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The complexity that human rights work has acquired, and the diversity of opportunities for advocacy and action, have increasingly demanded that Human Rights Watch undertake initiatives involving a specialized focus or expertise. At times, those initiatives consist of a single opportunity to make our voice heard on a crucial issue, but often they take the form of sustained campaigns. Some of these activities undertaken in 1995 included the following.


The Human Rights Watch Prison Project has conducted specialized prison research and campaigns for prisoners' rights since 1987, to focus international attention on prison conditions worldwide. Drawing on the expertise of the regional divisions of Human Rights Watch, our prison project has investigated conditions for sentenced prisoners, pre-trial detainees, immigration detainees, and those held in police lockups. The work is distinctive in the international human rights field in that it examines conditions for all prisoners, not only those held for political reasons.

In addition to pressing for improvement in prison conditions in particular countries, the prison project seeks to place the problem of prison conditions on the international human rights agenda. We believe that a government's claim to respect human rights should be assessed not only by the political freedoms it allows but also by how it treats its prisoners, including those not held for political reasons. Our experience has repeatedly shown that a number of democratic countries that are rarely if ever a focus of human rights scrutiny are in fact guilty of serious human rights violations within their prisons.

The prison project has a self-imposed set of rules for prison visits: investigators undertake visits only when they, not the authorities, can choose the institutions to be visited; when the investigators can be confident that they will be allowed to talk privately with inmates of their choice; and when the investigators can gain access to the entire facility to be examined. These rules are adopted to avoid being shown model prisons or the most presentable parts of institutions. When access on such terms is not possible, reporting is based on interviews with former prisoners, prisoners on furlough, relatives of inmates, lawyers, prison experts and prison staff, and on documentary evidence. The prison project relies upon the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as the chief guideline by which to assess prison conditions in each country. Prison investigations are usually conducted by teams composed of a member of the project's staff or advisory committee and a member of a Human Rights Watch regional division's staff with expertise on the country in question. Occasionally, the prison project invites an outside expert to participate in an investigation.

The project publishes its findings in reports that are released to the public and the press, both in the United States and in the country in question, and sent to the government of that country.

In previous years, the project conducted studies and published reports on prison conditions in Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Jamaica, Mexico, Poland, Romania, South Africa, the former Soviet Union, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States (including Puerto Rico, with a separate short report published), Venezuela, and Zaire.

The Enforcement of Standards

The U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners is the most widely known and accepted document regulating prison conditions. Unfortunately, these standards, although known to prison administrators virtually all over the world, are seldom fully enforced. Based on extensive research over the years, we concluded in our 1993 Human Rights Watch Global Report on Prisons that the great majority of the millions of persons who are imprisoned worldwide at any given moment, and of the tens of millions who spend at least part of the year behind bars, are confined in conditions of filth and corruption, without adequate food or medical care, with little or nothing to do, and in circumstances in which violence_from other inmates, their keepers, or both_is a constant threat. Despite international declarations, treaties and standards forbidding such conditions, this state of affairs is tolerated even in countries that are more or less respectful of human rights, because prisons, by their nature, are out of sight, and because prisoners, by definition, are outcasts. To strengthen the enforcement of standards, Human Rights Watch has continued to advocate creating a U.N. human rights mechanism to inspect prisons and to strengthen the mechanism for enforcement of standards and the prevention of abuses.

Human Rights Watch staff participated in the 1995 session of the Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, convened by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to devise a universal system of visits to places of detention. Despite our reservations regarding the confidentiality of the proposed system, we endorsed the effort and strove to ensure its maximum effectiveness.

Beginning in 1993, the Human Rights Watch specialist in prisons regularly participated in an international effort by representatives of about a dozen nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations to strengthen standards regarding prison conditions; the goal is to make these standards more effective in safeguarding the human rights of detainees. A representative of the prison project was among the drafters of an international handbook on the human rights of people imprisoned or detained. The document was presented during the Ninth U.N. Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held in Cairo in April 1995.

