Jonathan Tepperman in The Octavian Report:
Last week, Ken Roth, who’s led Human Rights Watch for nearly 30 years, announced that he was stepping down. Over the course of his career, Roth, a former U.S. federal prosecutor, has had a profound impact on the organization and the cause he serves. What was once a modest outfit of some 60 people with a budget of $7 million is now a major global operation of 552 staffers operating in more than 100 countries and with a budget of close to $100 million. But Roth’s tenure hasn’t just been about organization-building or fundraising. In the course of his years with Human Rights Watch, he’s met with dozens of heads of state and worked in more than 50 countries. Under his management, the group shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for working to ban landmines; helped the UN establish the war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and then the International Criminal Court; and fought against the use of cluster munitions and child soldiers, among many issues. Along the way, as you’d expect, Roth has made many friends and supporters but also enemies; at various moments, he’s been accused of anti-Semitism (despite being Jewish), been attacked by Republican politicians in the United States, and has been denounced by a long list of autocratic governments, from China to Rwanda. I’ve known Roth for many years and was curious to get his reflections on a career spent fighting for justice, as well as the state of the world today and how it compares to 1993, when he was first named executive director of Human Rights Watch. We spoke about all this and more on Tuesday.