head of Human Rights Watch to step down after nearly 3 decades | New Policies

NEW YORK (AP) — The longtime head of Human Rights Watch announced on Tuesday that he will step down as executive director this summer after nearly three decades at the helm of one of the world’s leading advocacy organizations. .

Kenneth Roth led the New York-based group as it shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its efforts to ban anti-personnel landmines. The group also lobbied to establish the International Criminal Court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called Roth an inspiration.

“Ken’s fearless passion for justice, courage and compassion for victims of human rights abuses and atrocities were not just a professional responsibility but a personal conviction for him,” he said. she declared.

Roth became executive director in 1993, when the group had about 60 employees and an annual budget of $7 million. It now has more than 550 employees in more than 100 countries and a budget of almost $100 million to campaign against human rights violations.

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“Ken Roth has transformed Human Rights Watch into a juggernaut of justice,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “He inspired a generation of human rights defenders to fight for a better world.”

The group has been at the forefront of advocacy on some of the world’s most burning rights issues.

According to Human Rights Watch, this has earned Roth many enemies over the years.

“Despite being Jewish (and having a father who fled Nazi Germany when he was 12), he was attacked as a supposed anti-Semite because of the organization’s criticism of abuse of the Israeli government,” the group said in a statement. Tuesday.

“The Chinese government imposed ‘sanctions’ on him and expelled him from Hong Kong when he traveled there to publish Human Rights Watch’s global report in January 2020, which highlighted the threat from Beijing. for the global human rights system,” he said.

During his first years there, Roth carried out investigative investigations, notably in Haiti and Cuba, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in Kuwait after the 1990 Iraqi invasion. is particularly concerned about the atrocities committed during the Syrian war as well as the Chinese repression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Human Rights Watch documented and exposed the use of “black sites” where US officials interrogated and tortured terrorism suspects. The group urged the US government to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The organization said its reporting and advocacy contributed to the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and Bosnian Serb warlords Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

Roth began his human rights career as a volunteer, working nights and weekends while serving as a lawyer and federal prosecutor. He joined Human Rights Watch in 1987 as Deputy Director and shortly after taking the top job in 1993, he joined its regional rights monitoring groups under a single identity as Human Rights Watch.

Following Roth’s resignation at the end of August, Human Rights Watch said Deputy Executive Director Tirana Hassan will serve as interim executive director while it searches for Roth’s successor.

“I have had the great privilege of spending nearly 30 years building an organization that has become a leading force in defending the rights of people around the world,” Roth said. “I am leaving Human Rights Watch but I am not leaving the cause of human rights.

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