3 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 83 (1990)
Bearing Witness: The Art and Science of Human Rights Fact-Finding

handle is hein.journals/hhrj3 and id is 89 raw text is: Bearing Witness: The Art and Science of
Human Rights Fact-Finding
Diane F. Orentlicher*
As the prestige and influence of human rights organizations have grown
worldwide, the fact-finding methods employed by these organizations warrant
increased scrutiny. In this Article, Diane Orentlicher offers a comprehensive
analysis of the professional standards and institutional imperatives of inter-
national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Part I discusses the im-
portance of human rights fact-finding, with a focus on the Reagan Adminis-
trations' policies. Part II addresses the manner in which an NGO must
confront official skepticism and shifting standards of credibility. Part III
describes the means employed in obtaining evidence, interviewing witnesses, and
establishing responsibility for human rights violations.
The field of international human rights has come of age. No longer
the exclusive province of theorists and idealists, human rights has
become a prominent subject of international diplomacy. In regions as
diverse as Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa, human
rights concerns have been a central factor in some of the most dramatic
political developments of the past decade.
Throughout this process, the prestige of nongovernmental organi-
zations (NGOs) that work to promote respect for human rights has
also grown. Representatives of such leading NGOs as Amnesty Inter-
national (AI) routinely meet with heads of state and other top officials
of the governments they monitor, I and their work receives prominent
play in the international press.
* Visiting Lecturer and Orville Schell Fellow, Yale Law School; Deputy Director, awyers
Committee for Human Rights (1983-1988). The author is grateful for the cooperation of
numerous colleagues who generously shared their insights about the subject of this Article,
particularly the research staff of Amnesty International and the professional staff of Human
Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Lawyers Committee for Human
Rights. The author is especially indebted to Andrew Moravcsik and Jemera Rone, whose
thoughtful comments on earlier drafts of this Article were invaluable. Responsibility for the
views, and any errors, in the final draft is the author's alone.
1. Even governments that refuse to meet with NGO representatives take some human rights
organizations seriously enough to publicly denounce their work. For example, the government
of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), which had failed to respond to repeated
requests by the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights to visit the PRK and
meet with government officials, later denounced the Committee's report as an insane slander.
U.S. Lawy ers' Report on Human Rights Criticized, Phnom Penh Domestic Service, Aug. 7, 1985,
reported in Foreign Broadcast Info. Service, Aug. 9, 1985, at HI.

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