Governments and Human Rights Organizations:

Confrontation or Co-operation?

In the past months, the performance of the international human rights organizations was widely criticized and accused of double standards and of having a political agenda. The Arab revolutions have put human rights at the core of the political conflict. Many Arab countries were criticized for violating human rights and using excessive force against protesters as was the case in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia. Arab governments have criticised the West for using human rights in causing problems and ?ncitement.

Obviously, Arab governments do not welcome any criticisms from international human rights bodies and neither do some Western Governments who resent their reports. Regardless of whether these accusations are credible, these organizations cannot be ignored, underestimated, pressurized or threatened.

This is due to the fact that these organizations have a big impact on political scene and are an integral part of international law and politics. Confronting these organizations and viewing them as an enemy is unwise since they are real actors in the international arena. Any confrontation with these organizations on a public, legal or political level will result in failure. The reputation of the USA was seriously affected when it ignored the criticisms of these organizations and their reports.

Human rights violations result in foreign political interference in order to protect the lives of civilians. It is an international issue that goes beyond borders and hence, the calls to boycott these organizations will not weaken or undermine their credibility, especially since almost every country in the world is monitored by them.

The big influence of these organizations should encourage governments to cooperate with them and benefit from their experience and resources. Boycotting and confronting these organizations will only damage the image and reputation of the country and will not solve the internal problems.

International human rights organizations have contributed significantly in writing international human rights conventions, which are part of International Law. They also have considerable influence on international media through their large networks, which publish their reports or prepare programmes on countries.

Moreover, they have a political effect on governments’ foreign policies, research centres and universities. Let us not forget that human rights have become part of the academic syllabus in many academic institutions.

Human rights organizations also have an effect on western legislative bodies such as the European Parliament, American Congress and an enormous number of civil society organizations in the world.

Furthermore, they also have an impact on international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, banks and multinational companies. They assess the political situation of countries and measure their stability against their adherence to human rights.

Human rights reports and publications of international human rights organizations have a strong effect on Western and international public opinion, including the Arab public opinion, which respects and participates in the campaigns of these organizations.

Countries around the world have no choice but to accept the international human rights organizations and accept that they have a big effect on local politics. They should communicate and cooperate with these organizations and understand their working methodology.

Governments that ignore human rights organizations will be viewed as authoritarian regimes, and their international reputations will be undermined. Ignoring human rights organizations will also give other countries a justification to interfere in their affairs and overthrow the regime.

Theoretically, states that improve the human rights situation in their countries should not fear these organizations since the criticism directed at them is limited, and as long as the citizens are confident of their government’s political and human rights reform project. Here, human rights reports are not considered pressure tools, but are viewed objectively and in a positive manner.

There are some common misunderstandings surrounding the relationship between states and human rights organizations, including:

1- The perception that these organizations are a product of the West and that they target specific countries. These states continually ask these organizations: why do you criticise us and not the other states? They fail to understand that no country is immune from criticism and pressure.

2- The perception that these organizations are naive and that they will believe any information that is passed on to them without verification. Many states make false promises of improving human rights by establishing investigative committees in the hope that such organizations will stay silent. They then discover that these organizations will hold them to account.

3- The perception that criticizing and condemning international organizations will lead to a decrease in criticism or stop altogether.

4- The perception that the effect of these organizations is small and that their reports can be ignored. Some states believe the international mechanisms for human rights are worthless and can also be ignored.

5- The perception that the staff and policies of these organizations can be easily circumvented and influenced by money.