20 Sep Human Rights Watch Detained and Thrown Out of Venezuela
The New York Times and Washington Post (and lots of other places) report today (Saturday, September 20, 2008) that the two senior executives of the Human Rights Watch Americas Division, executive director Jose Miguel Vivanco and deputy director Daniel Wilkinson, were detained by Venezuelan security personnel in Caracas and placed on a plane to Brazil. From the NYT:
Armed men in uniforms apprehended José Miguel Vivanco, a Chilean citizen who is the Americas director for the New York-based group, and Daniel Wilkinson, an American who is deputy director for the Americas, and placed them on a flight to São Paulo, Brazil, where they arrived on Friday morning.
“About 20 men, some of them in military uniform, intercepted us when we arrived at our hotel after returning from dinner Thursday night,” Mr. Vivanco said in a telephone interview from São Paulo. He said he struggled briefly with the security officials when he tried to send a message on his BlackBerry to The New York Times about the expulsion.
The officials then disabled the BlackBerries of the two men and prevented them from contacting anyone in Venezuela, including diplomats from the embassies of Chile or the United States. “They informed us of our apprehension and told us they had entered our rooms and had packed our belongings,” Mr. Vivanco said.
People who have read my writings on human rights know that I have plenty of disagreements with Human Rights Watch on various matters of law, policy, the direction of the human rights movement, etc. In twenty or so years, however, I have almost never had an issue with its factual reporting, even when I disagreed with its interpretation of it. I have never had any questions about the veracity of its reporting in Latin America over all these years. Jose Miguel Vivanco, whom I have known for decades, is a person of unshakeable integrity. So I just take it as more Chavez thuggishness when he throws HRW out of the country. It’s not as if HRW has not been equally tough on the Uribe government in Columbia in its reporting.
(The former director of HRW, and now president of the Open Society Institute, Aryeh Neier, once told me that he regarded as perhaps his finest moment at HRW as when, after having issued many reports on murders, disappearances, all sorts of stuff by the US backed contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s, HRW’s Americas division issued a report on death squads run by the Sandinistas; it provoked a storm of protest among left-wing supporters of the Sandinistas, who could not believe that a human rights organization could criticize anything on the left, including a famous denunciation of HRW, its Americas director Juan Mendez (lately special advisor to the UN SG on genocide and currently president of the International Center on Transitional Justice in New York), and Neier as … “poisonously neutral.”)