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Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth Goes to Bat for Hamas War Crimes

July 25, 2014 12:22 pm 22 comments

The Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth. Photo: Kai Mork.

Is Human Rights Watch really biased against Israel, or is it merely that they are zealous about protecting everyone’s human rights and Zionists are sensitive to their criticisms of Israel?

HRW chief Ken Roth clearly wants the world to believe that it is the latter. As he wrote a couple of days ago in this sarcastic tweet:

“People accept @HRW reporting as fair & accurate around globe but when it comes to poor, helpless, defenseless #Israel we’re suddenly biased.”

If what he says is true, then we would expect HRW to be just as energetic in uncovering human rights abuses from Gaza terror groups as it is for attacking Israel.

Yet here is what he tweeted last night:

#Hamas is putting civilians at risk but “no evidence” it forces them to stay–definition of human shields: @NYTimes.”

Roth chooses to refer to a New York Times article in order to defend Hamas.

What exactly did The New York Times write that Ken Roth finds so wonderful as to defend Hamas?

Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare. There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack — the legal definition of a human shield under international law. But it is indisputable that Gaza militants operate in civilian areas, draw return fire to civilian structures, and on some level benefit in the diplomatic arena from the rising casualties. They also have at times encouraged residents not to flee their homes when alerted by Israel to a pending strike and, having prepared extensively for war, did not build civilian bomb shelters.

Guess what? The New York Times is wrong.

The Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols do not use the words “human shields” anywhere. But the ICRC article on customary international humanitarian law has a fairly comprehensive description:

Rule 97. The use of human shields is prohibited.

State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
International and non-international armed conflicts

In the context of international armed conflicts, this rule is set forth in the Third Geneva Convention (with respect to prisoners of war), the Fourth Geneva Convention (with respect to protected civilians) and Additional Protocol I (with respect to civilians in general).[1] Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts.[2]

…The prohibition of using human shields in the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I and the Statute of the International Criminal Court are couched in terms of using the presence (or movements) of civilians or other protected persons to render certain points or areas (or military forces) immune from military operations.[18]

…It can be concluded that the use of human shields requires an intentional co-location of military objectives and civilians or persons hors de combat with the specific intent of trying to prevent the targeting of those military objectives.

While various military manuals do have specific prohibitions against forcing civilians to act as human shields, international law considers any situation where military targets (weapons tunnels, caches, rockets launchers) are deliberately placed near civilians to be cases of human shielding.

Under international law, even if Hamas doesn’t force civilians to be in a certain area, they are considered human shields according to the ICRC. Israel is right, and the NYT is wrong.

Ken Roth could have chosen to attack The New York Times for narrowing the definition in such a way as to downplay Hamas culpability for this war crime – which is what a zealous human rights defender would be expected to do. Instead, he went to bat for Hamas against the civilians of Gaza he supposedly cares so much about. Even the Times article says explicitly that “Experts in international law say that…Hamas is legally obligated to minimize its operations near civilians” yet Roth doesn’t want to highlight how bad Hamas is, but to emphasize Hamas is not really that bad. Roth is giving a terror group the benefit of the doubt that Israel has never received.

The New York Times article was written before Thursday’s events at the UNRWA school, but Roth’s tweet was written after details already were being published. And already at that time it was known that Hamas did force civilians to stay in the UNRWA shelter even as Israel was trying to get the civilians evacuated. As Washington Free Beacon recounts the events:

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness had similarly accused the IDF of preventing a civilian evacuation.

“Over the course of the day UNRWA tried 2 coodinate [sic] with the Israeli Army a window for civilians 2 leave & it was never granted,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness tweeted, following the strike.

However, in an unusual move late Thursday, multiple IDF sources rejected UNRWA’s claims and characterized them as outright falsehoods when reached by the Washington Free Beacon.

“For two days we were trying to move people out of that school in particular and the Beit Hanoun area in general,” said an IDF official who was involved in the interactions between the IDF, UNRWA, and International Red Cross (ICRC) leading up to the incident.

The official continued: “This morning we sought a cease-fire in the area and a humanitarian evacuation of civilians, but Hamas refused—because they wanted to keep civilians in the area to protect their fighters who were firing on the IDF,” the source said. The claim by Gunness and UNRWA that the IDF did not respond to their request to evacuate civilians, the source said, is “a flat-out complete and total lie.”

Who is telling the truth? I see no reason to doubt the IDF version of events. But the issue is that Ken Roth, whose very job is to prevent war crimes against civilians, chooses to ignore any evidence of Hamas war crimes – in this case, of using human shields even according to the falsely restrictive definition in The New York Times!

If Roth’s only bias was towards human rights, then why does he go out of his way to excuse and minimize Hamas war crimes – war crimes under any interpretation of the Geneva Conventions?

The only explanation is that Roth is biased, all right – but not for defending Gaza civilians’ human rights from Hamas.

Which tells you volumes about Ken Roth.


  • Good article, thanks.

