Summary: Human Rights Watch continues to demonstrate a wider Middle East agenda. Its reports extend beyond a politicized focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, to include human rights abuses in non-democratic regimes in the region. However, unsubstantiated political attacks on Israel are continuing, as shown in the following summary.
As Tunisia hosted the UN World Summit on the Information Society, HRW called attention to “the repression of Internet users in the Middle East and North Africa” with a new report entitled “False Freedom: Online Censorship in the Middle East and North Africa”. “Human Rights Watch found that. …..[i]n Tunisia, the government has detained critical online writers and has blocked Web sites that publish reports of human rights abuses in the country.”
In the last month, HRW issued a number of press releases condemning government actions that infringe upon human rights in a number of Middle Eastern countries. Following the public hanging of two men on charges of homosexual conduct, “Human Rights Watch called upon the Iranian government to decriminalize homosexuality and reminded Iran of its obligations under…the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party.” HRW also focused on education in Saudi Arabia after a teacher was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment and a public flogging of 750 lashes for “endorsing allegedly un-Islamic sexual, social and religious practices.” (“Saudi Arabia: Teachers Silenced on Blasphemy Charges”) HRW further called for the abolition of the Jordanian Press Association, which, according to the NGO, effectively controls and censors the media in the kingdom. (“Jordan: Reform Proposal Would Expand Press Freedom”)
In an apparent attempt to provide political “balance” through an attack on Israeli policies, HRW also published Sarah Leah Whitson’s public “letter” to US Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton (D-NY), which repeated HRW’s allegations regarding the security barrier. The letter was based on and quoted extensively from the ICJ’s discredited "advisory opinion" (which Whitson erroneously refers to as a “finding”), and severely distorted the Israeli Supreme Court’s finding confirming the moral and legal basis for the barrier. Whitson condemned Clinton’s observation that the barrier "is not against the Palestinian people…This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism." (“Sen. Clinton: I support W. Bank fence, PA must fight terrorism”). Invoking the rhetoric of international law for political objectives, Whitson makes the unsubstantiated political claim that “the function of the wall is less for security than for facilitating the eventual annexation of territory.”