Photo of Peter Bouckaert talking with Libyans
Peter Bouckaert ’97, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, in Libya in March (Photo by Nicole Tung)

This article accompanies the “In Focus” story “Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe.”

This year’s flowering of democratic movements in the Middle East has been fraught with hope and danger. While most visitors to these countries fled when the mass demonstrations began—certainly when the guns came out—that was when Peter Bouckaert ’97, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, would arrive. An expert in humanitarian crises and the laws governing war, he is responsible for coordinating the organization’s response to major armed conflicts and  human rights violations around the globe. His job is to be the eyes and ears of the world and to gather witness testimony in hot spots like Lebanon, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Macedonia, Indonesia, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. With HRW since 1997, he has testified about war crimes before the United States Senate, the Council of Europe, and at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague and has written opinion pieces for papers around the world.

He has seen firsthand the value of the work that Ambassador Donahoe and the United Nations Human Rights Council undertake.

“I know Eileen well, and she’s an inspiration. She hasn’t just rehabilitated the image of the United States at the Human Rights Council, demonstrating that the U.S. is a responsible and caring world power. She has also been an inspiring example of a woman who is prepared and comfortable as a world leader—always well-informed and with enough influence to get other diplomats to do the right thing,” says Bouckaert. “She has done more to rehabilitate the image of the U.S. than any other person I know here in Geneva.”

Bouckaert was in Switzerland for a few days of business in mid-March, taking a much-needed break after having spent months in Egypt and Libya. Before heading back to the Middle East, he added:

“As soon as I came back from Libya, Ambassador Donahoe arranged for us to brief a group of influential ambassadors. She’s focused on making the Human Rights Council an institution that matters in the real world, a council at the forefront of protecting human rights around the world instead of an issuer of pointless resolutions. We’re talking about the promotion of very basic rights—like the right to protest peacefully without your army or police opening fire on you and to post your opinions on the Internet without fear of being hauled away in the middle of the night. But these rights really matter, and they are what these revolutions are about.” SL