The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch was established in 1978 with the creation of the group “Helsinki Watch”, with Robert L. Bernstein as one of the main leaders. It was set up to support citizen groups formed throughout the Soviet bloc and to verify the government’s compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Agreements.
“Helsinki Watch” had the primary intention of publicly “naming and shaming” abusive governments using media coverage and direct exchanges with lawmakers. By highlighting the international spotlight on human rights violations in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the “Helsinki Watch” contributed to the democratic transformations of the late 1980s.
“Americas Watch” was founded in 1981 and it served to prove abuses by government forces in Central America, as well as to investigate and expose war crimes committed by rebel groups, based on international humanitarian law. During the 1980s, Asia Watch (1985), Africa Watch (1988) and Middle East Watch (1989) joined “Americas Watch” starting a group known as “The Watch Committees”. In 1988, the organization formally adopted the more comprehensive name “Human Rights Watch”, which is based in New York.
Currently, this international non-governmental organization defends and conducts research on human rights in its various aspects. Its focuses on human rights’ issues extends to the rights of women and children, refugees and migrant workers. It works on issues such as domestic violence and sexual discrimination, torture and trafficking, rape as a war crime and political corruption. Basically, it deals with the most diverse violations of international humanitarian law.