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Human Rights Watch

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"Recognition of the inherent dignity and of equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world...

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person."

With these few words, the United Nations has pretty much summed up the mission of Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization whose only aim is to ensure the well being and the inherent rights to life that all human beings are entitled to. By using means such as the media for example, Human Rights Watch sets out to not only insure that all human beings live their lives with dignity but to also bring to justice those who, through merciless dictatorships, suppress the happiness and basic human rights of their people. This paper will first explain briefly the history of Human Rights Watch; second, it will describe a major undertaking, mainly its role in the War on Iraq, past and present, third, reasons of the success of the organization in this undertaking, and finally the implications of the said undertaking in international relations and international organizations.


Human Rights Watch was founded in 1978 and was known first as Helsinki Watch. It was originally intended to enforce the provisions on human rights that were laid out by the Helsinki Accords. It then spread to Central America in the 1980s in response to the countless human rights abuses that were made in many of the civil wars that took place there. Soon enough it began spreading throughout the world, forming different Watch committees through out the world, such as the Middle East, Central America, South America, and Asia, etc. In 1988, all the different watch committees united to form one committee, thus forming Human Rights Watch. Their headquarters are located in different parts of the world, mainly New York, London, Brussels, Moscow, and over 70 countries. In regions where there are extensive investigations, they set up temporary offices to accommodate their investigations.

How does Human Rights Watch make the world aware of human rights abuses in a country? The answer can be found on their website, where they post their strategy for ensuring the human rights of all. "Human Rights Watch researchers conduct fact-finding investigations into human rights abuses in all regions of the world. Human Rights Watch then publishes those findings in dozens of books and reports every year, generating extensive coverage in local and international media." After that, they then "meet with government officials to urge changes in policy and practice -- at the United Nations, the European Union, in Washington and in capitals around the world. In extreme circumstances, Human Rights Watch presses for the withdrawal of military and economic support from governments that egregiously violate the rights of their people."

In conclusion, Human Rights Watch will use any viable resources in order to ensure that the world is informed of Human Rights abuses that occur in the world, and set out to remind the world that, yes, it is their business to get involved and do something about it. One cannot just stay put and do nothing while someone uses their god-given power to suppress a nation.


Sadaam Hussein took over as president of Iraq in 1979 and was known to many, especially to Human Rights Watch, as one of the most ruthless, merciless leaders who has ever been in power. Although claiming to be a devout Muslim, he was a "member of the Sunni minority", and "repressed and persecuted Iraq's restive Shiite majority". His cruelty was not reduced only to the Shiite majority. According to Human Rights Watch, Sadaam Hussein ordered that chemical weapons be tested on his own people, the Iraqi Kurds that lived in Northern Iraq. Iraqis were subjected to torture if they were even suspected of not liking Hussein's regime. In many of the police stations in Iraq, those who were accused of going against the government would be taken to underground torture chambers, where countless ruthless tortures were inflicted. Tortures such as being hung by their thumbs, electrocuted, even mutilated. Such measures were taken by the Hussein regime in order to keep their grasp on the Iraqi people. Due to this, and the fact that it was believed that the Iraqi regime was producing chemical weapons of mass destruction, the United States and its allies launched a war against Hussein and his regime on March 19, 2003. In front of this situation, Human Rights Watch did not stay silent. HRW has been watching the situation in Iraq since before the First Persian Gulf War back in 1991. Fully, aware of the atrocities that were occurring in Iraq, HRW has provided countless information in order to ensure the equal human rights of all Iraqis. In an open letter to the public, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch stated: "To stop Saddam Hussein from committing further atrocities against his own people, we will threaten prosecution of anyone who carries out his murderous orders. Our on-the-ground reporting of atrocities can expose these abuses immediately to the international community, so that protective steps can be taken. To protect refugees from grievous suffering, we are pressing Iraq's neighbors to accept and shelter people fleeing the fighting and provide them with basic necessities. With our on-the-ground investigations and reporting, we will then seek to hold these governments to their obligations." Roth also reminded United States of its responsibilities. From their past experiences of the effects of US attacks on civilians during the war in Kosovo, Roth says sternly, "In dialogue with the Pentagon and through the press, we have insisted that all feasible precautions be taken to avoid harm to civilians. We are also pushing the Pentagon to avoid dropping cluster bombs near populated areas. These bombs caused about a quarter of the civilian deaths during the Kosovo war. And we are pressing the Pentagon to refrain from attacking infrastructure that is essential to the survival of Iraq's weakened, ration-dependent people."

Human Rights Watch's only concern is the effect that this war will have on the Iraqi people. They shun and condemn Hussein's



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