Summary: Human Rights Watch has announced an opening for a Project Director for Terrorism/Counterterrorism, and pledged an "enhanced commitment" on this critical issue. As NGO Monitor studies show, HRW has often erased the context of terror in its political condemnations of Israeli and policies. If this announcement is matched by changes in HRW’s approach, this could mark an important change and restoration of universal human rights norms in this NGO.
Over the past five years, Human Rights Watch has consistently removed the context of terror in its reports, press releases, and other campaign activities. This was particularly true in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict, where HRW’s condemnations of Israeli responses to terror were far stronger than statements on Palestinian terror attacks themselves, as shown in the detailed analyses published by NGO Monitor. As late as April 2002, after the Passover suicide bombings at the Park Hotel in Netanya, and other attacks, HRW clung to the false moral distinction that focused on state (Israeli) rather than non-state (terror group) activity. The report on Palestinian terrorism issued in October 2002 marked an important, but one-time departure. Since then, HRW’s attempt to erase terrorism from the assessment of human rights issues, including condemnations of American policy following 9/11, has continued.
However, HRW’s recently announced the creation of a Project Director for Terrorism/Counterterrorism (T/CT), which appears to reflect an important change in this approach. This announcement belatedly acknowledges that "Contemporary terrorism and government responses to it pose a major threat to human rights values and, as a consequence, are major priorities for HRW," and pledges an "enhanced commitment" to this core issue. While falling short of an independent public editor, as urged by NGO Monitor, this could be an important step towards restoring the primacy of human rights norms on HRW’s agenda.
NGO Monitor calls on HRW to conduct the employment process with transparency, and to exclude political and ideological preferences in filling this important position.
The text of the HRW announcement follows.
F/T Position Available:
Terrorism/Counterterrorism Project Director (New York Office preferred) Apply Immediately Please note that interviews will be held in September.
Since its founding in 1978, Human Rights Watch has become the largest U.S.-based international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization, known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies of the U.S., other influential governments, and international institutions.
Contemporary terrorism and government responses to it pose a major threat to human rights values and, as a consequence, are major priorities for HRW. The Terrorism/Counterterrorism (T/CT) Project Director, a new position reflecting HRW’s enhanced commitment to such work, will provide strategic direction for HRW’s global T/CT research and advocacy, working with regional and thematic program directors to identify medium- to long-term priorities for the organization. S/he will also serve as an important spokesperson for the organization on T/CT issues in interviews, meetings with officials, and through written products such as targeted briefing papers and op-eds.
Other responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
Supervising the work of the dedicated T/CT Project researcher, and coordinating HRW-wide research and advocacy on T/CT themes (including the work of HRW’s thematic and regional programs). Because staffing is thin, the director will need to be closely involved with ongoing research projects and from time to time may need to undertake primary research himself or herself.
Crafting sophisticated policy recommendations based on knowledge of human rights principles, national security considerations, and trends emanating from the burgeoning global counterterrorism/security field. The director will work with other HRW programs and with HRW’s Legal & Policy Office to proactively identify issues of concern and develop policy positions for HRW.
Projecting HRW’s message globally in a way that shapes T/CT debates, including through timely, strategic press work and advocacy efforts that exert pressure on influential policymakers. The director will coordinate closely with relevant divisional and core advocates to divide up tasks and make best use of existing HRW strengths.
Overseeing and strengthening collaborative relationships with other organizations working on T/CT issues and conducting outreach to potential new allies. The T/CT Project Director will report to the Program Director of HRW and preferably will be based in HRW’s New York office.
The successful candidate will be scrupulously objective, and be able to address highly-public issues without prejudice or favor in contexts that are often highly charged politically. The person in this position must be comfortable working under intense public scrutiny, flexible, and able to respond quickly to crises and conflicts as they may occur. The successful applicant will have a demonstrated commitment to promoting international human rights; analytical and strategic planning skills of the highest quality; sound knowledge of international law applicable to terrorism and counterterrorism, including, but not limited to, international humanitarian law and international human rights law; substantial experience working on terrorism or security-related issues; proven ability to advocate effectively at all levels; demonstrated ability to draw media attention to an issue; and exceptionally strong research, analytical, writing, and speaking skills. Applicants should have at least five, preferably ten or more, years of directly relevant prior experience in international human rights, T/CT, or related fields. An advanced degree and fluency in English is required; foreign language skills highly desirable. The T/CT Project Director must be able to work in a demanding, fast-paced environment, juggle multiple tasks, and work collegially in a diverse professional environment.
Salary and Benefits:
Human Rights Watch seeks exceptional candidates and offers competitive compensation and generous employer-paid benefits. HRW will pay reasonable relocation expenses and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization.
APPLY IMMEDIATELY (no calls or email inquiries, please) by sending a letter of interest, resume, references, and a brief writing sample (original and unedited by others) to: Human Rights Watch Attn: Search Committee (T/CT Project Director) 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA Fax: (212) 736-1300 Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer.