San Francisco

Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. The San Francisco Committee is part of the Human Rights Watch Council, a global network of individuals and committees in 33 cities around the world. Council members are active ambassadors for Human Rights Watch in their communities and support the work through fundraising, outreach, and advocacy initiatives. Together, we play a key role in the defense of human rights.

You're invited to join the new Human Rights Watch Book Club!

This series will pair leading authors with Human Rights Watch experts and provide a space to discuss today’s pressing calls for social change around the world. We will touch on issues of race, identity, democracy, and more featuring best-selling authors Viet Thanh Nguyen, Patricia Engel, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, and Dashka Slater.

We hope that you will join us for these interactive conversations, as we explore the powerful relationship between literature and human rights.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Patricia Engel in conversation with Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno
Sept 21, 2021 at 5 PM PT

Purchase the book from our friends at Green Apple Books

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the United States.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances.
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
Dashka Slater in conversation with Elizabeth Calvin
January 11, 2022 at 5 PM PT

Purchase the book from our friends at Green Apple Books
The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Viet Thanh Nguyen in conversation with Mei Fong
March 15, 2022 at 5 PM PT

Purchase the book from our friends at Green Apple Books
A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi in conversation with Carine Kaneza Nantulya
June 7, 2022 at 4 PM PT

Purchase the book from our friends at Green Apple Books


  • Looking for your next page turner? HRW San Francisco has partnered with local bookstore Green Apple Books to share a list of HRW researchers' favorite reads. You can check out the whole list here!

  • Register and join us from 6:00 to 6:30 PM PT on December 9, the eve of Human Rights Day, as we celebrate the success of our Future We Build Together Global Challenge. This year has tested us all, but we have come together in solidarity with one another and will celebrate our collective work to advance human rights and dignity for all.

    In this global virtual event, Executive Director Kenneth Roth and Chief Programs Officer Tirana Hassan will address our community on how the world has changed, and why this moment is unlike any other for the human rights movement. The staff and supporters of Human Rights Watch will speak to our shared vision for a more just, equitable world—one we are building together. The program will also include a special surprise musical performance to celebrate our Future We Build Together Global Challenge.

  • Please join us on Monday, November 9th for a US elections debrief to unpack what happened on election day and to discuss the future of human rights in the US. We will discuss the events and outcome of the election, the challenges we face in the months to come, and what we need to do to ensure that human rights are at the forefront of the next administration’s policies.

    We are holding this conversation twice to accommodate global interest, so please feel free to join at the time that is most convenient for you.

    First offering: 9:00am - 10:00am PST
    Second offering: 4:00pm - 5:00pm PST

    Our first offering will feature HRW Executive Director Ken Roth in conversation with US Program Executive Director Nicole Austin-Hillery at 9:00am PST.

    Our second offering will feature Nicole Austin-Hillery in conversation with HRW experts at 4:00pm PST

    Please RSVP here to join.

  • Early voting has begun in California, and over the next month, voters will have the opportunity to protect human rights in the most populous state in the United States. Basic rights are at stake in at least four measures on this year’s ballot. Human Rights Watch has studied each of these four ballot proposals and recommends the following votes:

    Yes on Proposition 17, which would restore voting rights to people disenfranchised while serving a prison term as soon as they complete their sentence.

    No on Proposition 20, which seeks to roll back California’s recent criminal legal system reforms

    No on Proposition 22, an initiative that would create a third, substandard regulatory category for app-based workers in California, falling between employees and independent contractors.

    No on Proposition 25, which, if passed, would replace the unjust money bail system with an even more discriminatory system.

    Read more here.

  • We invite you to join us on Thursday, June 28th at 9:15 am at our office (or by phone) for “Journey to Raqqa: Human Rights Watch Investigates Life after ISIS” -- a discussion with our Acting Director for Emergencies Priyanka Motaparthy. The discussion will focus on Priyanka's recent trip to Northern Syria, where she visited displaced persons’ camps, former ISIS detention centers, and mass graves. This research is the basis of an upcoming report documenting the stories of those detained and disappeared by ISIS, and their families’ quest to learn what happened to them after ISIS was driven from the area.

    Please RSVP to

  • How far have we come since the groundbreaking Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

    We hope you'll join us for a conversation with Kriti Sharma on Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 at 12 pm at the HRW SF office to learn more about the work of the Disability Rights Division and the progress of disability rights worldwide. Please RSVP to

  • On Wednesday, April 11th at 7 pm at Dolby Cinema, Human Rights Watch, in partnership with the San Francisco International Film Festival and co-hosts Natasha and David Dolby, will host a screening of The Rescue List, a documentary charting the courageous efforts of a local safe house to rescue children enslaved to fishermen on Ghana's Lake Volta.

    Through a character-driven approach and a riveting vérité style, The Rescue List charts the unfolding drama of rescue operations alongside a moving portrait of the boys’ recoveries. By doing so, the film tells a cinematic story of friendship and courage—a story that transcends the trope of victimhood and truly illustrates what it means to love and to survive.

    This event will feature a post-film Q&A with the filmmakers, Zachary Fink and Alyssa FedeleBrad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch; and Professor Cathy Zimmerman, a behavioral and social scientist who lectures on migration and health, human trafficking, and gender-based violence.

    Tickets can be purchased and more information can be found here: 

  • Join us at 9 am on Wednesday, March 21 for a conversation with Marcos Orellana, Director of the Environment and Human Rights Division.

