Explanation from Human Rights Watch?

3 Feb

Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), was quoted in a L.A Times article that, ‘

… Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions…  ‘What I heard loud and clear from the president’s order was that they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured — but that designing that system is going to take some time.’

Considering that the international human rights watch group has previously condemned rendition as a form of tactic in Bush’s war against terror, Mr Malinowski would need to further clarify what he meant by his comment.

Firstly, what does he mean by ‘limited circumstances’? Does he mean renditions are acceptable in the phony ‘war against terror’ as long as those kidnapped are not subject to torture (so as to keep America and the free world safe)?’ I would beg to differ given the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically stated, in article 9, that ‘no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile’?

If he meant the Obama administration needs time to cease the rendition programs, specificity and clarity is warranted. How much time does Mr Malinowski thinks the administration would need to address those concerns? As it is, the European parliament has condemned rendition as “an illegal instrument used by the United States.” No ifs and buts.

If that is what he thinks, that rendition will be gradually phased out under the current administration, how does he explain the comment made by an Obama official, who seems to suggest otherwise:

“Obviously you need to preserve some tools — you still have to go after the bad guys… It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.”

Either Mr Malinowski is getting conflicting information from the President or his spokespersons (and has been double-crossed) or has been overtly optimistic in judging the new administration.

Needless to say, if the Obama official is right, the new President and his team will likely continue the rendition programs, perhaps, albeit with minor changes.

This is however not good enough for human rights advocates and the promotion and preservation of human rights norms and benchmarks.

Mr Malinowski needs to reiterate his stance again on rendition. For a start,  he might want to consider submitting the same demands  that HRW made last April on this issue to the new US White House entrants.

Similarly, I would also strongly urge HRW continue its critical role on the Obama administration (as vocal as it has against the previous President), and stop becoming an apologist or defender of the Obama administration.

As a beacon for human rights, HRW needs to remain vigilant and impartial in all circumstances. A healthy dose of skepticism is in order, especially for those who come into power promising radical changes.

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One Response to “Explanation from Human Rights Watch?”

  1. Charles February 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    I have subsequently emailed HRW’s Washington office on this issue after making this post. Let’s hope that they will either write a reply to me personally or craft a statement on this issue at their official site.

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