2007 Human Rights Watch|
||Jan Pronk presented the Geuzen Medal to Carroll Bogert, associate director of
Human Rights Watch (HRW). During the past few years, Jan Pronk was the United Nations special representative in Sudan. He has also held the position of Dutch Minister for Development Co-operation.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to tackling and eliminating human rights violations. HRW has professionals working for it all over the world, including lawyers, journalists, academics and country experts. The organisation’s headquarters are in New York and it has offices in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. HRW has over 220 full-time staff as well as consultants, interns and volunteers. HRW researches human rights situations worldwide, reports on them and raises relevant issues in the media and with national governments and the United Nations.
|Origin as Helsinki Watch
The history of the organisation goes back to 1978 when it was founded under the name Helsinki Watch to monitor the Soviet Union’s compliance with the Helsinki Accords. In the 1980s Americas Watch was set up to investigate human rights violations in Latin America. Other ‘Watch’ organisations were established to cover human rights violations in different parts of the world and in 1988 they came together as Human Rights Watch.
Although HRW initially focused on influencing US foreign policy with regard to the Soviet Union, it developed over time into a worldwide human rights organisation with broad reaching authority and influence.
HRW promotes the right to fair treatment for everyone in accordance with international law and standards. It seeks to prevent a repetition of the tragedies of the 20th century by monitoring and responding quickly and strategically to human rights violations. HRW believes that progress in human rights is possible if people of good will join forces in an organised way.
HRW has achieved many significant results. The organisation was an active proponent of the International Criminal Court, which was established in The Hague in 2002 to investigate and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Most of the investigations and cases before the International Criminal Court and other international tribunals were initiated based on HRW’s documentation: Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Chad’s Hissene Habre, Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic, Congo’s Thomas Lubanga, Uganda’s Joseph Kony, and the many architects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and current crisis in Darfur were first exposed by HRW. HRW has fought tirelessly for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, including in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Lebanon. HRW has worked on behalf of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and has won reprieve for many, including Iranians who sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2006. HRW has successfully promoted several international treaties, including one banning the use of child soldiers, one prohibiting “disappearances” (abductions of civilians by the government which often end in executions), and one prohibiting the manufacture and use of landmines. In 1997, together with its partner organisations, HRW received the Nobel Peace Prize for its campaign against landmines.
Publicity as a means of exerting pressure
The organisation collects information and publishes reports on human rights violations. These reports, based on thorough research and meticulous analysis, often receive a great deal of publicity in national and international media. Governments that violate human rights are embarrassed by the publicity in the eyes of their own people and the eyes of the world. HRW follows up its reports by urging the governments concerned to change their policies and the way they enforce them. In the case of extreme violations of human rights, HRW may advocate the withdrawal of military and economic support for the government concerned. In crisis situations HRW is able to provide up-to-date information by following developments daily. The media have depended on HRW for research and commentary when reporting on conflicts in Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo and Darfur.
Broad field of activity
HRW is dedicated to preventing and combating crimes against humanity and war crimes and takes action against such things as torture, censorship, ethnic and religious discrimination, and restrictions on freedom of movement and political freedoms. HRW promotes the rights of children, women, refugees, detainees, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
HRW is supported by the Human Rights Watch Council, a network of engaged volunteers in thirteen cities in Europe, Canada and the United States who assist with fundraising, outreach and advocacy.
HRW is independent and does not accept financial support from governments or government-funded organisations. It is completely dependent on contributions from private foundations and individuals.