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Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, has investigated human rights abuses around the globe, with special expertise on issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed[…]

Roth talks about terrorism, human rights and war.

One is whether the principled commitment to human rights that exists in many governments around the world can survive the very real threat of terrorism that also exists today. And there is a temptation that we’ve seen indulged in many instances to sacrifice rights in the name of protecting us from terrorism. It is a . . . a strategy that I think is not only wrong, but also short-sighted because it loses the moral high ground, which is just what the terrorists want in order to . . . to accentuate the divide to facilitate their recruitment to discourage public cooperation with law enforcement efforts. These are all consequences of ignoring human rights; but it has not been enough to convince the U.S. government and certain key European allies that they should resist the temptation to sacrifice rights as . . . as an expedient in the name of fighting terrorism. So that’s one thing I worry about.

The other thing I worry about is the willingness on the part of the world to make real sacrifices to come to the aid of people who are facing mass atrocities. At the end of the 1990s, we saw the emergence of what is sometimes known as . . . as the doctrine of the responsibility to protect. Others call it humanitarian intervention. But the willingness on the part of governments around the world to step in even to the extent of using military force, if that was necessary to stop a genocide; to stop mass slaughter. And much as I think any of us resist the idea of going to war if at all possible, in my view pacifism is not the ultimate value. There are times when war is necessary, and one of those would be when people are standing helplessly before a government that is mowing them down. And at that stage, in my view the international community has a duty to step in.

Recorded on: 8/14/07