“It’s possible for governments to walk and chew gum at the same time.” That’s Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth’s advice to the Dutch government when it comes to pressuring other governments on human rights abuses, while at the same time promoting trade with that same country.
As for the domestic situation, Kenneth Roth expressed concern about the rise of intolerance in Europe in general and in the Netherlands in particular. Without mentioning the anti-Islam political Geert Wilders by name, Mr Roth called it an ironic rationale that you can be intolerant toward a group or a religion in the name of tolerance.
Some politicians, he went on, pursue policies intolerant of Islam on the basis that Islam itself is intolerant towards women or homosexuals. He says, in the first place, this is a caricature of Islam and does not represent the many variations in the religion. But there’s another principle at stake here as well.
“You cannot build a politics of tolerance based on intolerance. It’s worrying when these political traditions gain ascendancy.”
Trained as a lawyer, Kenneth Roth has worked for Human Rights Watch since 1987. A week ago, he was in Cairo to present the annual Human Rights Watch World Report, with an emphasis this year on the uprisings in the Arab world. He squeezed in a visit to the Netherlands between participating in the Davos conference last week and the Munich Conference on Security Policy this weekend.