30 Jun 2010

Human Rights Watch apologises to Peter Tatchell

“Inappropriate, disparaging, inaccurate, condemnatory and intemperate
personal attacks,” acknowledges HRW

“Apology accepted, let’s move on and work together,” urges Peter Tatchell

London – 30 June 2010


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has made a full and unreserved apology to
human rights rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

The apology has been made by HRW’s Executive Director, Kenneth Roth,
in New York.

It says sorry for a series of untrue and personal attacks on Mr
Tatchell, made by the head of HRW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) programme, Scott Long.

The full text of the apology follows below, including statements by
Kenneth Roth, Scott Long and Peter Tatchell.

The apology by Human Rights Watch acknowledges that Mr Long made a
series of “inappropriate...disparaging...inaccurate...condemnatory...intemperate
personal attacks” on Peter Tatchell.

“I thank Kenneth Roth and HRW for their gracious and fulsome apology.
Their readiness to acknowledge the wrong done and say sorry is
commendable. My appreciation also to Scott Long for conceding his
false allegations and apologising. It can’t have been easy for him. He
has shown dignity and humility. I appreciate that,” said Mr Tatchell.

“I accept the apologies. It is time to forgive and move on. For me,
this closes the matter. The attacks on me are in the past. I look
forward to working with HRW and Scott Long in the future.

“Despite this unfortunate episode, my admiration for HRW’s inspiring,
effective work is undiminished. It is documenting tyranny and
oppression all across the world; exposing human rights abusers and
defending the victims. I urge people to support its humanitarian
endeavours,” said Mr Tatchell.

Referring to the nature of the attacks on him by Scott Long, Peter
Tatchell added:

“I defend the right of people to criticise me. But Mr Long’s attacks
went beyond criticism. He made false allegations, which misrepresented
my human rights campaigns. It is these untrue claims that are the
focus of my objections.

“Mr Long’s falsehoods and personal attacks were many and varied. They
included a highly libellous and defamatory essay written by him, which
appeared in the March 2009 issue of the journal Contemporary Politics,
published by Routledge, which is part of the Taylor and Francis
publishing group:

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a909308032~db=all~jumptype=rss

“This essay made inaccurate allegations. It grossly misrepresented and
denigrated my campaigns in defence of gay people persecuted by Iran
and in opposition to Islamist fundamentalism.

“I acted in good faith when I opposed the execution of Iranians
accused of homosexuality and when I campaigned against fundamentalist
Islam in Britain and worldwide.

“Contrary to Mr Long’s claims, I never accused the 13 year-old victim
of an alleged rape in Iran of ‘wanting the rape.’ Nor am I guilty of
‘belittling violent sexual assault, and blaming the victim.’ These are
outright fabrications.

In addition, Mr Long accused me of me ‘going after’ British Muslims
and adopting a ‘bullying tone’ towards the Muslim community in
Britain. This is also untrue. I have always made a clear distinction
between Muslim people in general and the Islamist extremists who
oppose human rights, including the human rights of fellow Muslims.
Indeed, I have often defended Muslim communities, in Britain and
worldwide, against prejudice and persecution. I will continue to do
so.

“Sectarian smears against human rights defenders are wrong and
counter-productive. We should support each other in our shared
commitment to universal human rights,” concluded Mr Tatchell.

This is the full text of the Human Rights Watch statement and apology:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) apologizes to Peter Tatchell for a number of
inappropriate and disparaging comments made about him in recent years
by Scott Long, director of HRW's LGBT program. We recognise that
personal attacks have no place in the human rights movement.

Mr Long said: "Although we have our different viewpoints, I respect
Peter Tatchell's contribution to human rights and apologize for any
condemnatory and intemperate allegations made in haste and for any
inaccurate statements made in my personal capacity."

Mr Tatchell said: "Despite the unfortunate personal attacks on me by
Mr Long, I acknowledge his otherwise important contribution to LGBT
human rights and I continue to value the vital work of Human Rights
Watch worldwide."

Following Mr Long's apology and subsequent discussions, Human Rights
Watch is pleased to announce that both Mr Long and Mr Tatchell agree
that the movement to protect human rights, including the rights of
LGBT persons, is best served when activists focus their criticism on
those who abuse rights rather than those who seek to defend those
rights.

Mr Long and Mr Tatchell undertake to work to ensure that any airing of
disagreements on LGBT and other human rights issues takes place with
honesty, civility and respect. They also agree to encourage their
friends and colleagues to do likewise.

HRW hopes that this apology and agreement will enable us to move
forward together to pursue our common goal: the defence of universal
human rights.

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch – New York, 30 June 2010

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Derek, thank you for your comments in defence of PT on Socialist Unity. I have been accused of Islamophobia several times on SU for criticising the appalling actions of Respect in my borough of Tower Hamlets. This is standard practice on SU, and is the death of politics.

When this happens I've taken strength from the words of Women Against Fundamentalism, written in their defence of Peter Tatchell:

WAF believes that terms such as anti-semite and Islamophobe are used as a disabling tactic against people who criticise religion and fundamentalists. This tactic is used to trash reputations, to silence critique and to stop political activism. In particular, in the current context where religious identities and faith-based organising is being privileged and where ‘anti-imperialist’ activism has become about defending any and all ethnic minority religious voices, no matter how right wing and at great cost to equality campaigns, those advocating secular solutions and secular spaces are being accused of racism and Islamophobia.

In that light, WAF supports the right of Peter Tatchell and numerous other gay activists to oppose the legitimisation of fundamentalists and other right wing forces on university campuses, by the Left and by the government in its Preventing Violent Extremism strategy and numerous other programmes and platforms. The fight against fundamentalism and other forces of the far right, cannot be limited to a single strategy, nor is it an intra-religious struggle. It is a struggle for universal values including the struggle for sexual autonomy and human rights for all.