Letter to Human Rights Watch re: Venezuela and Human Rights Standards

Dear Mr. Roth.

In a very recent letter from Human Rights Watch to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, your “Americas  Director”, Jose Miguel Vivanco, and your “global Advocacy Director”, Peggy Hicks, stated:

Human Rights Watch is writing in regard to Venezuela’s candidacy for election to the United Nations Human Rights Council. UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 states that members of the Human Rights Council shall “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” We believe that it is essential that countries that are members of the Human Rights Council adhere to these standards.
Unfortunately, when it comes to promoting and protecting human rights, Venezuela currently falls far short of acceptable standards.

Does HRW believe that the United States meets acceptable standards? Could you provide a list of countries in the Americas that meet the standards to which you refer?

Could you also explain, as I’ve requested before, why you once stated (through Twitter) that Venezuela is among “the most abusive” countries in Latin America?

I am copying Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on this note. I do so because I believe, based on years of personal experience, that you will ignore simple questions that are posed to you by anyone without a significant media platform. Hopefully, the next time you appear on Democracy Now! Amy, or one of her colleagues, will ask you these questions and others which you have avoided for years. Some examples are listed below.

Joe Emersberger


  • When a coup deposed Chavez for 2 days in 2002, why did HRW's public statements fail to do obvious things like denounce the coup, call on other countries not to recognize the regime, invoke the OAS charter, and (especially since HRW is based in Washington) call for an investigation of US involvement?


  • Very similarly, when a coup deposed Haiti's democratically elected government in 2004, why didn't HRW condemn the coup, call on other countries not to recognize the regime, invoke the OAS charter, and call for an investigation of the US role? Many of these things were done by the community of Caribbean nations (CARICOM). A third of the UN General Assembly called for an investigation into the overthrow of Aristide. Why didn't HRW back them up?


  • Since 2004, why has HRW written about 20 times more about Venezuela than about Haiti despite the fact that the coup in Haiti created a human rights catastrophe in which thousands of political murders were perpetrated and the jails filled with political prisoners?


  • Why did HRW never write a word in support of Father Gerard Jean-Juste, Haiti's most prominent political prisoner after the coup? Even after Amnesty International named him a "prisoner of conscience" and participated in an international campaign to have him released to receive treatment for cancer, HRW said absolutely nothing. Instead HRW has repeatedly objected to law suits brought against Venezuelan "civil society" leaders like Maria Corina Machado, who has never been jailed despite signing the infamous Carmon decree which briefly abolished Venezuelan democracy.


  • Why hasn't HRW called for a full disclosure of US funding of the opposition in Bolivia given the murders perpetrated in Pando by anti-government groups? HRW has called on the OAS to investigate the Colombian government's allegations that the Chavez assists the FARC. In contrast, HRW has not urged the US government to cooperate with the Freedom of Information Act requests made by Jeremy Bigwood regarding US activity Bolivia.

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