    RSVP to

  • Join us for the opening of Richard Misrach: The Writing on the Wall at the Fraenkel Gallery on July 13, 5:30-7:30PM. For four decades Richard Misrach has been one of the most significant and influential photographers of the American landscape. This collection includes recent photographs made in response to the 2016 US presidential election. We are thrilled that 50% of all proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to Human Rights Watch.

    Misrach’s recent photographs are a direct response to the highly charged political climate and accompanying rhetoric of hostility felt across America today. In his travels through desolate areas of southern California, Arizona, and Nevada, the artist found countless signs of despair, protest, and anger scrawled on derelict buildings and rocky outcrops. His images of spray-painted graffiti record messages of desperation, hatred, grief, and hopelessness for the country’s future. The new work builds on Misrach’s photographs of related inscriptions made during the Obama years, images that now can be seen as unwitting omens of the abrupt shift in public discourse that was to come.

    We are grateful to the Fraenkel Gallery and Richard Misrach for their partnership. We hope to see you there! 

  • On April 13, the San Francisco Committee took part in a moving and thought-provoking evening centered around City of Ghosts, a documentary featuring citizen journalists in Syria who risk their lives to document human rights atrocities. Following the film screening, audience members took part in an interactive panel and Q&A. Panelists included the Executive Director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division Sarah Leah Whitson, acclaimed director Matthew Heineman, and the Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society, Noah Cowan. We thank all those who were involved in the planning of the event and our wonderful audience for making the film screening a success!

  • On Thursday, April 13 at 6:00 p.m., the San Francisco Film Society, as part of the 60th SF International Film Festival, will host a screening of award-winning documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman's "City of Ghosts" at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - New Mission. Director Matthew Heineman is expected to be in attendance, as well as Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division -- we highly encourage those with an interest in human rights, journalism, or the Syrian conflict to attend!

    Matthew Heineman’s powerful documentary follows the men behind Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently—a group of activists who have risked their personal freedom and safety to confront the Islamic Brotherhood by sharing information. In our current political climate, the mission of this film’s subjects becomes more urgent than ever, as these men fight to share the truth for their family, their country, and the greater good.

    Tickets can be purchased and more information can be found here:

  • Last Wednesday, at the 2017 Voices for Justice Dinner in New York City, businessman and philanthropist George Soros, alongside Yonous Muhammadi, was honored for his extraordinary commitment toward promoting human rights and justice around the world with the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.

    The Voices for Justice Annual Dinners gather together over 6,800 influential supporters worldwide every year, and honor courageous individuals who protect and defend human rights across the globe.

    SF Committee members Joy Alferness, Tina Bou-Saba, Natasha Dolby, Marty Krasney, and Danielle Kraaijvanger joined us for the event.

  • On March 1st, Human Rights Watch, in partnership with #cut50, Healing Dialogue and Action, and hundreds of Ambassadors of Empathy all across the country took part in the national Day of Empathy, one of the single largest days of action in criminal justice history! Below is a message from Joy Alferness, Chair of the San Francisco Committee, on the work we accomplished during the Day of Empathy.

    Dear San Francisco Committee,

    It has been a little more than a week since I returned from attending the Day of Empathy in Sacramento, and I want to share some thoughts and reflections on this wonderful experience with you. The Day of Empathy was a day devoted to meeting with California legislators to voice support for three bills that promote criminal justice reform. It was put together by Cut50, Healing Dialogue and Action, and our very own Human Rights Watch.

    While the primary purpose of our gathering was to march to the Capitol and lend our voices in support of criminal justice reform, I was fortunate enough to participate in a retreat the day before these legislator visits. This retreat brought together an incredible group of people, including former prisoners, families of prisoners, victims’ family members and former victims, as well as allies and advocates. I heard incredible stories of unimaginable pain but also witnessed the power of forgiveness and the real results of restorative justice programs.

    These two days were led, in part, by our very own Elizabeth Calvin, who is a Children’s Rights researcher for HRW, and a personal hero of mine. She has devoted her career to ending unfair sentences for juveniles and has worked tirelessly and selflessly on these issues. It was beautiful to witness how everyone responded to her during the 48 hours that we were together. There are many, many people whose lives have been affected by mass incarceration who see Elizabeth, and HRW, as their champions. Elizabeth is not only an incredibly strong member of the HRW team, but she is a mighty advocate for the people whose rights she is fighting for every day.

    On Wednesday, we all marched in solidarity to the California State Capitol. Approximately one hundred of us, in teams, visited 105 state legislators’ offices in less than a day to voice our support for SB 394 (ending life without parole sentences for juveniles -- a practice only allowed in the U.S.), SB 395 (which would ensure a responsible adult is available for counsel when someone under the age of 18 is being questioned by police), and AB 1384 (which would create program standards for trauma recovery centers that serve victims and their families). It was an immensely powerful day, and I was so proud of what we were able to do together.

    You will find below some opportunities to use your voices in support of two of these bills: SB 394 and SB 395. Our advocacy is an important tool we can use to move the needle on these ongoing injustices faced by juveniles in our country’s prison system. I hope you will join me in amplifying the incredible work being done by Elizabeth and others.

    I am filled with gratitude that these two days gave me the opportunity to gain a window into the human proof of HRW’s meaningful advocacy. There was more than one occasion over the course of my two days there that someone shared with me how the efforts of HRW had impacted their lives, personally.

    More than anything, I felt enormous pride to be a part of the HRW Council, and I hope you all do as well. Your support has truly changed lives for the better, and I offer you all my deepest thanks for all that you do to further this important work.


    Joy Alferness

    Chair, San Francisco Committee

    Human Rights Watch



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