Fact-Finding: Japan and the U.S.
In March, the prison project and Human Rights Watch/Asia released a report titled Prison Conditions in Japan. Based on interviews conducted in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, Niigata and Asahikawa, the report condemned the widespread use of solitary confinement, the restrictions on contacts between prisoners and the outside world, the obsessiveness about rules, and the draconian punishments that have characterized the Japanese correctional system. It catalogued numerous cases in which the prison authorities had imposed harsh penalties for the most trivial rule violations, such as one prisoner who was punished with ten days in solitary confinement for looking at a guard. Concluding that from the moment of arrest through to the end of imprisonment "a prisoner in Japan is deprived of the most basic rights," the report urged Japan to undertake a serious reform of its prison system. A project representative returned to Tokyo in March to release the report simultaneously in Japanese and English. She participated in a press conference and presented two public lectures on prison conditions in Japan.

For several years the prison project has monitored the treatment of prisoners and other detainees in the United States. The project continued collecting information on U.S. prison conditions in 1995, with a particular focus on the proliferation of super-maximum security institutions (or "maxi-maxis"), a problem to which Human Rights Watch first called attention in its 1991 report on prison conditions in the United States.

In June, the project conducted a mission to a maxi-maxi facility in the state of Indiana, the Maximum Control Complex (MCC). Having received distressing reports of abuses at the MCC since it opened in 1991, the project had repeatedly asked to be allowed to inspect the facility, but the state's commissioner of corrections had persistently refused to grant permission for such a visit. When a new superintendent took charge of the facility in 1995, however, this permission was granted. On inspecting the institution and speaking privately with a number of prisoners, the Human Rights Watch delegation found that many of the worst abuses of the MCC's first years (when it was a "horror show," in the words of a prisoner who in 1992 was left in four-point mechanical restraints spread-eagled to his bed for days at a time) had been remedied or ameliorated. Nonetheless, the basic structural problems of prolonged social isolation and severe sensory deprivation still persisted. Held in solitary confinement in small, sterile, continuously lit cells, and deprived of almost all human contact over a period of years, MCC prisoners were treated in a manner that was injurious to their human dignity and that boded poorly for their eventual reintegration into society.

Our prisons expert and staff of the Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Project also concluded in 1995 an extensive study of sexual abuse of women in U.S. prisons. Having interviewed witnesses, including prisoners, former prisoners, prisoner rights advocates, lawyers and government officials in five states, investigators determined that women incarcerated in U.S. state prisons face a serious and potentially pervasive problem of sexual misconduct by prison officials. In particular, the abuses found included rape, sexual assault, inappropriate sexual contact, verbal degradation, and the unwarranted visual surveillance of undressed women prisoners. Equally troubling, most states had not adopted even preliminary measures to address these problems.

Business and Human Rights
As we noted in last year's World Report, some proponents of international trade and investment have argued that human rights should receive lower priority than fast-track, investment-driven development. While several Asian governments were the earliest to articulate this viewpoint a few years ago_arguing for an "Asian concept of human rights"_Western governments also direct their foreign policies with a strong bias toward "commercial diplomacy." In this line of reasoning, economic growth by itself would improve human rights; boosting trade would advance human rights by creating a middle class that ultimately would demand a greater political voice. This argument, however, ignores the fact that, for every liberalizing Taiwan there is a Singapore, Indonesia, China or Peru where economic growth has simply bolstered an authoritarian regime. Indeed, even if economic development could be correlated in the long term with improved respect for human rights_an unproven proposition_that would offer little solace to those imprisoned and tortured in the meantime.

A government's promotion of corporate investment abroad regardless of human rights conditions in the prospective host country sends a signal to businesses that human rights are neither a proper concern of theirs nor an issue of importance to their governments. And abusive leaders receive the same signals, which does the opposite of encourage reform. But once a corporation invests in a country, that country's human rights problems inevitably affect corporate practices and the exercise of workers' rights, including rights of free association and expression.

