Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth: Ends Justify the Means?

As he did in May, Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth is once again advocating for the indefensible UN Human Rights Council “fact-finding” mission on Gaza, in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, without properly informing readers that its head, Judge Richard Goldstone, was until recently a board member of his organization as well as an active defender of its controversial statements on Israel. Last time, this affiliation was carefully buried at the end amid a jumble of others; this time it’s not even mentioned.

It’s a safe bet that Roth is acting in coordination with Goldstone. Both are smart lawyers and should know better than to ignore the ethical requirements of full disclosure. 

Of greater concern is the substance. According to Roth, the UN Human Rights Council’s originally one-sided mandate for its Gaza inquiry is in “the superseded past,” because the 47-nation body “acquiesced” in the broadened terms given by the council president to Judge Richard Goldstone (“Don’t smear the messenger,” Jerusalem Post, August 26).

This is a misstatement of both fact and law. The biased mandate-which examines only Israeli actions, and presumes Israel’s guilt in advance-was adopted by the council on January 12, 2009, in Resolution S-9/1. This governing framework of the Goldstone inquiry has never been legally “superseded.”

The president’s purported changes were announced in April, and the council had the opportunity to ratify them through a resolution at its June session. It chose not to do so. Silence does not amend resolutions. Nor does the council president himself possess such power, any more than the House Speaker in the U.S. can amend a law.

Moreover, Roth fails to address Goldstone’s refusal to disqualify Christine Chinkin from the inquiry, as requested by UN Watch in a 28-page legal brief. While international law requires human rights fact-finders to be impartial and free of any commitment to a preconceived outcome, Chinkin, like the council, declared that Israel was in breach before she even started.

Goldstone and Roth are well aware of these and other legal defects, yet apparently believe that the ends-which they mistakenly believe will be noble-justify the means.

1 Response to “Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth: Ends Justify the Means?”


  • Mr. Kenneth Roth often mentions Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law and of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In his response to Irwin Cotler’s two-part article in the Jerusalem Post, Mr. Roth maintains that Israel is bound to observe the rules and he adds: “That is mandated even though Hamas often violated these rules, because violations by one side do not justify violations by the other.”

    However, it seems to me that the Fourth Geneva Convention never went as far as being a suicidal pact. Article 2 of the FGC states: “Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.”

    The last proposition is particularly relevant here since Hamas never observed (and never intended to respect) any provision of the international conventions regarding armed conflict. Is is not strange, to say the least, that Mr. Roth systematically ignores this aspect?

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