  • Interesting how everyone becomes anti-semitic and liars when Israel is criticized. Just look at the numbers–all killed on the Israel side were soldiers with 3 exceptions. On the Palestinian side mostly civilians including 20-25% are children. Shameful for a “civilized” nation. Look at some of the Israeli parliamentarians who want to wipe out all the Palestinians–scary, fanatic bunch

  • Irving D. Cohen

    I watched, in amazement, the interview of that great hypocrite, Kenneth Roth, who kept insisting that Israel was a terrorist nation because it was attacking Palestinian “property” when it targeted a Muslim hospital, school or mosque. The interviewer never pointed out that, when those buildings were used to shield terrorists and killers, they had abandoned the purposes for which they had been built and became as much a military, death-dealing property as a tank or halftrack.

    Mr. Roth and his Human Watch organization have been among the world’s most ardent apologists for Muslim terrorist groups for a long time.

  • “The human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Ukrainian troops to have missiles of the type “degree” in Donetsk used in their attacks. At least 16 people died. The missiles are targeted inaccurate – their use in civilian territory is a war crime, the human rights activist told the media.” Source: SPIEGEL Online

    What about Hamas? They fire thousands of inaccurate targeted rockets to residential areas in Israel! This isn’t a war crime?

    Thank God, Israel has defense missiles. Pervert are the claims in Germany that the number of victims due to the defense rockets are so unequal. Is for many Germans still only a dead Jew a good Jew?


  • Can Ken Roth explain why in the last two years of firing rockets before the start of Defensive Edge, HRW has not determined that Hamas is committing war crimes?

    Ironically, HRC and all of the other sources of anti-Semitic
    bias is encouraging Hamas, which is following a path of destruction for the Palestinians. Events seem to be making sure that Palestinians will never accept peace, which
    ensures that Israel will not give up Samaria and Judea.

    For those of us who yearn for peace and a two-state solution,
    it seems our Father is dragging us, kicking and screaming,
    to keep the Holy Land he promised us 3,000 years ago.

  • This scum Kenneth Roth is nothing more than a self hating Jew! He is exactly the type of Jewish turncoats that the nazi’s used to get information from lambs in that era! What this fuckface doesn’t realize is that after he would give the Hamas pieces of crap information they would slice his ugly head off! Fuck this guy! I would love to bump into him so I could spit in his ugly face!!

  • Thanks to useful idiots as Ken, terrorism is thriving around the world. He should investigate why thousands of Muslims killed in Irak, Syria…etc.

  • Why you don’t speak up about the war crimes in Syria and Iraq? You, and Jimmy Carter are both real POS. How is Israel is supposed to defend it citizens?

  • No common sense, no logic , lack of basic analytical skills. And NY Times is his source of information. Watched him on Huckabee-shame and disgrace these passive aggressor is in the human rights affairs? Thanks to him terror organizations thriving around the world. They know they have morons to defend them as ken Roth.

  • I saw no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields
    The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Gaza

  • The problem is he has such brainwashed hate, he is not even considering that maybe in this case one of the alternative press outlets is providing the truth in this case. I am referring to outlets like this and Memri. I have discovered that no one is hearing the truth and that is the problem. If you can all lie the lie becomes the truth, and that is the case about the world and co.lonialist Islam, and its ubiquitous antisemitism, the genicidal variety. The whole world is dismissing it and has been. There is a reason no one believes, or even cares when you say 50% of the Jews of Israel are from other parts of the Ottoman Caliphate, where they were Dhimma or treated as badly as blacks in the new world, for over 1000 years, before recieving as close to complete “extermination” Azzam Pasha’s words not mine, as the human race has ever dealt a minority. And easily the greatest censorship of one in modern times, they reversed the whole thing on the minority.

    His defenseless comment is insane. And would not stand in any other sane conversation. Except if you have a culture of such lying about this subject, it a normal obsession to have. Think about it no one gets this emotional for any other conflict this small, and brainwashed. There is no doubt this is antisemitic racism.

  • ellen phillips

    Just heard ken Roth on Huckabee. What a mean spirited schmuck. He is most interested in disgracing Isral. This was evident when he had to have the last word even though it was a non sequetor to huckabee’s statement. Huckabee pointed out that hamas and arabs worldwide hold celebrations when an Israeli is killed. Roth had to make his own snide remark, without substantiation that Israel doesn’t prosecute Israelis who kill Arabs. What an ass.


  • Great link to the Atlantic article, Milhouse.

    I am thinking we need a new NGO, Human Rights Watch Watch

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    HRW is a FARCE!!!

  • Ken Roth lied about Jenin.

    I learned not to trust him.

  • Then there’s this

  • To someone who doesn’t know anything about HRW, E Pluribus Wombat may sound like a paranoid nut, playing the Nazi card like that. Too many people are always flinging the “N-word” around every time someone does something they disapprove of. But in HRW’s case EPW is on the money. I assume EPW remembers, but didn’t mention, that Marc Garlasco, until a few years ago HRW’s senior military analyst, had to resign after he was exposed as a Nazi admirer. And there’s the fact that HRW raises money from Saudi Arabia to attack Israel.

    • Comment more, don’t stop. People like you can make Algemeiner an alternative to the insipid “jews run the world (and therefor they must be stopped and stabbed in the back)” culture of the commenters on Puff Huff Haughtyngton Post. Which scares away anyone with a true opinion on the subject.

  • E Pluribus Wombat

    HRW is a gaggle of Nazis & the only place Nazis belong is hanged.

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