January 10, 2023
Mr Lawrence Bacow
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
I write on behalf of Human Rights Watch to express our concern over the decision by the Dean of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Douglas Elmendorf, to block granting of a scholarship to the former executive director of HRW Kenneth Roth with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Research (Carr Center for Human Rights Policy). According to press reports, which neither Principal Elmendorf nor the Kennedy School spokesperson denied, Principal Elmendorf vetoed the nomination due to criticisms by Mr. Roth and Human Rights Watch regarding human rights violations committed by the government of Israel.
According to the Associated Press, Kathryn Sikkink, a Ryan Family Fellow of human rights policy at the Kennedy School, said Dean Elmendorf told her they “ would not approve of this stance because they believe Human Rights Watch and Kenneth Roth have an anti-Israel bias Mathias Risse, the director of the Carr Center, in a statement to the Center’s community that the Associated Press was able to obtain, said the school’s decision to veto the Center’s approval for Kenneth Roth’s post it was a “ episode of deep sadness “.
The decision by Harvard University, one of the most respected academic institutions in the world, to block the appointment to a human rights post of a renowned defender of these rights because of his criticism of the Israeli government, he will have a lasting impact in academic circles and among activists, especially among Palestinians, who should not fear professional repercussions from Harvard University or any other institution if they write or speak in an critical of the Israeli government. More profoundly, vetoing the granting of a grant to Mr. Roth because of the important work he has done on a particular country sends a chilling message to all academics and supporters, regardless of the region of the world in which they are researching. . , that Harvard University might judge them not by the quality of their work but rather by the words of well-funded critics.
Sadly, Dean Elmendorf’s decision detracts from Harvard’s Kennedy School’s diversity statement, which states: The Kennedy School actively seeks to expand and maintain an atmosphere conducive to new ideas – however unpopular and controversial – and encourages an effective and vigorous exchange of views in an environment of mutual respect. »
Human Rights Watch investigates and documents human rights violations committed in more than 100 countries around the world. In situations of armed conflict, we document violations of international humanitarian law by states and non-state armed groups. In Israel and Palestine, as in all other contexts in which we operate, we follow a rigorous methodology to examine the facts on the ground and document serious human rights violations committed by a wide variety of actors.
In 2021, Human Rights Watch concluded, in a 213-page reportthat the Israeli authorities were committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, as defined under international law, against millions of Palestinians – a conclusion that corroborates those of many other respected institutions, including prominent Israeli rights organizations B’Tselem And Yes Dynas well as’Amnesty International, different mechanisms of United Nations and the International Human Rights Clinic from the Harvard Law School. Other prominent entries, including the former director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, theformer Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, the governments of South Africa and some Namibiaand the foreign ministers of Luxembourg and some Francehe also referred to apartheid when discussing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
The Kennedy School’s decision to deny Mr. Roth the opportunity to join the Carr Center because of his work will undoubtedly have implications for academic freedom throughout Harvard University. Left unchecked, he has the potential to tarnish Harvard’s prestigious reputation around the world. I urge you to reconsider this decision and take the necessary steps to uphold the values of academic freedom.
I am ready to discuss these issues with you at your convenience.
Please accept, Mr. President, the expression of my highest consideration.
Interim Executive Director
cc: Claudine Gay, incoming President of Harvard University
cc: Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government