Kenneth Roth
Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
01:41

Re: Is democracy a prerequisite for human rights?

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The two go hand in hand, says Roth.

Kenneth Roth

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 in the quest for peace; military conduct in war under the requirements of international humanitarian law; counterterrorism policy including resort to torture and arbitrary detention; the human rights policies of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations; and the human rights responsibilities of multinational businesses. Mr. Roth has published more than 100 articles and chapters on a range of human rights topics. Before joining HRW as deputy director in 1987, Mr. Roth was a federal prosecutor for both the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University.

Transcript
Democracy – or that is to say the right to elect one’s government; to have the rule of law; to have a civil society – those are all rights issues. In order to have a democracy, you really do have respect for a broad range of rights. It’s hard to conceive . . . In fact almost ___________, if you don’t have democracy, you won’t have respect for basic rights. The real problem though is that many people take a . . . a sort of a narrow conception of democracy and equate that with rights. And that equation is wrong. You find this where governments – you know from Reagan all the way up to the current Bush administration – have tried to promote mere elections as being the . . . the . . . the full scope of the human rights agenda. And if we can just, you know, get a government to hold an election – regardless of how corrupt it is; regardless of what’s done to . . . to imprison the opposition; or to shut down the opposition newspaper; or to get rid of dissidents – we’ll still call it a democracy because they held an election, and then everything’s fine. We can ignore their human rights record. That superficial notion which, unfortunately, tends to prevail all too frequently in Washington . . . that in no . . . that has very little to do with a human rights agenda. But I think a more sophisticated . . . a fuller understanding of democracy is very compatible indeed . . . to a larger extent equates with a complete human rights agenda

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