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Nobel Peace Laureates to Human Rights Watch: Close Your Revolving Door to U.S. GovernmentThe leading human rights organization's close ties to the U.S. government call its independence into question. May 12, 2014 | The following letter was sent today to Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire; former UN Assistant Secretary General Hans von Sponeck; current UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Richard Falk; and over 100 scholars. Dear Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch characterizes itself as “one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights.” However, HRW's close ties to the U.S. government call into question its independence. For example, HRW's Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2013, he left HRW after being nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under John Kerry. In her HRW.org biography, Board of Directors' Vice Chair Susan Manilow describes herself as "a longtime friend to Bill Clinton" who is "highly involved" in his political party, and "has hosted dozens of events" for the Democratic National Committee. Currently, HRW Americas' advisory committee includes Myles Frechette, a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia, and Michael Shifter, one-time Latin America director for the U.S. government-financed National Endowment for Democracy. Miguel Díaz, a Central Intelligence Agency analyst in the 1990s, sat on HRW Americas' advisory committee from 2003-11. Now at the State Department, Díaz serves as "an interlocutor between the intelligence community and non-government experts." In his capacity as an HRW advocacy director, Malinowski contended in 2009 that "under limited circumstances" there was "a legitimate place" for CIA renditions—the illegal practice of kidnapping and transferring terrorism suspects around the planet. Malinowski was quoted paraphrasing the U.S. government's argument that designing an alternative to sending suspects to "foreign dungeons to be tortured" was "going to take some time." HRW has not extended similar consideration to Venezuela. In a 2012 letter to President Chávez, HRW criticized the country's candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, alleging that Venezuela had fallen "far short of acceptable standards" and questioning its "ability to serve as a credible voice on human rights." At no point has U.S. membership in the same council merited censure from HRW, despite Washington's secret, global assassination program, its preservation of renditions, and its illegal detention of individuals at Guantánamo Bay. Likewise, in February 2013, HRW correctly described as "unlawful" Syria's use of missiles in its civil war. However, HRW remained silent on the clear violation of international law constituted by the U.S. threat of missile strikes on Syria in August. The few examples above, limited to only recent history, might be forgiven as inconsistencies or oversights that could naturally occur in any large, busy organization. But HRW’s close relationships with the U.S. government suffuse such instances with the appearance of a conflict of interest. We therefore encourage you to institute immediate, concrete measures to strongly assert HRW's independence. Closing what seems to be a revolving door would be a reasonable first step: Bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members. At a bare minimum, mandate lengthy “cooling-off” periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and that arm of the government. Your largest donor, investor George Soros, argued in 2010 that "to be more effective, I think the organization has to be seen as more international, less an American organization.” We concur. We urge you to implement the aforementioned proposal to ensure a reputation for genuine independence. Sincerely, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize laureate [131 Signitures] http://www.alternet.org/world/nobel-peace-laureates-human-rights-watch-close-your-revolving-door-us-government?paging=off#bookmark
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