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The 2013 HRW Report - inaccurate study based on poor research methodology

By Seifu Amanuel
Tigrai Online, October 27, 2013

As a continuation of its series of reports in the last several years, Human Rights Watch has this year published once again a more than 70 page report on human rights issues on Ethiopia. For anyone who has gone through all the pages undisputedly find the report  rather than being objective, accurate and credible due to the report’s methodologically flaws on data gathering and compilation the outcome looks a rubbish fictional story.

Despite heralding the mission of HRW and its title, the 2013 Human Rights watch report was entirely the duplication of the previous reports conducted through ideological blinders.

Though it was meant a report on human rights study its methodology lacks all professional integrity entirely failing even to incorporate the single most minimal standards of scientific merits such as accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and transparency. Hence, it is not surprising to find the outcome of the report to be unscientific, inaccurate, biased and misleading.

Though Human Rights Watch claims that it is established by the goodwill of the free world to fight human rights the report once again by itself testifies as HRW fails to practice the transparency and accountability it urges on others.

The deviation of the report from the scientific community’s merits of being neutral, impartial, receptive and open to unexpected observation and new findings though clearly depicted throughout the pages of the report, it is worth mentioning page 12 that unequivocally demonstrates the report is predestined to being rigidly wedded to generate a particular conclusion that helps the organization to promote its politically oriented ideology and mission.

Under its Africa Advisor section on this page brings Daniel Bekele as the major informant of the report. Danile Bekele was once who had been the top member of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the mastermind of the failed color revolution campaign the followed the 2007 Ethiopian election. It cannot be argued that informants like Daniel Bekele could only feed the research for their political advantages.

I would like to point out some of the flaws of the recent report: -

  • After having the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on Prison Conditions that covers a wide-ranging thorough review of the prisons by EHRC's monitoring group and also incorporating it on its pages 56-62, Human Rights Watch claims as it has got no access to information related to the subject at hand from the Ethiopian Government.
  • Informants of the report were exclusively individuals who served their detention periods before two to four years prior to the study period that could not be reliable informants about the current state of the prison conditions of the country. The informants include some released from prison after requesting the government for clemency feeling guiltiness for having committed the crimes.
  • The report informants were mostly living abroad that their stories could not depict the current reality of the country – the stated period of the report.
  • The report noted as there is solely a women prison in the country however paradoxically failed to incorporate female subject in any part of the report.
  • Having shifted out of the focus of the report, without having taken any assessment it criticize the government for blocking all communication networks (email, internet etc) in the country on page 12
  • Though the report says as its study period covers from 2010 to 2012, the report incorporates information prior to the stated period for making its conclusion
  • It is worth noting to remind the Human Rights watch as the two Swedish journalists who had illegally crossed the border of the country and detained accordingly in laws of the country and later on after being released told the mass media as ‘though we recognized as we have committed a capital crime nonetheless we were released merely by requesting clemency we apologize and express gratitude to the government and the Ethiopian people’. At least for having not incorporating the views of these two Swedish journalists in its report clearly depicts the lack of the integration of its research methods
  • For issues it fails to provide reliable data it claims as the government destroys documents related with human rights
  • Though on page 12 of the report the authors claim as they couldn’t make their presence to observe the prison conditions at firsthand ironically on another page as they provide descriptions about the prison conditions claiming as they have observed personally.
  • Another discrepancy that cautions the reliability of the report manifests while putting the number of informants contacted through telephone interviews; it puts the number of informants on page 30, on page one and finally on page 53 the figure grows to 40.    ‘’ can be achieved relatively easily by adopting more robust technical procedures that will improve the reliability and representativeness of qualitative data.
  • The authors of the report on page 12 claim as ‘they had been prevented from accessing the prisons so to observe the situation of the inmates’, the statment clearly informs as the HRW reports on issue that has no information and concludes the same without having no authority.

Overall, it is plausible to say the latest report of Human Rights Watch, as usual, is entirely meant to satisfy its crave once again to criticize the policies of the Ethiopian Government and on other hand to serve its ideological mission it was assigned to promote. Like the previous reports the formats takes similar form and mourns on falsehood and fantasy.

The fallacies of the report has similar stance with that of some of the Ethiopian media that file stories based on unfounded information and make-believe basis. In short, the report is not conducted on scientifically sound methods and approaches that it is full of discrepancies and fallacies.

The Human Rights Watch 2013 report excessively relying on questionable and unverifiable testimonies and clear omission of facts and evidences it brought a predestined conclusion yearning to attack the law of the country while at the same time favoring the release of criminals. The fallacies, discrepancies and the unprofessional methods and approaches that govern the report as well as the make believe stories incorporated in the report clearly shows as the Human Rights Watch having done the report solely through ideological blinders. The report ins and rubbish outs rubbish.

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