Watching the Human Rights Watchers

  • Roelof Haveman


In its reports about human rights in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch makes factual mistakes; it assumes almost per definition that governmental decisions are taken with bad intentions; it insinuates and speculates about what might be, even when it is still ‘too early to tell’ or when deemed ‘highly unlikely’; it generalises on the basis of only a few individual opinions; it embraces individual opinions as the direct basis for its own judgement without any reflection on the personal background of individual opinions, on the necessity of the measures taken, on alternatives for choices made, on the complexity of political decisions in a post-conflict society, a balance between individual and societal interests or whatever other considerations; everything in a, at times, disrespectful tone. Assuming that Human Rights Watch does not do this on purpose, an explanation is needed. Explanations can be found in a confusion of insider opinions and outsider judgements; neglecting that perceptions, rumours and stereotypes may replace reality in Rwanda; and in the position as a single-sector human rights NGO on the sidelines, choosing for confrontation rather than a critical partnership with the government and the country in general. But how can this happen without anybody correcting these factual mistakes, misinterpretations, speculations and tone? The reason seems to be a lack of internal and external accountability.


Trial Chamber Rape Victim Individual Opinion Rape Case Dramatic Accumulation 
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Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Netherlands Ministry of Foreign AffairsThe HagueThe Netherlands

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