The UK prime minister doesn’t like human rights. He has said so many times. He concentrates his attack on the backlog of cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). That is a funding issue. He criticises the ECHR for concentrating on ‘small’ issues, without citing where he would draw the line. He has long argued that the ECHR imposes laws on the UK which the latter could well do without and amounts to an extra layer of law already embedded in the UK law. He plays a dangerous game in Europe. One of his first actions was to pull his party out of the political bloc in the European Parliament normally populated by right of centre parties like his and join one dominated by the far right. He has banged the anti-European drum so hard and so often that he is simply not listened to anymore on the continent.
Human Rights law has been a crowning achievement of the post war European project. It has created a set of values which Europeans hold in common. It defines what it is to be European. Countries which don’t subscribe to these rights are not allowed to join the European Union. Fundamentally, David Cameron’s party of thieving Tory bastards do not like the European Union because they do not like working with international partners.
Earlier this month it became clear that the UK coalition government intended to frustrate a proper enquiry into the facts surrounding the UK’s involvement in the controversial detainee rendition program led by the US. This program involved prisoners being removed from jurisdictions where their human rights were protected by law to those where they were not. Much information has come to light about the rendition program because populations in the countries to which some of these prisoners were rendered have overthrown the military dictators which formerly ruled them. These dictators often had US and UK support. On 6th January 2012, 17 Human Rights experts sent an open letter to David Cameron pointing out the deficiencies in the Detainees Inquiry. The group of experts – which includes UN mandate-holders, two former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, leading academics in international law and directors of human rights organisations – has urged the government to remedy key shortcomings in the way the Inquiry will operate to ensure an effective and transparent process in which victims can meaningfully participate.
This letter coincided with an announcement that Abdul Hakim Belhadj, Head of the Tripoli Military Council, was not willing to give evidence to the Inquiry about the UK’s alleged involvement in his rendition to Libya where he faced years of torture in detention. When Mr Belhadj announced last month that he was taking legal action, the UK government responded by stating that the Inquiry would “consider allegations of UK involvement in rendition to Libya as part of its work”. Mr Belhadj is the latest in a long list of survivors to refuse to participate in the Inquiry – striking a further blow to its credibility.
The group of human rights experts argued that fixing serious problems with the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference and Protocol is essential “if the government is to demonstrate it is serious in what it says about restoring moral leadership and preventing the reoccurrence of abuses that continue to stain Britain’s reputation.” These flaws include the government reserving for itself the final say on what material is published, rather than an independent mechanism.
In its current form, the Inquiry will allow no opportunity for survivors or their representatives to cross examine or otherwise test evidence from members of the UK security services, almost all of which will be given secretly. The group of human rights experts said: “Those who were subject to torture, rendition or illegal detention and the groups who documented these abuses should surely have the opportunity to challenge the official version of events and those responsible for policy and its implementation.”
The established news media laps up the press releases from the thieving Tory bastards about David Cameron’s glib criticisms of the ECHR but the real story is elsewhere. They want to steal away our human rights. That might not seem too important to much of middle England but it is of desperate importance still in much of Europe and the countries around the southern belly of Europe. Like all other leaders in democratic countries, David Cameron knows that his term of office is short lived. He’s determined to undermine Human Rights law as far as possible during his time in the top job because he sticks up for his friends in the arms trade. Immediately after the Egyptian uprising, he was on the plane to Cairo to sell arms to the Egyptian Army!
Ask yourself this: who do you trust to safeguard the rights of the world’s poor? David Cameron or Human Rights campaigners? Human Rights Watch is an exemplary example of the latter.
“It is with great regret that we receive these allegations from Human Rights Watch especially without given us the opportunity to respond before the publication. We refute these allegations and the government is willing to meet with Human Rights Watch officials to discuss their concerns.
-Abdirahman Omar Osman, the Somali government spokesman, August 16, 2011(In response to the report, “You Don’t Know Who To Blame”: War Crimes in Somalia)
“AMBASSADOR RICE: From what we can tell–and, as you know, the journalists are banned and…
MR. GREGORY: Right.
AMBASSADOR RICE: …and we are relying on reports from Human Rights Watch and other observers–there has been less violence, very little so far in Tripoli, although that may be changing. In Benghazi, in, in the coastal areas, we’re very concerned about reports of security forces firing on peaceful protesters.”
-Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Meet the Press, February 20, 2011(commenting on the situation in Libya at the start of its ongoing revolution)
“La organización no gubernamental Human Rights Watch (HRW) se ha convertido en el vocero internacional de la contrarrevolución venezolana y en un arma ideológica del imperio norteamericano.”
-Jesús Faría, diputado a la Asamblea Nacional (AN) por el Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), Globovision.
