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
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
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
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.