Recognizing that the increased importance of globalized trade in creating an ever-closer link between the corporate practices and human rights conditions in a growing number of countries, Human Rights Watch began in 1994 to examine this connection and develop ways of addressing it. In 1995 our work linking business and human rights expanded to country situations as diverse as Guatemala, Egypt, the West Bank/Gaza Strip, Nigeria, and China.

Two overarching principles have guided the work on business and human rights. We stress the absolute principle that corporations must avoid complicity in governmental human rights abuse. And we urge corporations to use their often considerable influence to increase respect for human rights in the course of their business operations.

In Nigeria, Human Rights Watch/Africa researched the role of the Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum Corporation in serious abuses against the Ogoni people in the country's southeastern Rivers State. On the basis of our findings, Human Rights Watch set forth a number of policy recommendations for foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria. This generated international press attention to Shell's role and responsibility. Our recommendations included a call to oil companies to criticize publicly the use of excessive force by the Nigerian security forces. To follow up our research, Human Rights Watch representatives met with officials of multinational oil companies, and those discussions continued at this writing. Human Rights Watch co-sponsored an ad that appeared in The New York Times protesting the death sentence issued for Ken Saro-Wiwa, the principal leader of the Ogonis, whom the authoritarian government of Nigeria had accused, without due process, of murder (see Nigeria section). Human Rights Watch/Africa pressed Royal Dutch Shell and other oil companies operating in Nigeria to protest Ken Saro-Wiwa's death sentence. After the Abacha government rushed to execute Saro-Wiwa despite a concerted international outcry on his behalf, we called for oil companies to publicly condemn the execution.

With respect to China, while continuing discussion with corporations over particular issues, Human Rights Watch/Asia called on investment banks that planned to finance the mammoth Three Gorges dam to avoid any involvement with the project until the Chinese government provided verifiable guarantees to protect the rights of the more than one million people scheduled to be forcibly relocated to make way for the dam. Human Rights Watch raised these concerns with institutional investors, including public pension funds, and insisted that investment banks be accountable for their decisions on this project. Responding to coverage of our concerns in investment journals in the U.S. and elsewhere, the president of the Three Gorges Dam Corporation acknowledged that criticisms on human rights and environmental grounds made it more difficult to generate foreign funding for the dam.

Human Rights Watch/Middle East raised the issue of corporate social responsibility for human rights at the Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit in Amman in October. We distributed to both conference participants and the press a detailed statement of concerns highlighting the link between respect for basic human rights and a climate conducive to investment, including an account of worker-related human rights abuse in Egypt and the issues of freedom of movement and discrimination resulting from Israeli policies in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel.

Regarding Guatemala, Human Rights Watch/Americas wrote a letter to the president of Western Atlas, a Houston-based oil exploration company conducting a seismic study in the Ixcán area, expressing our concerns about the company's employment of a known human rights violator and fugitive from justice. We believed the employment of this man contributed to a cycle of impunity for rights abuse. As far as we could ascertain, the company terminated his employment.

Drugs and Human Rights
As drug trafficking has spread around the world, with ever more countries affected by the production, shipment and consumption of psychoactive drugs, national and international counternarcotics programs have also proliferated. Unfortunately, these programs by and large have escaped close human rights scrutiny.

In early 1995, Human Rights Watch began a multi-year project to document and challenge human rights violations caused or exacerbated by efforts to curtail drug trafficking. The project focused initially on international counternarcotics programs supported or encouraged by the United States. Although Human Rights Watch has taken no position on the merits of counternarcotics objectives, we have insisted that those objectives_like all national and international political goals_be pursued within the framework of internationally recognized human rights. By raising our findings and concerns with the media, policy analysts, public officials and the general public, Human Rights Watch pressed for the incorporation of human rights considerations into the drug policy debate.

