Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is Human Rights Watch ignoring calls for genocide in Syria?

Back in March, I posted about a demonstration at the New York headquarters of Human Rights Watch by people protesting the US government’s ongoing campaign to destabilize, undermine, and ultimately overthrow Venezuelan democracy. Two open letters to HRW offered evidence of the organization’s disturbing ties to the US government and its covert agencies. While the March protest focused on Venezuela, the letters cited tweets by HRW Executive Director Ken Roth actually demanding US military intervention in Syria. Quoting several such tweets, the second letter stated that
Such behavior is unbecoming for the head of a major human rights organization and runs counter to the spirit of HRW’s official neutrality toward the impending intervention in Syria. We encourage you to demonstrate greater tact and responsibility in light of the near-inevitability that U.S. missile strikes would have led to violations of international humanitarian law, including the killing, maiming, and displacement of many innocent civilians—as shown by the U.S. bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999, and of Iraq during the 2003 invasion and subsequent years of war.
In recent days I’ve posted about evidence of open calls in Arabic media for a genocidal campaign against the Alawites in Syria. As’ad AbuKhalil appears to be the only person trying to bring attention to this ominous development. As I previously quoted, he notes that he’s “yet to read one article about that in any Western publication” or “one statement about that by any Western human rights organization.”

While he’s been silent about the genocidal rumbling – even as it’s discussed openly on Al Jazeera – Roth continues to propagandize. This week, he posted an image he claimed to depict the aftermath of Syrian government barrel bombings in Aleppo

but which he was later forced to acknowledge actually showed destruction caused by Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Ten minutes later, he posted an image purported to be a genuine “example of Aleppo’s destruction after Assad’s barrel bombs.”

While this one is of Aleppo, the problem is that neither the story featuring the image nor the blurb connected to the image itself say that the devastation shown was caused by a barrel bomb or a Syrian government attack. They don’t say that it wasn’t, and it could have been, but the assertion required an illegitimate interpretive leap on Roth’s part. Furthermore, the Amnesty International report on which the story was based provides multiple photos of the destruction to civilians and civilian areas caused by attacks from various sources, including both regime barrel bombs and opposition “hell cannons.”

As AbuKhalil makes clear, none of this is “to argue against the fact that the Syrian regime and the armed Syrian rebels are both professional war criminals.” Nor is it to suggest that HRW is simply corrupt through and through, and can’t be trusted on any subject; nor that any documented human rights violations shouldn’t be condemned. But ignoring public calls for genocide while irresponsibly disseminating skewed information that can affect attitudes toward those being targeted for extermination is hardly what an independent human rights organization should be doing.

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