Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist

Human Rights Watch chief flip-flops on PLO’s ICC gambit

Roth twitter

While Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth has emerged this week as the most prominent backer of the PLO’s controversial new bid to join the International Criminal Court in order to launch criminal complaints against Israel, it was not so long ago that Roth’s organization promised Americans that precisely this scenario would never happen.

The flip-flop seriously undermines Roth’s credibility on the subject of the ICC, and will only strengthen the cause of the court’s skeptics in the United States.

In a flurry of tweets over the past few days, Roth has sharply criticized statements of the U.S., France, and Canada that described the PLO’s ICC gambit as unilateral, counter-productive and provocative.

Roth has also called out the New York Times and the Washington Post for alleged errors of fact and law in their news and opinion articles on the subject.

Flip-Flop: HRW in 2001 Promised That PLO Politicization of ICC Would “Never Happen”

What is so interesting about all of this is that back in 2001 — when Americans were debating whether or not to join and support the ICC — Ken Roth’s Human Rights Watch launched a campaign to assure the public that the ICC would never be used to pursue what it described as “politically motivated cases against Israel.”

As part of HRW’s publicity campaign to sell Americans on ICC, Roth’s group published “Myths and Facts About the International Criminal Court.”

The concern about PLO politicization of the ICC was nothing but a “myth,” said Human Rights Watch:



And one of the reasons it wouldn’t happen, said HRW, was because of these alleged facts: “Future actions on Israeli or Palestinian territory will be covered only if the ICC treaty is ratified by Israel or by a broadly recognized Palestinian state.” And as HRW staff assured Americans in a Washington Post op-ed, “That will not happen until after a peace agreement, in which case the likelihood of Israeli military action against Palestinians greatly diminishes.”

Fast forward 14 years. HRW’s Ken Roth is now furiously lobbying for the Palestinian bid to join the ICC before a peace agreement — and indeed while the PA refuses to even sit at the negotiating table with Israel.

So what happened to Roth’s “that will not happen” promise?

About the Author
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland. An international lawyer, Neuer has been described by the Tribune de Genève as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper ranked Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” Hillel Neuer is a renowned speaker who has published widely, testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, and appeared on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution declaring “Hillel Neuer Day” in recognition of his work as “one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates.” In June 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, citing his work as “an innovator” in “creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice."