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The Revolving Door Between Human Rights Watch and the US State Department


This blog post at interventionswatch talks about how Tom Malinowski, former ‘Washington Director for Human Rights Watch’, has just been named the Obama Administration's "Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights". The blogger pointed out

 
"Before joining Human Rights Watch, he had been ‘special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for foreign policy speechwriting at the National Security Council’, and ‘a speechwriter for Secretaries of State Christopher and Albright and a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff’."
 
The blog post concludes by asking "how on Earth can you expect the U.S. wings of these organisations to report objectively on U.S. government actions, when at a senior level they may as well be appendages of the State Department?"
 
How indeed?
 
As if to put an exclamation point on how close the world view of HRW is to that of the US State Department, Ken Roth, executive director of HRW,  just had an opinion piece published in the New York Times about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). 
 
Entitled "A Tribunal's Legal Stumble" Ken Roth objects to ICTY's acquittal of a Serb official for war crimes perpetrated in the Balkans during the 1990's. Roth's concern was that plausible deniability allowed the Serb official to get off. Roth explained
 
"Officials who want to facilitate mass atrocities are rarely so dumb as to give explicit orders. Rather they proceed by indirection, giving aid to a criminal enterprise that is already in motion."
 
To illustrate this point, Roth gives the kind of examples that any US State Department official would give – in particular the "shabiha in Syria" – a militia fighting on the side of Assad, the West's official enemy in Syria. Roth does not mention the blood soaked "Syrian rebels" whose atrocities would see US, Saudi and EU officials on trial for aiding and abetting war crimes according to the criteria Roth advocates.
 
Roth praises the ICTY, despite the acquittal he objects to, for being the "gold standard for international justice".
 
The authors of "The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics" (Edward Herman and various other writers), which I reviewed here, thoroughly unmasked the ICTY as outlandishly biased in favour of the Western powers that established it. The authors of the book have been vilified, by liberals especially, for daring to rationally question the number of executions that took place during the Srebrenica Massacre. That vilification campaign has distracted, no doubt intentionally, from how thoroughly the authors shred the credibility of the ICTY.
 
One fact that really stands out is the ICTY's acquittal of Bosnian Muslim commander Naser Oric, whom the tribunal did not even indict until 2003 (and on minor charges given his crimes). The ICTY initially convicted Oric and sentenced him to a trifling two year sentence. The ICTY later acquitted him.
 
Naser Oric videotaped his murderous raids on Serb villages and, in 1994, proudly played them for two Western journalists – Bill Schiller of the Toronto Star and John Pomfret of the Washington Post. Bill Schiller, who would go on to become the Star's foreign editor, described Oric as "blood-thirsty" and wrote
 
"I sat in his living room watching a shocking video version of what might have been called Nasir Oric's Greatest Hits. There were burning houses, dead bodies, severed heads, and people fleeing. Oric grinned throughout, admiring his handiwork." Oric explained the decapitation of one of his victims by noting that his men sometimes used "cold weapons".
 
Oric also told Schiller that civilians were not "intentionally" killed in these raids but admitted that they sometimes "get in the way". An ICTY spokesperson made the incredible remark that they "found no evidence that there were civilian casualties in the attacks on Serb villages in his [Oric's] theater of operations."
 
The ICTY never indicted Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic or Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. In a lame effort to pass itself off as even handed, the ICTY carried out secret investigations of these men for years and then claimed that it would have indicted them had both not died of natural causes. 
 
The ICTY very belatedly (after years of protests from activists) indicted various Croatians (but no US citizens) for their role in Operation Storm, but it did not indict for "genocide" as it had in the case of the Srebrenica massacre. During Operation Strom, Croatia expelled an estimated 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina area with the direct assistance of US military. About 2000 Serb civilians were killed.
 
Don't expect any of these facts to impact Roth's assessment of the ICTY – a "gold standard for international justice" if you are a western imperial power. 
 

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