It's time to end the impunity of Human Rights Watch

HRW rails against democracies for 'violations' yet encourages these same countries to fight terror.

UN human rights council  (photo credit: Courtesy)
UN human rights council
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Seventeen blown apart shopping in Istanbul; eight children gunned down at a Jerusalem school; 58 slaughtered in front of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. These are just some examples of the terrorist atrocities that plagued the world in the past year. Yet NGO superpower Human Rights Watch, winner of this year's UN Prize for Human Rights, did not find these incidents of mass murder and violations of the most sacred of human rights, the right to life, significant enough to merit a single comment. Instead, it spends millions attacking Western democracies for doing their best to protect civil liberties and fight terror in an age where its perpetrators have no respect for human life and are driven purely by hate and religious fanaticism. HRW's website lists 38 reports attacking counterterrorism efforts around the globe, but only three on the brutal impact of terrorism on civilians. HRW released three reports in May immediately condemning Israel for the accidental death of a Reuter's cameraman whose equipment looked strikingly similar to a shoulder-fired rocket launcher. It took the organization more than two years and hundreds of suicide bombings, shootings, and missile attacks to issue a report of any significance on the Palestinian terror campaign against Israeli civilians. HRW's statement on the Mumbai massacres is entitled "India: Respect Rights in Hunt for Mumbai Conspirators," and more than half of its only two-paragraph condemnation of 9/11 (as opposed to its more than 600 pages of reports reproaching Israel for committing "war crimes" in Lebanon during its war with Hizbullah) was used to attack the Bush administration. Moreover, HRW has been an active supporter of "lawfare" against US and Israeli officials but remains silent when it comes to the genocidal incitement and terrorist machinations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Khaled Mashaal, Hassan Nasrallah, and Osama Bin Laden. MOST STRIKINGLY, as HRW rails against Israel, the US, and other democracies for their "violations of international law," their "impunity," and their "abuse of human rights," it encourages violations by these same countries of international treaties to fight terror and stop its financing. Israel, for example, is obliged under international law to "prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents." Yet, HRW lobbied on behalf of a "human rights defender" for the "right to travel" even though he was denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan for his alleged ties to the PFLP. December 2008 marks the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - enacted to remedy the "disregard and contempt for human rights" that resulted in "barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind." In the spirit of the UDHR, it is time for this hugely influential organization to stop the selective application of human rights and to take a firm stand against terrorist atrocities. Such acts of horrific violence will never come to an end so long as the perpetrators know that HRW, and other "human rights" NGOs will spend more time lobbying against the West than protesting the murder and wounding of tens of thousands simply going about their daily lives. The writer is the legal advisor of NGO Monitor and the author of NGO 'Lawfare': Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.