Human Rights Watch

An Intro to Human Rights Watch–one of our weblinks

This is the third in our series on links to other sites. The following information is excerpted with minor cuts or rearrangement from the “About Us,” section of the group’s website. 

Human Rights Watch, founded in 1978, is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization working on human rights issues around the globe. Its staff of 400 country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries, generating extensive coverage in local and international media. With the leverage this brings, Human Rights Watch meets with governments, the United Nations, regional groups like the African Union and the European Union, financial institutions, and corporations to press for changes in policy and practice that promote human rights and justice around the world. They accept no government funding and have a four-star rating (the highest) from Charity Navigator, a site that evaluates how much money a charity spends on its mission as opposed to fundraising and administration.

So what does this mean on a day-to-day basis? They offer news dispatches on current events as well as commentary on issues they believe require action. The diversity of their efforts across all continents is striking. Examples from July 15, 2015 found on their website include these topics:

  • “Syria: Kurdish Forces Violating Child Soldier Ban
    • The Kurdish armed group that controls territory in northern Syria, despite some progress, is still not meeting its commitment to demobilize child soldiers and to stop using boys and girls under 18 in combat, Human Rights Watch said today.
    • On June 5, 2014, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) signed a “Deed of Commitment” with the nongovernmental organization Geneva Call pledging to demobilize all fighters under 18 within one month. One month later, it demobilized 149 children. Despite this promise and the initial progress, Human Rights Watch documented cases over the past year of children under 18 joining and fighting with the YPG and the YPJ, its female branch.”
  • “Armenia: Needless Pain at the End of Life
    • Thousands of patients with advanced cancer in Armenia suffer from avoidable, severe pain every year because they cannot get adequate pain medications, Human Rights Watch said in a report and video released today. While effective, safe, and inexpensive pain medications are available in Armenia, most patients and their families face insurmountable bureaucratic barriers to getting them, in violation of the right to health.
    • The 86-page report, “‘All I Can Do Is Cry’: Cancer and the Struggle for Palliative Care in Armenia,” describes the devastating impact of the lack of palliative care on people with advanced cancer and their families. It documents the overall lack of palliative care services in Armenia and the government’s overly restrictive regulations for getting strong pain medication.
  • “Morocco: Homophobic Response to Mob Attack
    • [I]n the wake of a mob attack on a man in Fez on June 29, 2015, Justice Minister Moustapha Ramid said the assailants should be prosecuted and two suspects are in custody, [but he also] has made several anti-gay statements since the assault. He said that homosexuals should avoid “provoking society,” and that citizens must not “enforce the law themselves” – as though the victim had been breaking the law due to his appearance. The Justice Ministry frequently prosecutes men under the country’s anti-homosexuality laws.”
  • “Dispatch: Will Nigeria’s New Military Chiefs Prioritize Rights?
    • [Recently elected] President Muhammadu Buhari [has] fired the national security advisor, the chief of defense staff, and the service chiefs. . .
    • The change in military leadership comes at a time of intense violence by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the northeast of Nigeria. . . Buhari pledged to end the Boko Haram violence if elected.
    • The abuses by Nigerian security forces in military operations in the northeast and in other parts of the country, and the failure to hold those responsible to account, has become a major grievance of local populations and civil society. Security forces have been implicated in disproportional use of force against civilians, detention without trial, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
  • [From July 13] “Power Failure: NYC Judges Penalize the Poor
    • The suicide of Kalief Browder after he had spent three years of pretrial detention in abusive conditions on Rikers catalyzed attention about the desperate need to reform New York City’s bail system. Browder, like tens of thousands of other pretrial defendants, was incarcerated because he couldn’t afford to pay bail–in his case, $3,000 for allegedly trying to steal a backpack, a charge for which Browder refused to plead guilty and that was eventually dropped.
    • The time defendants accused of minor offenses spend behind bars while still presumed innocent–an average of two weeks–is often longer than if convicted. . .
    • [I]n 70 percent of the nonfelony cases in which bail was set, the amount was $1,000 or less, yet most low income or indigent nonfelony defendants cannot readily lay their hands on that amount of money. Almost 90 percent who had bail set at a $1,000 or less could not come up with it.
    • In setting bail, judges almost always ignore alternatives to cash or secured bonds that New York legislators established years ago precisely to reduce the burden of bail on poor defendants.”
  • [From July 6, 2015] “Dispatches: Broken Promise to Colombia’s Women
    • In 2011 an unknown attacker raped “Monica,” a human rights defender supporting victims displaced by the country’s protracted armed conflict. She immediately reported the rape to authorities, but they didn’t help her get access to health care. More than a week later, she finally was able to see a doctor who prescribed medicine for a vaginal infection caused by the rape and another to attempt to avoid HIV infection. The medicines were expensive, and Monica couldn’t afford the one to prevent HIV. 
    • Health care is a critical service for rape survivors like Monica, and today, Colombia’s Constitutional Court agreed to hear an important case concerning access to such care. The case, filed by several leading women’s rights organizations, challenges a law that had as its objective to help rape survivors, but in fact backtracked on standards set in an earlier health protocol.”
  • [From July 14, 2015] “Dispatches: Stifling Student Dissent in Burma
    • As Burma moves towards nationwide elections on November 8, the quasi-civilian government is intensifying its crackdown on student activists, who have long served as critical voices and barometers of the public mood.
    • Last week, security officials arrested several student activists, including Ko Zeya Lwin, who was dragged from a car shortly after leading a commemoration for the 53rd anniversary of the Burmese army’s crushing student protests by dynamiting the Rangoon University Student Union building – ever since a lightning rod for student hostility to the military. . .”
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Acknowledgements: See attribution of excerpt from Human more...

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