Human Rights Watch's first report on counternarcotics policies and programs, titled Bolivia: Human Rights Violations and the War on Drugs, was published in July 1995. Based on a mission to Bolivia in March and April 1995, the report examined Bolivian counternarcotics laws, institutions, and strategies and the central role of U.S. pressure and funding. Although the United States government insisted that U.S. counternar-cotics assistance could advance human rights objectives, in Bolivia that assistance was supporting programs deeply flawed by human rights violations. For example, under Law 1008, the country's anti-drug statute, Bolivians charged with drug offenses were imprisoned without the possibility of pre-trial release and, even if acquitted, were forced to remain imprisoned until their trial courts' decisions were reviewed by the Supreme Court, a process that routinely took years. In Chapare, the rural area in which most of Bolivia's coca is grown and cocaine base is produced, the antinarcotics police had run roughshod over the population, conducting arbitrary searches and seizures, manhandling and beating residents, stealing their goods and money. Some Bolivians detained on drug trafficking charges had alleged complicity in abusive interrogations by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DEA personnel acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that they do not intervene to stop abuse by Bolivian agents. We found that impunity for abuses by the antinarcotics police was the norm. Even complaints of serious human rights violations, including torture, and of abuses by DEA agents, were rarely investigated.

The report received widespread publicity in Bolivia and contributed to the growing public debate over the course of that country's counternarcotics efforts. Reforms to Law 1008 that would remedy some of its more serious adverse effects on human rights were being discussed by the Bolivian government and parliament as of this writing.

Human Rights Watch, through the drugs and human rights initiative, also researched the racial impact of drug-law enforcement in the United States and urged the U.S. government to address that impact in its first submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, pursuant to U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (see United States section). Ongoing research in the United States focused on the linkages between counternar-cotics operations, corruption, and police brutality.

Lesbian and Gay Rights
In 1994, Human Rights Watch adopted a policy opposing state-sponsored and state-tolerated violence, detention and prosecution on the basis of sexual orientation, and in 1995 expanded its work on discrimination to cover discriminatory treatment of lesbians and gays. In 1995, three Human Rights Watch regional divisions spoke out against persecution of lesbian and gay individuals and organizations.

Human Rights Watch/Americas protested armed raids on the offices of FUNDASIDA, the only nongovernmental AIDS organization in El Salvador, and subsequent death threats and attacks against members of the gay men's group Entre Amigos (Among Friends), whose membership records were taken in the raid. Human Rights Watch/Africa criticized President Robert Mugabe's order banning the organization Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe from the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, and condemned offensive anti-homosexual remarks that the president made at the fair's opening ceremonies. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki called on the Russian Federation to repeal two criminal laws used to harass a journalist and outspoken gay rights activist, Yaroslav Mogutin, denounced by Russian authorities as a "corrupter of public morals" and threatened with blacklisting. The division also condemned police detention and beating of members of an Albanian gay rights organization, Gay Club Albania, and called for the repeal of all Albanian criminal penalties for homosexual acts.

Standard-Setting and Mechanisms of International Law

Human Rights Watch contributes to the progressive development of human rights standards in international law. The organization has contributed to the drafting and negotiation of multilateral treaties, has sought precedent-setting judgments by courts and treaty bodies, and has promoted acceptance and ratification of such standards by all states in the international community. There is already an important body of substantive norms, both in the international law of human rights and in international humanitarian law (the laws of war); unfortunately, enforcement of those standards lags far behind. For that reason, our work in standard-setting has increasingly focused on the development of adequate and effective mechanisms to redress violations of human rights.

The International Criminal Court
The United Nations has developed a comprehensive list of "international crimes," behavior by individuals that affects all nations and peoples and therefore injures the interests of the international community as a whole. Among those crimes are the most egregious violations of human rights: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. At the same time, those are crimes for which there is a pervasive impunity because, almost by definition, domestic courts have been unwilling or unable to investigate, prosecute and punish them. The idea of an international criminal court to act when domestic remedies fail has been discussed for much of this century, without significant progress. Since 1992, however, it has gained new currency due to the need to confront ghastly episodes of massive deprivation of life occurring in the past decade. The creation of international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda in 1994 and 1995 renewed expectations that the international community was not helpless to bring the perpetrators of egregious crimes to justice. On the other hand, the political limitations of creating ad hoc courts under the peace and security powers of the United Nations, have persuaded many nations that it is time to move forward in the creation of a permanent international criminal court.

