For a couple of years now, it’s been apparent to me and others – including some Nobel laureates – that Human Rights Watch isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
We’ve seen their blatant double standards and hypocrisy on who should and shouldn’t be allowed to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council; we’ve seen how people within the organisation can and do move seamlessly from and then back into the U.S. regime; and we’ve seen their CEO Ken Roth agitating for war in Syria (on ‘humanitarian’ grounds, of course – like the millions of people killed and displaced by U.S. wars over the last fifteen years alone, the countries ruined, just never happened).
Roth also believes, incidentally, that ‘for all its faults, the U.S. government remains the most powerful proponent of human rights’. A quite staggering claim that many people ranging from Latin America to the middle east to southeast Asia to north Africa would, I am certain, strongly disagree with.
Roth’s language in regards to the crimes of the Syrian regime and it’s armed forces – and you won’t find me denying that they have committed war crimes (the documentation is way too extensive for it all just to be dismissed as Western propaganda) – has always been particularly harsh. Have a look at this series of tweets, for example:
Assad is committing ‘mass murder’ in no uncertain terms, those criminals Russia and Hezbollah are facilitating him, and it’s down to Obama to step in and save the day.
Nevermind that Obama is quite clearly a ‘mass murderer’ himself.
In regards to the crimes (moral and legal) of the U.S. regime though, his tone changes quite markedly.
According to a report from the Syrian Network of Human Rights, 64 civilians, including 31 children, were killed in a series of U.S. lead airstrikes on the Syrian village of Bir Mahalli on Thursday the 30th April.
Roth’s response to this blatant atrocity? As here:
So straight away, he’s presenting the attack as an accident, a mistake, by asking ‘What went wrong?’. And the U.S. merely ‘kills’ civilians, rather than deliberately ‘murders’ them. Nor is there any attempt to blame Barack Obama personally for the slaughter. He also places ‘ISIS’ squarely into the picture, thus locating the attack within a ‘war on terror’ framework.
This is not atypical for Roth, and I would defy anyone to find a tweet of his about U.S. crimes which employs language like ‘murder’.
You won’t be able to, and that’s probably because he thinks ‘for all its faults, the U.S. government remains the most powerful proponent of human rights’, and because he has friends and ex-colleagues actually working for the U.S. regime.
This morning, Roth tweeted a picture of a devastated looking town or city, saying it showed ‘what Assad’s barrel bombs have done to Aleppo’. As here:
Christoph Koettl, who works for Amnesty International U.S., then tweeted in reply that:
That this video was actually of Gaza, rather than Aleppo, then appeared to be confirmed by the Danish state broadcaster. As here:
This isn’t the first time that Human Rights Watch have misattributed an image in such a fashion.
In February, they had to issue a correction after they inadvertently used a photograph of Kobane, a ‘town devastated by U.S. air strikes and the use of explosive weapons by ground forces’ in their words, to illustrate ‘ the Syrian government’s use of barrel bombs in air strikes elsewhere in the country’.
Now, i’m not alleging deliberate deception on the part of Ken Roth/HRW here. I’m sure his misattribution of this video was simply a mistake. I’m also sure that there are plenty of genuine images and videos floating around that could easily make the same point.
But when errors like this keep occurring, what it suggests to me is that their determination to show the Assad regime as being comprised of brutal, irredeemable, evil mass murdering monsters sometimes gets the better of their discernment, judgement and duty to verify,
They already *know* the regime is guilty, and so aren’t very careful in how they choose to demonstrate that. And when you’re a high profile human rights organisation with a multi-million dollar budget, and a significant degree of influence, it isn’t really good enough.
And again, let’s see if we can find an equivalent mistake by them, where they’ve posted images purporting to show damage caused by U.S. airstrikes, but which are actually from somewhere else entirely. You probably can’t, because they’ll be much more careful, and much more conservative, when it comes to attributing blame and criminality to the U.S..
I put this down to people like Roth and other senior Human Rights Watch officials basically being drawn from a small cadre of privileged, U.S. based liberals with roots in the Democrat party, corporate media and the corporate-philanthropic world (have a look at their board of directors, for example).
And so they’re going to share certain ideological assumptions with these elites, and one of those assumptions is that the United States of America ‘remains the most powerful proponent of human rights’, whose role is to ride to the rescue when people are in trouble. This in its turn will shape their output in terms of it’s focus, tone and framing.
That this narrative is thoroughly self-serving, and even dangerously delusional given the U.S.’s track record, will probably never occur to them.