Exposing torture centres run by Syrian intelligence agencies, defending Ethiopian pastoralists from a brutal government crackdown, speaking out against xenophobic violence against migrants in Greece, or supporting disabled rights in Russia – for more than 30 years Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.
Known for its rigorous, objective investigations HRW uses ‘strategic advocacy’ to push people in power to end repressive practices, working for as long as it takes to hold oppressors accountable for their crimes.
For example, a recent 78-page report from HRW deals with torture in Syrian prisons. Based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees and defectors, it identifies locations, agencies responsible, torture methods used and in several cases, the commanders in charge of 27 detention facilities, and includes, maps, video accounts and sketches of torture techniques.
HRW emergencies researcher Ole Solvang explains: “By publishing their locations, describing the torture methods and identifying those in charge, we are putting those responsible on notice that they will have to answer for these horrific crimes.”
The 9/11 attacks and aftermath underscored the need for new forms of pressure on terrorist groups and their supporters and close monitoring of counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices that infringe upon basic human rights. The HIV/AIDS pandemic led to the creation of a Human Rights Watch programme devoted to human rights and health.
HRW is increasingly applying its research methodology to economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly in the areas of education and housing. It has also started using statistical research, satellite photography, and bomb-data analysis. Combining traditional on-the-ground fact finding with new technologies and innovative advocacy keeps the organisation on the cutting edge of promoting respect for human rights worldwide.
To provide long-lasting support to Human Rights Watch’s activities from Belgium, a Fund has been created within the King Baudouin Foundation – the Friends of Human Rights Watch Fund. The Fund will support projects and organise campaigns and events throughout the year, including Belgium’s first annual Voices for Justice Dinner, scheduled for early 2013. The Voices for Justice Dinner, held in 16 cities around the world in 2012, honours courageous individuals from around the world with the Alison des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism in recognition of their unwavering, fearless commitment to human rights.