A concrete proposal was placed on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly in late 1994. By consensus, the General Assembly decided to convene an Ad Hoc Committee (to which all members states could send delegates) to meet twice during 1995 and engage in discussion of the draft statute drawn by the International Law Commission. Each meeting lasted about two weeks and was attended by delegations of fifty to sixty countries. The mandate of the ad hoc committee did not allow it to engage in negotiations or propose amendments to the draft statute. As a result, there were important discussions but little progress toward consensus. Significantly, the delegates were reluctant to recommend a firm timetable for completing a draft treaty and convening a diplomatic conference at which it could be signed. An active majority of participating states seemed intent on maintaining the momentum so far achieved and moving steadily toward the creation of the court, but a minority of states demanded further discussion, and_as is often the case at the United Nations_the consensus that was actually achieved represented the lowest common denominator. The delegations that sought to slow down the process included states traditionally hostile to the development of human rights standards on the basis of sovereignty or on argued cultural relativism. On this issue, they were joined by the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan, governments that otherwise professed to contribute to the progress of international law. Distrust of an international criminal court by the United States contrasted sharply with the staunch support it provided to the two existing ad hoc tribunals. Perhaps it was easier to support judicial bodies before which American officials were not likely to be brought.

In support of the prompt creation of an international criminal court, Human Rights Watch joined a loose coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) interested in the subject, monitored the daily sessions of the ad hoc committee, prepared and distributed commentaries to the draft statute that were well received by the delegates, and met informally with many delegations to express our points of view. We also sent letters to bar associations and legal scholars, urging them to express their views to the representatives of their governments on the need for action on this matter. As the issue came back to the General Assembly in late October 1995, we distributed a commentary on the report produced by the ad hoc committee and insisted on the need for progress in drafting a final treaty.

On the substance of the draft, we have advocated restricting the subject matter jurisdiction of the court to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (in the latter case both in international and internal conflict), and leaving out narcotics offenses, terrorism and aggression. We have also urged that the court be granted inherent jurisdiction not only on genocide but also on war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that_although its competence would be subsidiary to that of national courts_the court itself should be empowered to decide whether domestic remedies have been attempted in good faith as a bar to its own jurisdiction. We have strenuously objected to a stance adopted by the United States that would allow the Security Council to decide which cases might be heard by the court; in our view, that would deprive the court of its indispensable independence from political organs. During 1995 Human Rights Watch worked with other NGOs developing plans to help build citizens' support throughout the world for this initiative in the coming years.

Declaration on Forced and Involuntary Disappearances
In 1982, the U.N. Human Rights Commission set up a Working Group on Forced and Involuntary Disappearances, in an effort to address that cruel and dramatic practice. Over the years, the working group devised innovative ways of responding to the problem. It has published periodic reports listing the complaints it receives each year, sought and obtained permission to conduct on-site visits, and created a simple but effective mechanism to act on urgent requests. On the other hand, it never had a specific mandate to analyze petitions or review evidence; as a result, the working group does not establish governmental responsibility on any given case, but exposes governments that practice or tolerate disappearances only through statistical information that shows how many cases have been "resolved" in a given period.

In 1992, the U.N. General Assembly approved a Declaration on Forced and Involuntary Disappearances, at the behest of the Commission on Human Rights. Though non-binding, this instrument advanced the standards on this particularly cruel practice, and delineated the obligations of the state to address its consequences. In early 1995, the Commission on Human Rights asked its Working Group on Disappearances to propose means of supervising compliance by states with the standards set forth in the declaration. In turn, the working group asked NGOs for their input.

In August 1995, we submitted a detailed proposal to the working group, urging it to consider setting up a complaint mechanism by which affected families could seek its intervention. The working group would then seek the cooperation of the relevant national authorities to conduct an investigation, and eventually issue a resolution on the record, determining whether the facts as ascertained by the working group constituted a violation of the declaration, and formulating recommendations.

