Checking in with Human Rights Watch

Checking in with Human Rights Watch

I checked in today with Kenneth Roth at Human Rights Watch on a couple of issues. First, I asked whether the organization is supporting a Security Council referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. A recent HRW press statement on Syria called for the Security Council to consider targeted sanctions and an arms embargo, but did not mention the ICC.  Here’s his response:

Yes in principle, but as a practical matter it’s not realistically on the Security Council agenda yet (a SC referral would be needed), so we’re focusing on the accountability steps that currently are in play, such as pressing Syria to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights investigative team (it has so far  refused) and encouraging the SC to deploy a high-level commission of inquiry to investigate alleged atrocities, including crimes against humanity.

I also asked Roth what response Human Rights Watch had received to last month’s major report on crimes committed by the United States during the last administration. That report included a call that foreign governments try senior Bush administration officials if the United States fails to do so. I had expected the report to generate significant controversy–the world’s most respected human rights organization was calling for a former U.S. president to be tried for crimes, after all–and was surprised by how little attention it received. Here’s Roth’s take:

My sense is that both Bush and Obama supporters are embarrassed by the report so each hopes it’ll disappear.  It received substantial press interest overseas but less in the US.  As for controversy, I didn’t expect all that much–we’ve been making these points for a long time, this report just put them all together.