After nearly 30 years, Kenneth Roth on August 31, 2022, exited Human Rights Watch as its Executive Director.
Roth has led HRW since 1993, taking HRW from a small group of regional “watch committees” to a major international human rights organization with global influence.
He began his human rights career as a volunteer, working on nights and weekends while serving as an attorney and a federal prosecutor. He joined Human Rights Watch in 1987 as deputy director.
Roth became HRW’s Executive Director in 1993.
Under his leadership, Human Rights Watch grew from a staff of about 60 to 552, covering more than 100 countries.
In 1997, Human Rights Watch shared a Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to ban antipersonnel landmines and later played a critical role in coalitions to establish the International Criminal Court and to ban the use of cluster munitions and child soldiers.
HRW’s reporting and advocacy also helped bring human rights abusers to justice, including: Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, Wartime Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić.
Roth’s legacy includes special programs he created to realize everyone’s rights, including women, children, LGBT people, refugees, people with disabilities, and older people.
He fundamentally shifted HRW’s approach to advocacy, too. HRW expanded from a US focus to establish advocacy offices around the world, from Brussels to Tokyo to São Paolo.
“Ken Roth turned Human Rights Watch into a juggernaut for justice,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
He is leaving HRW, but he’s not leaving the human rights movement. He plans to work on a book drawing on his personal experiences about the most effective strategies for defending human rights.
Tirana Hassan is acting ED
Tirana Hassan is acting Executive Director and Chief Programs Officer at Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading international human rights organizations, which operates in more than 90 countries and has over 500 staff members.
“As we usher in a new era at HRW, we are thrilled that Tirana Hassan, chief programs officer, will step in as interim executive director,” HRW announced.
Tirana is a qualified social worker and lawyer who has spent the past two decades working with individuals and communities pursuing their rights and fighting for justice.
She was a founding member of a refugee legal service during Australia’s refugee crisis in 2000 before working across the globe in international humanitarian operations specializing in child protection and civilian protection in complex emergencies.
Tirana has worked for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children, amongst others, across East and West Africa and South and South-East Asia.
Tirana specializes in human rights protection in conflicts and crises. Between 2010-2015, she worked as a senior researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Emergencies Division, where she carried out dozens of investigations in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
She later served as director of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Program, where she led teams of investigators and an inter-disciplinary team that advanced innovative research methodologies for human rights investigations and evidence collection.
She also served on the organization’s interim executive team. She has authored reports and op-eds for major publications worldwide.
Tirana graduated with honors degrees in both social work and law in Australia and holds a master’s in international human rights law from Oxford University.
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