Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hypocrisy at Human Rights Watch

I have a solid measure of respect for people and individuals who consistently stand up for their convictions, even when I wholeheartedly disagree with them. But how can we to take seriously an organization like Human Rights Watch, when its only consistent stance is to criticize the United States?

How else to interpret a HRW spokesman’s recent comments regarding an Italian court’s decision to try twenty six Americans in absentia? The Americans, alleged to have worked for the CIA, are accused of kidnapping Muslim Cleric and reputed terrorist Abu Omar in 2003. The case is an attempt to hold the CIA and the United States accountable for so called renditions, the extraordinary detentions and transport of terror suspects.

When queried about the Italian decision, John Sifton, a senior HRW researcher said: “We assume that, if nothing else, the CIA is being a lot more careful, where once this was considered a controversial practice, now it's rightly seen as a violation of international law. It's a crime. It's not rendition. It's kidnapping."

Not a single word about the in absentia part of the trial. The Latin in absentia means while absent. And HRW has a long standing policy opposed to in absentia procedures as a denial of human rights. From a 1998 HRW document advising on the creation of an International Criminal Court:

Trials should not take place in the absence of the accused, and option 1 of Article 63[56] should therefore be retained.

Trials in absentia should be prohibited on the basis that they jeopardize the rights of defendants and undermine the credibility of the Court. This entails respect for a defendant's established legal right, to be present during the trial, to defend him/herself in person or through counsel of the defendant's choice, to examine witnesses against them and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses in their support.

While there is not an absolute prohibition on trials in absentia under international law, there is a widespread perception that trials in absentia should not be provided for in the statute as they undermine the rights referred to above.

Human Rights Watch, like ACLU and the rest of the left wing activist crowd are strangely silent about protecting the rights of the accused when it comes to Americans acting in an official capacity in the War on Terror. This week’s decision is just par for the course. Another American, Spc Mario Lozano, is also facing an in absentia trial in Italy. Lozano, a NY National Guard Infantryman is under indictment for the 2005 death of Italian Intelligence officer Nicola Calipari during the rescue of journalist and Italian national Guliana Sgrena.

Spc Lozano has been facing the likelihood of a trial in absentia since a judge ruled late last year that he could be indicted and tried without being present. Following his indictment two weeks ago, Human Rights Watch had exactly nothing to say protesting procedures they are on record against.

Contrast this with the mountains of virtual ink HRW spent on the “unfair” proceedings in Iraq that led to the execution of arch-tyrant Saddam Hussein. As early as October of 2005 HRW was criticizing the procedures used to prosecute Saddam. This in spite of the overwhelming evidence that Saddam had murdered thousands of Iraqis.

So what motivates an organization like HRW created and named to promote human rights and justice? Why would they criticize a trial where a developing nation holds its own dictator accountable for mass murder, but stand mute while a western nation, an EU member, and a democracy repeatedly uses in absentia proceedings? Proceedings which in the abstract HRW has consistently criticized!

It is pure and blatant anti-Americanism, and it certainly is bold hypocrisy!

The Defense of Mario Lozano