02.18.11

Shawan Jabarin Critic Responds to Human Rights Watch

Stuart Robinowitz, quoted in Evans’ original article as a critic of Jabarin’s appointment—and a former leader of several fact-finding missions for HRW—responds below.  

This is in reply to the letter of Iain Levine, program director of Human Rights Watch, in defense of its appointment of Shawan Jabarin, an alleged Palestinian terrorist, to a sensitive post at HRW involving Israel affairs.  

In recommending Jabarin to the board of directors of HRW and the members of the Middle East advisory committee last month, HRW's executive director (Kenneth Roth) and the head of the Middle East division (Sarah Leah Whitson) represented that he had discontinued his position as a senior adviser to the terrorist group (PFLP) more than 25 years ago. But in 2007, 2008, and 2009, the Israel supreme court found he had maintained his role at PFLP and was a security risk. In their biographical description of Jabarin, Roth and Whitson failed to disclose the court's opinions and kept the members of the board and advisory committee in the dark. Mr. Levine does not explain why the judicial opinions were not disclosed.  

Instead, he suggests that withholding the opinions was harmless because the court relied on certain evidence not shared with Jabarin. But it is not unusual in national-security cases for courts to protect evidence received from informers in order to protect their lives. Moreover, Jabarin's lawyer specifically consented to the court's consideration of the sensitive information.  The Israel supreme court is one of the most highly respected judicial bodies in the world and its rulings should not be so lightly ignored.  Israel is not the only party who has security concerns about Jabarin. In 2006, Jordan barred him entry for security reasons.  Do staff members of HRW have more reliable information about Jabarin than the supreme court and security services of Jordan and Israel?  

HRW stresses Jabarin's contributions to human-rights causes. While the Israel supreme court referred to that, it nevertheless concluded that Jabarin was "a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," a human-rights activist by day and a terrorist by night.  

Stuart Robinowitz  

The author is a retired partner and counsel to Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP and a former adjunct faculty member at the Yale and NYU law schools . He led human rights fact-finding missions for HRW and the American Bar Association.