International Criminal Tribunals
Impunity for the most egregious violations of human rights continues to be the norm, despite the international community's pronouncements condemning "ethnic cleansing" killings in the former Yugoslavia, genocide in Rwanda and massive violations of the laws and customs of war in Chechnya, to name only the most visible examples. Though international law has long ago developed principles designed to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity, such as universal jurisdiction, so far there has been a manifest lack of political will to enforce them. Almost by definition, domestic courts are unavailable, unwilling or incapable of dealing effectively and fairly with these crimes. Under those circumstances, the international community must provide the means for redress to the victims while strictly respecting standards of fair trial. The Security Council has created ad hoc international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and all nations are duty-bound to cooperate with them and with the Office of the Prosecutor. While insisting on each country's obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish these crimes, we have also urged the international community to make accountability a reality through effective enforcement of international law.

Throughout 1995, Human Rights Watch supported the work of the two international criminal tribunals set up by the United Nations for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. We met regularly with the general prosecutor, Justice Richard Goldstone, and his staff and provided them with documentation from our on-site investigations so that the prosecutors can develop it into evidence to be used at trial or in support of indictment requests. We also paid close attention to the budgetary and funding problems that the tribunals faced at the United Nations, and urged the missions of key nations to insist on full funding for their activities. At the meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, we publicly called on all governments to support the tribunals and to cooperate with their work. Our researchers on the ground met often with investigators and other staff of the tribunals, and we hosted meetings in our New York office with Chief Justice Antonio Cassese and other judges. On several occasions, we urged the Security Council not to lift sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro until such time as the government has effectively lived up to its obligation to cooperate with the tribunal and the general prosecutor and has allowed their staff to conduct proper investigations in its territory. We also reacted publicly to statements by foreign governments that reflected hostility toward the tribunals.

Legal Advocacy
Increasingly, our efforts to promote corrective action to address human rights abuses led us to take part in judicial proceedings or in submissions before bodies set up in international law to hear individual complaints. Human Rights Watch strongly believes that courts and international protection mechanisms provide not only a useful forum to publicize instances of human rights violation but also the opportunity to advance principles of protection of rights so that they become part of international law.

The International Court of Justice and the Kurds
In 1995 Human Rights Watch pursued its efforts to bring a genocide case to the International Court of Justice against the government of Iraq for its 1988 "Anfal" campaign in which 50,000 to 100,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands of villagers were forcibly displaced, and 2,000 villages were destroyed in an effort to eliminate the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. During the year, Human Rights Watch met and discussed the case with representatives of a number of prospective plaintiff states in the effort to build a coalition to litigate the case before the court.

To facilitate governments' consideration of the available evidence, and to demonstrate the strength of that evidence, Human Rights Watch prepared an evidentiary memorandum linking the documents and testimonies we had gathered with the essential elements of genocide to underline both the requisite acts and intent by Baghdad to eliminate an ethnic group. The evidentiary memorandum was drafted to enable prospective plaintiff states to gauge the strength of the legal merits according to article 2 of the Genocide Convention.

Litigation in United States Federal Courts
United States law allows federal courts to hear cases in tort brought against foreign nationals for "crimes against the law of nations" committed in foreign lands. This unique feature of the country's legal system has become an important tool in stigmatizing perpetrators of crimes against humanity by making sure that United States soil does not become a safe haven for them when they leave office in their countries. Since 1980, several cases have been brought against torturers and abusers of other fundamental rights, and successive court victories have turned this litigation strategy into an important advocacy tool. In the late 1980s, Human Rights Watch joined other organizations and law firms in bringing three such complaints against the former "lord of life and death" of Buenos Aires, Gen. Carlos Guillermo Suárez Mason, who had fled Argentina shortly after the return to democracy and was living in golden exile in San Francisco. We won default judgments for our clients, and eventually Suárez Mason was extradited to Argentina.

