Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is a US-based international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters is in New York City.


Human Rights Watch was founded under the name Helsinki Watch in 1978. Its mission was to monitor the former Soviet Union’s compliance with the Helsinki Accords. As the organization grew, it formed other ‘watch committees’ to cover other regions of the world. In 1988, all of these committees were united under one umbrella and Human Rights Watch was born.


Human Rights Watch opposes the violation of basic human rights, including the death penalty and discrimination on the basis of race. It advocates fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion and the press. The organization produces research reports on violations of international human rights norms as set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally-accepted human rights norms. These reports are used as the basis for drawing international attention to abuses and pressuring governments and international organizations to reform. Issues raised by Human Rights Watch in its reports include social and gender discrimination, torture, military use of children, political corruption, and abuses in criminal justice systems.

Human Rights Watch also supports writers worldwide who are being persecuted for their work and are in need of financial assistance. Each year, Human Rights Watch presents the Human Rights Defenders Award to activists around the world who demonstrate leadership and courage in defending human rights.

The organization was one of six international NGOs that founded the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 1998. It is also the co-chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a global coalition of civil society groups that successfully lobbied to introduce the Ottawa Convention, a treaty that prohibits the use of anti-personnel landmines.

Comparison with Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are the only two international human rights organizations operating worldwide in most situations of severe repression or abuse. Though close allies, the two groups have different structure and method of operation.

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