Kenneth Roth has served as executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993. Under his leadership, Human Rights Watch has gone global, growing exponentially in size and vastly expanding its reach. It now operates in more than 90 countries, among them some of the most dangerous and oppressed places on Earth. During Roth’s tenure, Human Rights Watch has worked tirelessly to bring justice to victims of the worst abuses, documenting war crimes from Bosnia to Congo, from Iraq to Sierra Leone. Hard-nosed advocacy laid the groundwork for international treaties banning landmines, cluster munitions, and child soldiers. Under Roth’s leadership, Human Rights Watch has expanded its work on the rights of women, children, refugees, and migrant workers. It has helped spotlight previously ignored topics such as the rights of gays and lesbians, and, prompted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the link between health and human rights.
Roth’s awareness of the importance of human rights began with stories that his father told. His father would keep his three young sons quiet as he cut their hair by telling tales of their grandfather’s butcher shop in Frankfurt, Germany. As they grew older, he told them about living under the Nazis as a young boy and fleeing Germany in July 1938. Roth, who graduated from Yale Law School and Brown University, has authored more than 200 articles and chapters on a wide range of human rights topics. Before joining Human Rights Watch as deputy director in 1987, Mr. Roth served as a federal prosecutor in New York and on the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @KenRoth.