To read the response from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, click here.

September 5, 2005


The Honourable Ms. Louise Arbour
High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


Dear Ms. Arbour,


As the editor of NGO Monitor, I am writing to you regarding questions on the reported nomination of Mr. Reed Brody to head the special procedures branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Given the importance and sensitivity of this position, it is important that the individual who is chosen is clearly seen as fair, balanced and judicious.

 In this connection, we have substantial concerns based on Mr. Brody’s record as advocacy director and legal counsel for Human Rights Watch for many years, and his role in the political advocacy activities of this NGO.

 Mr. Brody headed HRW’s delegation to the NGO session of the 2001 Durban World Conference on Racism and Xenophobia (WCAR), which was widely recognized as having been extremely destructive to universal human rights norms. A number of participants, including Congressman Tom Lantos and Prof. Anne Bayefsky have written very critically about Mr. Brody’s role. Referring to the NGO document that “branded Israel a ‘racist apartheid state’ guilty of ‘genocide’ and called for an end to its ‘racist crimes’ against Palestinians”, and the call for " an international war crimes tribunal to try Israeli citizens”, Congressman Lantos wrote, “What is perhaps most disturbing about the NGO community’s actions is that many of America’s top human rights leaders — [including] Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch …participated. Although most of them denounced the NGO document that was adopted, it was surprising how reluctant they were to attack the anti-Semitic atmosphere ….”[1] Rebuttals that seek to portray the WCAR as “far more successful and important” than presented in Mr. Lantos’ report do so by belittling the impact of the anti-Semitism.[2]

 Similarly, Prof. Bayefsy has documented Mr. Brody’s active role in preventing free speech and open debate in the NGO forum. “As we arrived at our meeting, the chief Durban representative of Human Rights Watch, advocacy director Reed Brody, publicly announced that as a representative of a Jewish group I was unwelcome and could not attend. The views of a Jewish organization, he explained, would not be objective and the decision on how to vote had to be taken in our absence. Not a single one of the other international NGOs objected.”[3] Although HRW and Mr. Brody later attempted to disassociate themselves from the attacks on in the conference proceedings, they have not disputed the accuracy of this report.

 Mr. Brody’s personal ideological agenda, which stands in contrast to the norm of universal human rights, is also reflected in HRW’s record. NGO Monitor’s detailed study of HRW’s allocation of resources regarding Middle East issues shows that between 2001 and 2004, HRW issued a highly disproportionate number of condemnations of Israeli responses to terror. During that period, 45 percent (weighted) of the reports and advocacy activities in the entire Middle East were directed against . [4]

In this context, we note that Human Rights Watch recently criticized the disproportionately one-sided condemnation of and politicization of human rights rhetoric in the UNCHR: “Every year the Commission on Human Rights adopts several resolutions condemning for abuses against Palestinians. … However, the Commission traditionally neglects or downplays abuses by Palestinian armed groups. That selectivity should end.” In contrast, this organization’s own contribution to such damaging distortions of universality in human rights, in which Reed Brody has played a central part, has not yet been acknowledged.

We also note Mr. Brody’s active role in the highly politicized effort to bring Prime Minister Sharon to trial in . His advocacy included opinion columns that presented a partial and distorted history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and of the events in . For example, in the International Herald Tribune, Brody claimed that " has refused to act", ignoring the very detailed judicial inquiry, and its recommendations. [5] In other publications, he has asserted that “ has committed serious crimes against the Palestinian people”, erasing the history of warfare and terrorism. [6] These are not the words of a judicious adjudicator, but instead reflect the same unbalanced approach expressed in Durban .

 Thus, in weighing Mr. Brody’s candidacy, it is important to consider this and other evidence of intense bias. At a time when the UN, in general, and the UNCHR in particular, seek to end the exploitation of human rights norms in the pursuit of political agendas, the appointment of Reed Brody raises many questions. In light of Mr. Brody’s record, we urge that the process be opened for public discussion and consideration.





Prof. Gerald Steinberg
Editor, NGO Monitor
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Tel Hai 13, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: 00972-2-5619281



[1] Tom Lantos, “The Durban Debacle: An Insider’s View of the World Racism Conference at Durban”, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Volume 26.1, Winter/Spring 2002
[2] Gay McDougall, "The World Conference against Racism: Through a Wider Lens"; and Jerry V. Leaphart, “The World Conference against Racism: What Was Really Achieved”, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Volume 26.2, Summer/Fall 2002
[3] Anne Bayefsky, "Human Rights Watch coverup", Jerusalem Post, Apr. 13, 2004
[4] “Israel/Occupied Territories: Human Rights Concerns for the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights”, Human Rights Watch, March 10, 2005.
[5] Reed Brody, “Sharon in 1982: An unfinished assignment for Israelis”, International Herald Tribune, February 21, 2003
[6] Reed Brody, Letter to the editor, Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2004