In 1995 we found new opportunities to apply the strategy. We took advantage of opportunities to represent plaintiffs in cases brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Alien Victim Protection Act, which confer jurisdiction on federal courts to hear suits in damages against perpetrators of crimes "in violation of the law of nations" committed in foreign lands, as long as the defendant is present in the territory of the United States. With the assistance of the New York law firms of Debevoise & Plimpton and Carter, Ledyard & Milburn, we undertook to represent several Rwandan nationals who had lost family members in the genocide of April and May 1994, in a case called Mushikiwabo v. Barayagwiza, in the Southern District of New York. The defendant, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, was leader of one of the extremist political factions that prepared and then unleashed the massacres. Mr. Baraya-gwiza was served in 1994, when he visited the United Nations before the fall of the genocidal regime. Since then, he has resided in France and in Zaire. In 1995, the court entered a default judgment against him. Our side filed a detailed request for compensatory and punitive damages, and for oral hearings on the matter.

Requests under the Freedom of Information Act
Under the Freedom of Information Act it is possible to force disclosure of information and documentation that exists in United States government archives. We pursue administrative requests for release of material that we consider vital to human rights research or the protection of persons whose rights have been violated. While attempting to monitor the conditions for Haitian and Cuban refugees held in the Guantánamo Bay naval base, we heard allegations of acts of violence by American troops against Haitian minors. We also sought to obtain information on the practices followed with respect to segregation of refugees in the camp. We then filed two FOIA requests: one requesting a copy of the Administrative and Segregation Policies and Procedures to be followed by Joint Task Force 160 (the unit charged with running the camps), and another one to obtain a copy of a report of an investigation conducted by the task force on allegations of abuse against Haitian minors.

In July, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright showed satellite and aerial photographs at a closed session of the Security Council. The pictures reportedly show Bosnian civilians from the Srebrenica camp being rounded up in a soccer field before being killed. In August, we joined several organizations filing an FOIA request demanding disclosure of this evidence.

Briefs Amicus Curiae
By filing briefs as amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," Human Rights Watch provided courts with an international human rights analysis of the legal questions at issue in selected cases. Our international human rights perspective is relevant not only in cases brought, for example, under the Alien Tort Statute, in which courts directly examine international human rights standards, but also in cases where domestic law and practice arguably contravene international norms. In such cases, Human Rights Watch calls the court's attention to international legal obligations that limit domestic authority: obligations that may function both as a constraint on and as a guide to the interpretation of domestic legal norms.

CABA v. Christopher: In this case against U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and others, Human Rights Watch filed an amicus brief in support of 35,000 Cuban detainees held indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay naval base after their 1994 attempts to immigrate to the U.S. by sea. Emphasizing the United States' international treaty obligations, particularly its obligation not to repatriate any Cuban who would face political persecution, we supported the Cubans' claims that they had been wrongly denied access to refugee processing and to legal counsel for such processing. In a disappointing ruling, however, the Eleventh Circuit held that these treaty obligations were non-enforceable in court and that the detainees had no right to refugee screening. A few months later, the administration reversed its policy and decided to admit the Guantánamo Cubans to the United States.

Doe v. Karadzic: In 1993, two citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina filed a class action lawsuit against Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, on behalf of the thousands of victims of the "ethnic cleansing" carried out under his leadership. The suit was based on the Alien Tort Claims Act and other statutes conferring jurisdiction over torts committed in violation of international law. Without notice to the parties and without the benefit of briefing on the relevant points of law, the district court in New York dismissed the action. Demonstrating a basic lack of familiarity with international legal standards, it ruled categorically that "acts committed by non-state actors do not violate the law of nations." Characterizing the entity headed by Karadzic as a "warring military faction," as opposed to a recognized state, the court found that Karadzic's actions did not violate international law. On the plaintiffs' appeal of this ruling, Human Rights Watch filed an amicus brief arguing that the defendant need not represent a recognized state to be subject to international law constraints on state actors, and that many international human rights standards do bind non-state actors, so that the court's blanket dismissal of the case was mistaken. In October 1995, the Second Circuit reversed the lower court's ruling, and the case was remanded to the district court for further action.

