Human Rights Watch was recently criticized by Robert Bernstein, its founding Board Chair, for its reporting on “open” democratic countries, as well as “closed” countries ruled by repressive regimes. As organizations that work alongside Human Rights Watch to combat human rights abuse worldwide, we believe that human rights should be applied universally, and that impartial, credible work on human rights violations cannot be politically circumscribed as Bernstein suggests.

Human rights violations take place everywhere in the world, including in democracies. We commend the work that Human Rights Watch has done to confront abuses in countries with democratic governance, from its efforts to end the use of torture by the United States and to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, to its reporting on police torture in India and Nigeria, and ill-treatment of migrants in the European Union and South Africa. The ability of the human rights community to combat abuses would be greatly diminished if we chose only to address human rights violations in certain countries. Experience has also has taught us that when democracies fall short of their ideals, they lose the ability to champion human rights globally, and dictatorships exploit their failings to justify their own abuses. The human rights movement would be failing victims of repression everywhere if it didn’t challenge open societies to lead by example.

At the same time, we know that Human Rights Watch is among the world’s leading critics
of repressive regimes. Any suggestion that Human Rights Watch has been distracted from
reporting on such regimes flies in the face of easily-verified reality – Human Rights Watch
is a key advocate on behalf of human rights victims in Burma, China, Libya, Iran, Cuba,
Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, and in dozens of other countries ruled by authoritarian
governments worldwide.

When it comes to the Israel’s conflicts in the region, Human Rights Watch has published hard-hitting reports on human rights violations by Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Authority, as well as on Israel. 

The world has changed a great deal since Human Rights Watch was founded three decades ago. But those changes have only made it more evident that no system of government is free from human rights abuse and that no state should be immune from scrutiny of its human rights record. We stand with Human Rights Watch in working to protect victims of human rights abuse worldwide, wherever they may live.Sincerely,

The Advocates for Human Rights

Amnesty International USA

Human Rights Program, The Carter Center

Global Rights

Physicians for Human Rights