Translation: ” The Non-Governmental Organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has become the international spokesperson of the Venezuelan counter-revolution and an ideological weapon of the north American empire.”
“This is a report by some highly frustrated and self-appointed kingmaker institution in the U.S. Just because what they dreamt of in Ethiopia didn’t take place, they are doing whatever they can to tarnish the image of the country.”
- Government Communications Minister Bereket Simon, Voice of America, October 21, 2010.
(In response to the report, Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia)
Video Response: Ethiopian Government Attacks Human Rights Report on Election 2010
- Communication Affairs Office, YouTube, May 25, 2010.
(Commenting on the news release, Ethiopia: Government Repression Undermines Poll)
“haven’t spent a lot of time on human rights watch website, but i plan to start. they’re covering really important issues. http://www.hrw.org/ @hrw”.
- Twitter Follower www.twitter.com/ktdilley, August 12, 2010.
“Human Rights Watch is to be commended. It does not have one standard for Israel and another for Hamas, Hezbollah or the other despotic regimes of the Arab world.”
- Richard Cohen, Op-Ed columnist, The Washington Post, July 9, 2009.
(Commenting on the report, Under Cover of War: Hamas Political Violence in Gaza)
“Human Rights Watch (HRW) is at our throat again. This time, the New York-based group has moved on from bashing Dubai, which it did for the past three years, to Abu Dhabi, accusing the emirate’s leading tourism developer of ‘exploiting’ workers who are involved in the building of the Saadiyat Island’s cultural projects.”
- Gulf News Editorial, gulfnews.com, May 19, 2009.
(In response to the report, “The Island of Happiness”: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi)
“In its persistent desire to attack Sri Lanka to achieve the goals that the LTTE and its foreign supporters failed through the use of arms… HRW and similar groups do not bother to do any homework to know the facts of the situation in the IDP relief villages in Vavuniya. It is a Goebbelsian approach to anti-Sri Lanka propaganda. Repeat lies about the country, its Government and its people as often and as long as possible to make the world believe it is the truth.”
- Lucien Rajakarunanayake, Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence website, August 24, 2009.
(In response to the news release, Sri Lanka: Floods Threaten Camp Detainees)
“The government of Guinea refuses to bow to the blackmail of NGOs that are trying to establish contacts with the government to set up hidden contracts to try to clean up their image, as is the case with the famous Human Rights Watch, whose agents have spent years pulling from their sleeves information that lacks all transparency and objectivity. So some agents of this organization have spent years trying to get the government of Guinea to buy its services in exchange for ending this disinformation campaign. The government of Guinea is not for sale. Human Ritch Wath [sic] start cleaning your house because of the financial setbacks of the global crisis provoked by your financial and business institutions.”
- Miguel Oyono, head of the information office at the presidential office, The New York Times, July 9, 2009.
(In response to the report, Well Oiled: Oil and Human Rights in Equatorial Guinea)
“American organizations, including HRW, have no credibility. Let them go check the violations undertaken by the previous administration from Guantanamo to the flying prisons to the violations of human rights in Gaza before they talk about other countries.”
- Syrian cabinet minister, The Washington Post, February 25, 2009.
(The Post reporter noted: “Human Rights Watch has issued numerous reports, statements and letters on those subjects.”)
More than 100 Experts question Human Rights Watch’s Venezuela report, A Decade Under Chavez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela,” saying it “does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility.”
- Various authors, North American Congress on Latin America, December 17, 2008.
Human Rights Watch wrote in response: After a careful review, we have found that the allegations in your letter do not stand up to scrutiny. The issues covered in our report have been thoroughly researched and the substantive findings are based on a wide range of diverse and credible sources. In seeking to prove otherwise, you have misrepresented both the substance and the source material of the report. You have criticized us for making arguments that we have not made. You have taken our words out of context (including the quotation you attribute to Mr. Vivanco) and distorted their meanings in order to make your points. Read the complete response.
Asked by the Associated Press whether Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch would be allowed to enter Zimbabwe, he said: “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Let them keep out.”
- Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, The Independent, September 26, 2008
Following the expulsion of two Human Rights Watch staff from Venezuela:
“El Gobierno ha hecho lo que tenía que hacer, informar a estas personas que han violado gravemente la constitucionalidad del país que no vamos a soportar, ni vamos a tolerar que venga ningún extranjero a tratar de mancillar la dignidad de nuestra República, la dignidad de nuestro pueblo y de nuestras instituciones”
- Nicolás Maduro, September 19, 2008
Translation: “The Government [of Venezuela] has done what it had to do, informed these people that they gravely violated the constitutionality of the country, which we’re not going to put up with, nor will we tolerate if any foreigner comes to try and sully the dignity of our Republic, the dignity of our people and our institutions.”
