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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The real issue in the Garlasco case

The real issue in the Garlasco case is not that one Human Rights Watch investigator collects Nazi memorabilia. It's that Garlasco shows that Human Rights Watch hires investigators who have questionable credentials and then assigns them to investigate where their pre-conceived notions will interfere with whatever objectivity they might otherwise have. The lesson that needs to be learned by HRW - and by all of the international NGO's - from the Garlasco incident is that hiring processes must be transparent, qualifications must be demonstrable and that the investigators should recuse themselves from - or being removed from - any investigation where their biases might get in the way.

NGO Monitor explains.
Beyond Garlasco’s activities and statements surrounding his Nazi memorabilia collection, this investigation should examine the HRW employment process, and the credibility of the numerous reports and related activities in which he played a central role. In particular, this detailed and external review should examine the veracity of reports on Israel which Garlasco co-authored and presented at press conferences, and which included repeated condemnations using terms such as "war crimes", "violation of international law", etc. These allegations promoted the campaign to isolate Israel internationally, including the formation of the Goldstone mission. [1]

For a number of years, NGO Monitor has identified numerous claims in Garlasco's reports and statements on Israel that were false, inaccurate, distorted, and biased. Since 2003, when Garlasco joined HRW, the title and role of "military expert", and the credibility given to his allegations, were justified on the basis of his seven years in the US defense establishment, in which he claims to have fulfilled numerous positions.

NGO Monitor has not found any independent sources to support Garlascos claim to the type of expertise and knowledge of weapons and technology that are invoked in the various reports he has co-authored at HRW. Indeed, the available biographical information on Garlasco's career prior to employment at HRW is consistent with the view that his expertise is far below the level required for the claims made in his HRW reports. This highlights the need to examine the process and decision making which led to Garlascos employment at HRW.


Analysis of HRW's credibility and moral standing should also examine the roles of clearly biased individuals in the Middle East division, such as Joe Stork and Sarah Leah Whitson – both of whom were active in anti-Israel activities. Whitson led HRW fundraising efforts in Saudi Arabia, emphasizing allegations of Israeli war crimes (including Garalascos false claims on white phosphorous), and attacked critics (“pro-Israel pressure groups”).

NGO Monitor’s President, Prof Gerald Steinberg said “Garlascos statements in various chat forums and other platforms dealing with Nazi memorabilia explain the anti-Israel bias that is reflected in his reports, as shown in NGO Monitors systematic analyses. Evidence of this bias and its implications must also be included in this investigation of HRW's Middle East activities and Garlascos role in this area.

HRW’s reliance on Garlasco’s supposed ‘expertise’ raises enormous questions over the credibility of their activities. It reflects an organization that has consistently placed ideology above professionalism and universal human rights values.”
For a group like HRW to be taken seriously by all parties, its investigators must be beyond reproach. There can be no hints that they might be biased. Otherwise, one party or the other will not accept their conclusions. Can you imagine me being an unbiased investigator of Operation Cast Lead? Of course not. If I ever worked for one of these organizations and they put me in charge of investigating Gaza, they'd blow their credibility. Of course, I could investigate Sri Lanka or Georgia if I had the basic competence to do so.

HRW is guilty of trying to pre-determined the outcome of any investigation of Israel. Fair-minded people all over the world should reject their efforts to do that.


At 10:08 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. Its not even going into the question of whether Garlasco holds negative views about Jews. The real issue is whether HRW and other NGOs seek to maintain professional standards of conduct and impartiality in their investigation of public controversies. For the time being, the answer to that desideratum appears to be "no."

What could go wrong indeed


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