NGO Monitor has called on Sarah Leah Whitson, the head of ‘Human Rights Watch’s Mideast and North Africa division, to resign, on the grounds that she misled the public regarding the nature of the Gadhafi regime in Libya and the intentions of Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam.
Following Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) neglect of brutal human rights violations in Libya and false claims and cover-ups about prospects for reforms there, NGO Monitor today called for the immediate resignation of Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s director of its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division. HRW’s MENA division failed to devote the necessary resources to speaking out against human rights violations by oppressive Middle East regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Hamas, Lebanon, and most notably, Libya. Recent statements by Whitson regarding Seif Islam, a son of Moammar Qaddafi, demonstrate that she consistently whitewashed the reality in Libya and further embarrassed her organization.
“Human Rights Watch, and specifically MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson, has soft-peddled Qaddafi’s oppressive acts and offered no help to the Libyan people,” says Anne Herzberg, legal advisor for NGO Monitor, a research institution that tracks NGOs. “Whitson was well aware of the atrocities committed by the Qaddafi regime, but she chose to present the façade that Qaddafi’s son was prepared to implement ‘reforms.’ The events in Libya over the past weeks reveal Whitson’s gross incompetence. She has failed to retract her previously misleading statements. She cannot continue to head the MENA division, and we call for her immediate resignation.”
NGO Monitor notes that Whitson held a press conference last year in Libya that was abruptly halted and ended in “pandemonium.” Yet, Whitson spun her trip and the event in a positive light in her 2010 “Postcard from Tripoli,” in which she said that Libya had a “moment of opportunity.” Even more egregious is Whitson’s enthusiastic marketing of the Qaddafi regime from 2009’s Tripoli Spring (published in Foreign Policy):
For the first time in memory, change is in the air in Libya. The brittle atmosphere of repression has started to fracture, giving way to expanded space for discussion and debate, proposals for legislative reform, and even financial compensation for families of the hundreds of men killed in a prison riot a decade ago.
Many Libyans say the changes were unavoidable in the face of the open satellite and Internet access of the past decade.
These assessments differ sharply from the Libya Whitson now admits she saw, as part of her attempts to rewrite the record. In contrast to the earlier fiction, she recently wrote “most Libyans we spoke with never had much faith that Moammar Qaddafi would learn new tricks, or that the announced reforms were anything more than an endless loop of promises made and broken.”
“What Sarah Leah Whitson admits she knew about the Qaddafi family’s fraudulent reform agenda completely contradicts statements during her Tripoli trip,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “Reform was never on the horizon and Seif Islam was simply seeking to validate the eventual transfer of power to his hands, using allies like Whitson. Her attempts to give a facelift to MENA’s treatment of Libya is indicative of the division’s approach to many of the repressive regimes in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Hamas, and others.”
Another Feminist BITES THE DUST!