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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

HRW founder Bernstein launches "Advancing Human Rights"

From the press release:
On February 24th, Human Rights Watch founder, Robert L. Bernstein, launched a new human rights organization called Advancing Human Rights (AHR).

"I believe that creating Advancing Human Rights is the most important thing I’ve done in my life," said Bernstein, who will serve as the organization’s Chairman. "I never imagined that at 88 years old I would be founding a new human rights organization, but I am doing it out of necessity because I believe there are trends which are doing great damage to democracies throughout the world."

At a pre-launch event attended by journalists, authors and human rights activists, Bernstein introduced the AHR team. "Leading our new organization as executive director is David Keyes. David and I started working together one year ago. He has built a phenomenal organization, CyberDissidents.org, which is a central part of our new human rights organization. It supports pro-democracy Internet activists throughout the Middle East and has been on the cutting edge of human rights."

AHR will return to the fundamentals of human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CyberDissidents.org and Straight Talk on Human Rights, a new platform for common sense analysis, will form the initial programs of AHR.

"We will focus on women’s rights and free speech," Bernstein noted. "These two rights—the spearhead of most totalitarian repression—are so important because where they are absent, achieving the other very important human rights is practically impossible. We will, of course, go into closed societies."

"Now that these closed societies are exploding," he continued, "they will need every ounce of the human rights community’s attention so that we don’t have another Iran."

Bernstein and Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and one of AHR’s board members, announced the groups formation on Bloomberg TV on Friday. The AHR board includes famed Soviet dissident, Yelena Bonner, and former Canadian Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler, among others.
Bernstein also says on the website:
Some human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch, do not condemn incitement to genocide, Arab hate speech being spewed daily in Gaza, particularly, and Saudi textbooks being taught to young children calling Jews “monkeys and pigs.” Hate speech is the precursor to genocide. I understand giving hate speech a lot of latitude in an open society where it is sure to be criticized - but in a closed society it goes unanswered and encouraged by the government, governments that control all the media.

If I’ve misinterpreted the positions of these human rights organizations, I’m happy to be corrected.

Human Rights Watch believes it is its job to protect civilians on both sides in a war. This is where we really disagree. In the Israel-Palestine conflict they cannot protect either side for reasons Colonel Kemp will address. Worse, their methodology which is to analyze a war after it is over is flawed and in my view its staff has little knowledge of the realities of asymmetric war and makes accusations of war crimes where others would understand the sad collateral damage of war. In the Israel-Palestine war, it seems to me, the Israelis are usually the party accused. Hamas, I believe, is fighting a war of attrition, and doesn’t subscribe to the Geneva conventions etc. I will leave the rest to Colonel Kemp.

The other reasons why a new organization is desirable will be spelled out in the near future when we will issue what I would call a “white paper” outlining them. We will then move on in our own way, leaving open societies to fend for themselves most of the time. When we are critical, we will note that while open societies must maintain the highest standards, even when they slip, they start from a much higher standard. In judging open societies you can be sure there will be more than one judge.
The Bloomberg video is here.

This is a great development, and I wish AHR well.