Human Rights, Investigations, Reports, Etc.

by Nathan Hamm on 1/17/2005 · 2 comments

Human Rights Watch begins its announcement of its 2005 world report with the following curious statement:

The worldwide system for protecting human rights was significantly weakened in 2004 by the crisis in Darfur and the Abu Ghraib scandal, Human Rights Watch said in releasing its annual world survey today.

And with that, I’m done. There was/is a “worldwide system for protecting human rights?” Could’ve fooled me. Anyone want to tell me where I can find it? I have a few complaints to file about certain members of the human rights community mucking things up with their self-satisfied posturing. If this system is what I think it is though, it’d probably just go into the complaint book and stay there.

Long-time readers know I have little regard for Human Rights Watch, the bitching and whining youngest child of the human rights community. There’s a strong need for organizations that expose bad behavior of governments and keep attention on human rights crises. It’s just that moral equivalence and hyperbole aren’t the way to do it (jumping to conclusions and only weakly admitting error aren’t admirable either).

If you want comments on what’s in HRW’s report, see Publius Pundit or The Diplomad.

Thankfully there are responsible organizations picking up HRW’s slack out there by getting the job done rather than demanding attention.

Freedom House largely overlaps HRW’s supposed mission. In fact, go to their front page and you’ll see Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan issues right up top. Freedom House is, of course, well known for their annual surveys of human rights, which are the most honest appraisals of the state of human rights across the world.

FH has called for and produced an outside inquiry into a suspicious death at Navoi’s prison. Compare their language, which praises past positive steps, with HRW’s strident, combative tone. Remember, this is about improving the situation and not a contest to see who can produce the most fiery press releases.

HRW wisely hasn’t said a thing about the current case. They got it wrong last time, and they apologized in a bizaare way.

In the current case, the autopsy again showed the prisoner did not die at the hands of the police. Now, there certainly are questions to be asked about which cases Uzbekistan allows to be investigated, and this should be in no way interpreted to mean that Uzbekistan is clean. But, it’s not as bad as HRW would have you believe, and irresponsible accusations destroy the trust that groups like Freedom House try to build.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 2 comments }

tom January 17, 2005 at 7:57 pm

Maybe that’s a reference to the loose legal framework that supposedly memorialized international human rights.

Whatever HRW meant, I don’t have a lot of respect for them either.

Nathan Hamm January 17, 2005 at 10:13 pm

You’re most certainly correct. I think it’s kind of irresponsible language because it’s vague and suggestive of something that doesn’t exist to the layman. But, I guess that’s kind of why they’d say it.

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