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Since the founding of the first component of Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Watch, more than eleven years ago, the highest priority of Human Rights Watch has been the defense of those individuals and organizations persecuted for defending human rights in their own countries.

One aspect of this work in the last three years has been the publication of an annual report on the persecution of human rights monitors worldwide. The 1989 report documented some 1200 cases of persecution in 72 countries. These include 68 killings of human rights monitors during the year. The largest number of killings took place in countries that are usually regarded as democracies: that is, they have elected civilian governments; political parties that operate more or less freely; and mass media that express a wide range of views. Among the countries with the most killings were Colombia, Brazil, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Peru and Guatemala.

One reason that monitoring human rights is so dangerous in such countries is that the political space to engage in monitoring exists, but the rule of law has not been established. Killings are usually carried out by private groups operating with the complicity or tolerance of the police or armed forces. It is often difficult to establish government culpability beyond doubt. Accordingly, the governments of these countries are able to deny responsibility. In an effort to follow up these cases, Human Rights Watch is undertaking an effort in 1990 to determine what happened --investigations, prosecutions, punishment, etc. -- with respect to each of the killings reported in the annual surveys we published during the last three years.

During 1989, as during the previous two years, Human Rights Watch's annual report on the persecution of human rights monitors worldwide was compiled by Joanna Weschler.

Also during 1989, Human Rights Watch celebrated its eleventh anniversary with a dinner in December in New York honoring ten human rights monitors. Those honored in 1989 were: Abdennour Ali Yahia, Algeria; Larissa Bogoraz, Soviet Union; Tshenwani Simon Farisani, South Africa; Mohamed Mohamed Fayek, Egypt; Gustavo Gallón Giraldo, Colombia; Li Lu, China; Bishop Mario M. Medina Salinas, Paraguay; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Rishekesh Shaha, Nepal; and Ali Taygun, Turkey.

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