Office of the Special Prosecutor of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia v. Mengistu: The government of Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991_known as the Derge_became notorious for its brutal and systematic human rights violations, including widespread use of torture and extrajudicial executions against political opponents, journalists, union leaders and scholars. The Derge also employed starvation as a weapon of war. President Mengistu Haile Mariam and some high Derge officials fled to Zimbabwe, while others were detained in Ethiopia. The new Ethiopian government requested that Zimbabwe extradite those officials that fled and, in an effort to bring justice to the victims of Derge's abuses, began in 1994 to prosecute members of the Derge for crimes against humanity. In March 1995, Human Rights Watch filed an amicus brief with the Ethiopian Supreme Court in support of the prosecution's effort, arguing in particular that Ethiopian penal provisions that codified the international law prohibition on crimes against humanity were applicable in the current prosecutions.

Freedom To Travel Campaign v. Newcomb: In 1994, the U.S. government's ban on citizens' travel to Cuba was challenged in federal district court as unconstitutional. Although the court dismissed the challenge, its ruling was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Human Rights Watch joined the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups in filing an amicus brief in support of the petitioners, the Freedom To Travel Campaign, arguing that the travel restrictions violate article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 19 protects freedom of expression, defined as including "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers." As article 19 suggests, one of the key methods by which information is shared is through travel and the free exchange of ideas. The right of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba is critical to their ability to participate fully in public debate on foreign policy matters, to share their views with Cubans, and to return to the United States capable of informing their fellow citizens of conditions in Cuba.

The ESMA case: Although family members of thousands of people detained and disappeared during Argentina's "dirty war" (1976-1983) have filed habeas corpus petitions in hopes of determining the whereabouts or fate of their loved ones, such legal efforts have almost always proven unavailing. Even when democracy was reestablished in Argentina, the specific fate and whereabouts of each disappeared person were still concealed and have remained so up to the present day. In March 1995, Navy Capt. Adolfo Scilingo publicly confessed to having thrown "disappeared" people out of airplanes into the sea_a confession that forced the reopening of criminal cases that had been closed by virtue of impunity laws and pardons issued in the late 1980s. In one such case, the district court ordered officials of the Navy and other entities to obtain or reconstruct lists of the disappeared persons held at the ESMA, a notorious concentration camp run by the navy. Human Rights Watch filed an amicus brief in support of the petition made by human rights leader Emilio Mignone, whose daughter disappeared at the ESMA camp, to the Federal Court of Appeals (Criminal Panel) for Buenos Aires. The brief argued that, in accordance with an emerging "right to the truth" in international human rights law, the government of Argentina had a responsibility to investigate the disappearances and inform the victims' family members, as well as society in general, of the results of that investigation. It further argued that discharge of that obligation was not barred by statutes designed to immunize certain individuals from prosecution. It was the first amicus brief ever accepted by an Argentine court and, so far as we know, by any court in Latin America. Unfortunately, the appellate court later reversed its order when the Menem administration responded that it could not find documentary archives. A similar ruling in a companion case was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Makawanyane & Mchunv v. State: The newly created Constitutional Court of South Africa heard, as its first case, a challenge to the death penalty, which the new constitution had not directly abolished. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Human Rights Watch filed an amicus brief; because non-South African institutions did not have standing to appear as amicus, our brief was submitted to the court as part of several memoranda brought to its attention by a colleague organization in South Africa, the Legal Resources Centre. Borrowing from the experience in death penalty litigation in the United States, our brief postulated that in a society beset by racial inequalities, there is no way to apply the death penalty without racial discrimination. In sum, we argued that the death penalty invariably subordinates "the values which underlie an open and democratic society based on freedom and equality," in the words of the new South African Constitution. In June 1995, the Constitutional Court declared the South African death penalty statute unconstitutional. It did so by the unanimous, individually reasoned vote of each one of its justices. The decision will surely become a landmark in the worldwide struggle to abolish capital punishment.

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