Ingushetia’s government-appointed human rights ombudsman called the work of Human Rights Watch and other rights groups “fascist,” adding that the Human Rights Watch report was “meant to destabilize the situation.” The report documents human rights abuses committed by law enforcement and security forces in Ingushetia.
-Kerim-Sultan A. Kokurkhaev, The New York Times, June 26, 2008
“Human Rights Watch regularly produces fabricated information that fails to reflect the real situation in Vietnam. We totally reject the wrongful remarks by Human Rights Watch in its press release on March 9, 2007.”
-Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Dung, Nhan Dan, May 27, 2008.
Human Rights Watch urged Malaysia to eradicate bias from the electoral process. Malaysian Law Minister denied the allegations, accusing Human Rights Watch of trying to discredit the elections because “they know the National Front will win.”
-Malaysian Law Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz, The Boston Globe, March 5, 2008
“constructive and non-confrontational but doesn’t compromise on principles.”
-Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, January 14, 2008
“There’s more hard-hitting journalism going on in its offices than in most of the bigger newsrooms in this country.”
-Ward Harkavy, The Village Voice, October 18, 2006
A government spokesperson from Burma denied the report at a press conference yesterday, calling it “baseless information and exaggerated lies.”
-Information Deputy Director Ye Htut,AHN Media Corporation October 31, 2007
“First of all, anyone that is arguing that somehow, a very independent organization like Human Rights Watch is somehow doing the United States’ bidding need look no further than most of the reactions we’ve had to some of their other comments. They are an independent organization, they set their own agenda, and they operate on their own. ”
- Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman, State Department Press Briefing, repsonding to a question about the report, “Civilians under Assault: Hezbollah’s Rocket Attacks on Israel in the 2006 War“. August 29, 2007.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it found the latest report by Human Rights Watch on Somalia factually and morally unacceptable. The statement by the Ministry of Information said Human Rights Watch was preparing as part of a campaign to victimizing Ethiopia with one sided and falsified information.”
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia as published in The Ethiopian News Agency. August 14, 2007.
” The report of the Human Rights Watch entitled “Return to War – Human Rights under Siege” is largely tendentious, and is replete with generalizations. It refers to issues that have been largely resolved. These largely unconfirmed and unsubstantiated allegations and outdated information do not justify the demand for a special UN Observer Mission on Human Rights in Sri Lanka.”
- the Presidential Secretariat. August 7, 2007.
“Human Rights Watch regularly produces fabricated information that fails to reflect the real situation in Vietnam. We totally reject the wrongful remarks by Human Rights Watch in its press release on March 9, 2007,” said .
-Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Dung, Nhan Dan . March 23, 2007.
“The [Sri Lankan] government has repeatedly denied having any part in the Karuna group’s activities. It reiterated its position Tuesday, calling the Human Rights Watch report ‘baseless and very vile.’”
- Sri Lankan government spokesperson, International Herald Tribune. January 24, 2007.
“‘Regretfully, in spite of their observations, their eyesight has always had problems,’ a ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said. ‘Maybe they are wearing tinted glasses, or only squinting.’”
- Liu Jianchao, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, responding to the World Report 2007, International Herald Tribune. January 12, 2007.
“Now for the top story tonight, reaction from Human Rights Watch. With us now, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of that group and a stand up guy–who always comes in to debate the issues.”
-Bill O’Reilly, of “The O’Reilly Factor” on the FOX News Channel, interviewing Kenneth Roth (read transcript). November 17, 2004.
“The accusation by Human Rights Watch is a fabrication and is somewhat akin to a fish completely out of water.”
-Nguyen Dinh Thiet, director of the Children’s Department of the National Committee for Population, Family and Children, responding to a Human Rights Watch report that street children in Hanoi are arbitrarily rounded up and sent to abusive detention centers. Cited in VietNamNet Bridge, November 16, 2006.
“I have to admit being a bit confused when I was told about the presentation of the new ‘Human Rights Swatch’. I thought people were talking about that admirable NGO we all know — and which played a significant part in the effort to bring about the creation of the Human Rights Council. I’m obviously referring to Human Rights Watch.”
- Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, speaking in Geneva Switzerland June 19, 2006 HRW reports on the Human Rights Council
“In Latin America today, Human Rights Watch is in many circumstances more powerful than the Pentagon, though the Pentagon has regained some relevance in recent times. These are the facts of life, although rarely stated this way.”
- Abraham F. Lowenthal, Professor of International Relations, USC, and President Emeritus, Pacific Council on International Policy, speaking at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), Santiago, Chile, May 23, 2006 HRW reports on the Americas