an attempt to blackmail the Chief prosecutor Roth wrote that, “We strongly believe that your mandate as Chief Prosecutor will not be fulfilled until you prosecute alleged RPF crimes”.

The Chief Prosecutor of ICTR responded to Roth and by extension HRW in his detailed letter of 22 June, 2009, Ref: OTP/2009/P/084 but groups and individuals that decide contents of its reports care not about reason or the truth but their agenda.

As someone put it HRW has lost its moral compass. The zero corruption stance of the government of Rwanda should be relaxed so that its officials can invite HRW fundraisers to dinner in Kigali as was the case on May 2009 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

That way HRW might be willing to trade its negative campaign against the government of Rwanda for cash. According to Roth “that any money from Saudi Arabia is tainted because it comes from a country with a totalitarian ruling regime is a gross generalisation...The ethnic background of our donors is irrelevant to the work we do” and it would seem the morality and honesty can be thrown to the wind as long as donations come in.

Ends

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