Human Rights Watch
THOUGH HUMAN RIGHTS “WATCH HAS BECOME ONE OF THE TWO most important institutions for the protection of human rights worldwide, its beginnings in the late 1970s did not seem to foreshadow its subsequent development. The organization is an outgrowth of the efforts of a handful of people to address one particular human rights problem of the era. They did not plan in advance its expansion to address a full range of issues worldwide. Nor did they begin with the intent to adopt the modus operandi that soon came to define the organization’s character. Those developments were, to a large extent, accidents of history.
There were, of course, aspects of the development of Human Rights Watch that, at least in retrospect, seem inevitable. The organization was created in the late 1970s, at a moment of burgeoning public concern, particularly in the United States, with the cause of international human rights. As the major nongovernmental organization already active in the field, Amnesty International, was based outside the United States, was not the recipient of significant financial support from well-to-do U.S. donors and private philanthropies, and did not seek such support, there was an obvious opening for a new American organization. Moreover, in that period, Amnesty’s definition of its own mandate was narrow. It did not include efforts to address violations of the laws of war and, from the standpoint of many Americans who were starting to become concerned with the protection and promotion of rights internationally, it had an even more impor