Several Washington-based human rights groups are facing criticism for awarding two radical Egyptian Islamists who have endorsed terrorism and expressed hostility toward Israel.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) came under fire earlier this week after it selected Mona Seif, an Egyptian terrorist sympathizer who calls Israel the “real terrorist,” as a finalist for the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.
Egyptian human rights activist Amr Bakly expressed shock on Twitter upon learning that Seif was a finalist for the human rights award.
The watchdog group UN Watch additionally petitioned the Martin Ennals Foundation to take Seif out of the running for the honor.
“We urge you, as Chair of the Jury and Secretary of the Board, to immediately cancel Ms. Seif’s nomination on grounds of her public advocacy of violence against civilians, terrorism and war crimes, which is in gross breach of the Award criteria of ‘promotion and protection of human rights,’ the group wrote to foundation head Hans Thoolen.
Meanwhile, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) was criticized last month when it handed a “Leaders for Democracy” award to a former Muslim Brotherhood official who referred to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as “an act of protest against U.S. foreign policy.”
Middle East experts and critics maintain that it is hypocritical and dangerous for Western groups to champion such radical figures as agents of democracy.
“The fact that so many democracy awards are being given to people who do not embrace democratic values suggests that the very notion of ‘pro-democratic’ is being defined down,” said Eric Trager, an Egypt expert and senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Most disturbingly, pro-democratic and human rights organizations, which should be at the forefront of advancing democratic ideals, are the ones overlooking these awardees’ blatantly violent views and thus contributing to this defining down,” Trager said.
“We are shocked to learn that Human Rights Watch has joined with others in naming Mona Seif of Egypt as one of three Final Nominees for the 2013 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders—termed by some ‘the Nobel for human rights’—on whose jury you play a key role,” the letter states.
“By rewarding a person with a pattern and practice of publicly inciting to violence against civilians, terrorism, and war crimes, you are dishonoring and indeed desecrating the memory and legacy of human rights activist Martin Ennals,” UN Watch wrote.
A HRW spokesperson told the Washington Free Beacon that they were still waiting on official comment about the controversy.