It has taken some time for the Dish to read through this NGO Monitor report on Human Rights Watch. The paper criticizes HRW for faulty reporting in a war-zone:
Blitt (2004) illuminates the NGO network’s substantial role and influence in the international system, noting that the “human rights NGO community at large boasts an imperfect track record regarding objectivity and accurate reporting, particularly when operating in conflict situations.”
There's also criticism of the extensive use of eyewitness reports:
[HRW's reports] share a reliance on questionable sources and interested parties (“eyewitnesses” in areas dominated by Hamas and Hezbollah)...
Then there's the critique that HRW employees are human rights absolutists that have an expansive understanding of international law. Here's the report's characterization of HRW's writings regarding the alleged shelling of a Palestinian family:
Consistent with many other HRW reports on Israel, the statement demanded “an independent, impartial investigation” that “involve the use of external, international experts,” and condemned Israeli investigations. The text also invoked the rhetoric of international law, implying that Israel failed to “distinguish between soldiers and civilians, targeting only the former.” The statement used legal terms such as “indiscriminate” and “disproportionate attacks in which the civilian harm outweighs military necessity.” In the context of the Gaza Beach events, as in many similar cases, HRW officials and “researchers” clearly possessed neither the factual nor military information necessary to make such judgments.
The NGO Monitor report details any time that HRW has rushed to judgment and later had to correct itself, or failed to correct itself. Because NGO Monitor is a self-defined pro-Israel organization, it is hard to know how much to trust their characterization of various incidents. The report often reads like op-ed .
The goal HRW is to sniff out human rights violations, which requires reporting in war torn areas where it it is difficult if not impossible to verify certain information. This methodology is not confined to HRW's reporting on Israel. If HRW, or any organization, doesn't have enough information to make a statement unequivocally or if the sources interviewed have a vested interest these facts should be noted. A few more of the reports more criticisms, which, again, are hard to evaluate without further information:
Hezbollah’s widespread use of civilians as human shields in the towns and villages of Southern Lebanon and in the neighborhoods of Beirut went largely unreported. For example, in the August 2, 2006 report Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks against Civilians in Lebanon, HRW claimed that it found “no cases” of Hezbollah’s deliberate use of human shields, despite the evidence available from international media...
As with Qana in the Lebanon war, HRW reported rumors of civilian deaths as fact. Following an exchange of fire close to the al-Fakhura UN school on January 6, 2009, HRW relied on two eyewitnesses who said that there were no “Hamas militants in the area at the time.” HRW also promoted Palestinian claims that “between 30 and 40 people” had been killed, and that this “shocking loss of civilian life…appears to be the singlemost deadly incident for civilians in Gaza since Israel’s current offensive began” (HRW News Release Jan. 7, 2009), calling for a “high-level emergency session” of the UN Security Council to investigate. As later confirmed by UN officials, no one was killed in the school. Of the 12 people reportedly killed nearby, nine were affiliated with Hamas, and three were civilians (Katz Feb. 19, 2009; see also Rabinovich Feb. 6, 2009).