Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization which presses for changes in policy and practice that promote ‘human rights and justice’ around the world.
HRW is among the loudest voices against injustice but they are also the greatest culprit – intentionally or not. HRW reports are wildly inaccurate because they simply do not back up their reports and claims with credible evidences.
Take for example, the excerpt of their latest report on Singapore below:
Singapore’s political environment is stifling. Citizens continue to face severe restrictions on their basic rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly through overly broad legal provisions on security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony. The government silences and punishes critics by using defamation laws and the archaic offense of “scandalizing the judiciary.”
The report cited Han Hui Hui and Roy Ngerng as good examples of Singapore’s prosecution on the freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly despite the fact that it was widely reported they were arrested because they trespassed and heckled an event organised by the special needs children.
Every HRW report over the years has made Singapore human rights issue look like Syria during the height of their conflict and Boko Haram in Nigeria during their civil strife.
This is nothing new.
NGOs like HRW is like any other business, they have an end-goal in mind. For example, HRW might report a conflict is intensifying or violence increasing to justify their work to funders. Similarly, HRW might have a lobbying agenda, which leads it to report a story in a particular light.
Singapore invites HRW to defend their position
Singapore is perhaps the only country in the world which gives the HRW the opportunity to defend their report before rebutting its inaccuracies. They were recently invited by a Select Committee to explain their position in front of a live audience with international media coverage. As an NGO, it was their golden chance to defend the credibility and back their countless comments and reports over the years about the Human Rights abuse in Singapore. It was their opportunity to capture the attention of everyone is the shortest possible time and effectively push for change.
Despite the generous offer of bearing their representative cost of travel, a video conference option and even an extended deadline given by the committee to accommodate them, HRW has chosen not to appear before the committee.
As an outsider, it escapes us why an NGO fighting so hard for our human rights chose to send multiple statements and reports over the years rather than reach out and engage in a debate to state their case more convincingly. It seems like they rather see Human Rights change to happen through annual emails and reports rather than engaging the parties involved at the largest stage possible to convince them on their position.
HRW advocates and activist unfortunately fail to see this and remain motivated, getting stirred every time a new report is released, they politicize attempts to clarify the report and paint all rebuttals as an assault against critics, one activist even highlighted the fact that there was one e-mail attempt to get in touch with the Government previously.
These advocates are blinded by the NGO halo effect – the idea that NGOs are seen as altruistic and without agenda (in other words, they would have no reason to falsely report the facts). There is also a possibility that they are just recalcitrant and proud of it.
Why can’t HRW just stand up for themselves? How can activists defend a report which the organisation themselves do not want to defend? What are we missing here?