Summary: There is increasing evidence that the Middle East agenda of Human Rights Watch is gradually expanding, with a parallel decrease in the excessive and biased focus on Israel, as documented by NGO Monitor reports. In addition to renewed attention to the detention and abuse of dissenters in non-democratic regimes (HRW’s original emphasis), this NGO has also announced eight new positions that will greatly broaden its agenda.
The wider focus of HRW reports in recent months included the following:
In May 2005, officials from HRW made their first visit to Libya, including a meeting with Abd al-Raziq al-Mansuri, a dissident and internet commentator. In its report, HRW claimed that the Libyan Internal Security Agency, which is holding al-Mansuri, detained him for political reasons and on false charges, violating domestic and international law.
Condemning the government of Iran for harsh treatment of Kurdish protestors, an HRW press release called for their release. HRW demanded that “Officials who are responsible for any excessive use of lethal force must be prosecuted”, noting that HRW "recognizes the responsibility of the government to take steps to deal with threats to public safety and property. However, the government’s response must be lawful and governed by the standards set [by] the U.N.”
HRW protested what it described as the Egyptian government’s interference with the activities and governance of local NGOs. In addition to an 48-page report entitled “Margins of Repression: State Limits on Nongovernmental Organization Activism”, JRW also issued a briefing paper entitled “From Plebiscite to Contest? Egypt’s Presidential Election”. HRW noted positive developments while expressing reservations about implementation.
HRW’s wider regional focus also includes reports, letters, press releases and briefing papers on stifling dissent on the part of the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. The organization also recently concluded a visit to Algeria, condemning President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s “peace charter” initiative, asserting that it “effectively reinforces the impunity for serious crimes committed by state agents while granting amnesty to armed insurgents for many of the atrocities they had perpetrated during more than a decade of civil strife.”
In addition to this evidence of a departure from its disproportionate political agenda, HRW has now announced openings for new positions for a Senior Legal advisor, a Beirut-based researcher on Syria and Lebanon, and five other researchers in areas unconnected with the Middle East. The legal advisor, like the Project Director for Terrorism/Counterterrorism (T/CT) announced earlier, can provide a basis for internal checks and balances. The information on the positions and application procedures can be found at www.hrw.org/jobs/.
In its analyses and monthly digests, NGO Monitor will be following the hiring process.