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Human Rights Watch Names First Chief Programs Officer

Tirana Hassan to Lead Organization’s Work in Over 100 Countries

(New York, October 5, 2020) – The accomplished human rights researcher, lawyer, and activist Tirana Hassan has joined Human Rights Watch as its first Chief Programs Officer and Deputy Executive Director. In this role Hassan will oversee Human Rights Watch’s research, advocacy, media, and legal work, supervising a staff of more than 300 professionals in more than 50 countries.

“At a challenging moment for the human rights movement, we need to intensify our efforts to defend our common humanity, to fight for our shared aspiration for justice, and to protect the fundamental dignity of everyone,” Hassan said. “Human rights provide the foundation – and the solutions – to address the biggest issues of our time, from racism to entrenched poverty, from structural inequalities to climate change, from populist strongmen to mass surveillance. I am excited to help lead Human Rights Watch as we work to build a safer and more just world where everyone can live in dignity.”

Hassan is charged with developing and driving programmatic strategy, maximizing collaboration across teams, and helping to foster the safety and resilience of staff and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. She will sit on the Executive Committee and report to Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

Hassan, who previously worked at Human Rights Watch as a senior researcher mostly covering emergency situations around the globe, was most recently director of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Team and served as a member of the group’s Transitional Leadership Team in 2019. She started her career as a social worker, addressing issues confronting homeless youth, and was a founding member of a nonprofit that provides legal services to refugees and asylum seekers in her native Australia. She has also worked with several humanitarian organizations, including Medecins Sans Frontieres, UNICEF, and Save the Children, focusing on the protection of women and children in conflict.

“We’re thrilled that Tirana has returned to help lead Human Rights Watch at such a pivotal time,” Roth said. “She brings on-the-ground experience, strong management skills, an innovative vision for our programs, and a principled approach to leadership. The Covid-19 pandemic shows exactly why we need governments to put human rights at the heart of their policies. She’s the right person to help us press for a more rights-respecting world.”

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