Watching the watcher
Monitor has put the human rights movement in Iran at risk
By Ramin Ahmadi, MD, MPH
and Joanne Cossitt, MA
Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights
January 24, 2002
On the eve of the 2001 presidential elections in Iran, when Khatami's
reelection appeared imminent, Human Rights Watch published a twenty-page
report titled "Stifling
On the surface, the report's publication one week prior to the election
did not appear connected to the "reelection campaign battle,"
and its title implied the reporter was concerned only with violations of
human rights in the Islamic Republic. But in many ways the Human Rights
Watch reporter's comments and recommendations were a major departure from
the standard policies of international human rights organizations. It is
therefore important to assess the content and validity of the recommendations
of the report, now that the election results are clear and any post-election
euphoria has dissipated.
Part I: Summary
The twenty-page report consists of seven distinct parts. Its summary
attempts to give an overview of the political situation in Iran and opens
with the following:
"Four years ago, President Mohammad Khatami crested to power on
a wave of popular support as Iranians went to the polls in the millions
to support his platform for reform. The scale of his victory dealt a serious
blow to the conservative religious forces that dominated Iranian public
and political life since the revolution of 1979 that overthrew the Shah.
To most commentators at the time, it appeared that a sea change had taken
place. A younger generation, it seemed, grown to adulthood since the revolution
and tired of enduring the strictures of the state, had spoken out for change.
Iran, it appeared, was entering a new era, and at last about to end its
self-imposed isolation and open up again its communication and cooperation
with the wider world."
From the first lines the reader can grasp the implications of the risk
the report takes by turning its back on human rights reporting traditions
and entering the difficult scene of controversial political analysis. In
the usual practice of human rights work, to portray the political context
of human rights violations the reporter generally enumerates historical
facts and events that led to the transgressions. For instance, a Human Rights
Watch report about Chechnya would begin with a historical account of events
leading to the autonomy of the republic, citing the beginning and end of
the war, and explaining the positions taken by the two conflicting parties;
such information is conveyed without taking sides.
For a human rights reporter it should be unimportant who is politically
correct or which faction enjoys popular support. He or she is not concerned
with analysis of voter motivation or the political analysis of international
observers; rather, any report should document the scope and extent of human
rights violations. The details of the HRW report read less like a human
rights report and more like the account of an Iranian political analyst.
To illustrate this point we can explore some of the report's similarities
with those of the Iranian political opposition. The day following Khatami's
first presidential victory, Ezatolah Sahabi analyzed the Khatami victory
as a rejection of the status quo in an article entitled "The big NO".
Many other political activists believed and continue to believe that the
reelection of Khatami was primarily a rejection of his rivals.
It is likely that the truth lies somewhere between the political analysis
of the Human Rights Watch reporter and that of Ezatolah Sahabi, meaning
that people voted against the candidate of the establishment and at the
same time found what Khatami was expressing in terms of civil society and
citizenship rights somewhat attractive. At any rate, it is not the job of
the human rights monitor to analyze why people voted in a certain way. Instead,
what is important to discern is whether, as a result of people's vote in
favor of Khatami's presidency, there has been an improvement in human rights
conditions. Indeed, several statements in the report remove any pretense
of neutrality from our reporter. It is apparent that she believes conservative
anti-Khatami forces have managed to manipulate Iran's social and political
life since the 1979 revolution. Such a narrow and biased political view
has traditionally belonged to a small faction within the reformist movement
in Iran, one that has been given the name "Dovom Khordad."
The reality is that from the very first days of the revolution's victory,
and particularly in the aftermath of the hostage crisis, political and military
power was concentrated in the hands of many of those who today wear the
mantel of reform. I have described some of their radical and anti-conservative
activities in my book "The Case of Abbas Amir Entezam." These
young bearded revolutionaries dressed in khakis, with anti-conservative
and anti-imperialist impulses, seized the state apparatus and took the American
Embassy hostage. Today after major global political changes, and if we want
to be optimistic changes within the revolutionary movement itself, the very
same revolutionaries have become the leaders of the Dovom Khordad movement.
These include Mehdi Karubi, Mohammad Khoieniha, Ali Akbar Mohtashami, Abbass
Abdi, Hossein Mossavi, Ebrahim Asghar Zadeh, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, Mohamad
Reza Khatami and several others who were known as the "Students of
Imam's line" and who were in power for the first decade of the revolution.
But today they would like people to forget that past and to instead hold
only the conservative faction responsible for the massacres and human rights
violations of the last decade.
The HRW report articulates the views of former US policy makers who referred
to the Khatami presidency as the "New Era." Let us not forget
that these same policy elites also hailed the presidency of Rafsanjani as
the "beginning of a new era". Their only priority had been the
normalization of the relationship between Iran and the United States, which
by itself does not carry any positive or negative value. However, normalization
of the relationship between these two countries would not necessarily lead
to an improvement of the human rights situation in Iran. Clearly the report's
reference to "communication and cooperation with the wider world"
is an overt reference to the opening of relations with the United States.
Otherwise, international and commercial relationships of the Islamic Republic
with Europe, Japan, China, and many other Asian countries have been extremely
good. Why does an international human rights organization not consider all
this in a wider-world perspective? Under the Shah's regime these doors were
quite open and the Shah was a close political ally of the US. Yet, even
then there were widespread human rights violations in Iran, most of which
the US government ignored.
The report's summary then goes on to describe various parts of the Islamic
Republic of Iran's governmental organization, and even this descriptive
report falls prey to a political agenda. As an example, the report describes
the Council of Experts as a popularly elected body when in fact the candidates
for this body are pre-selected by the Guardian Council. It must be mentioned
that within the Iranian government there is a faction that holds to this
belief and hopes to use the Council of Experts as a weapon against other
factions. The human rights reporter should not have such a narrow and biased
view of the Islamic Republic. If the Council of Experts is to be considered
a popularly elected body, then all the Soviets in the history of the world's
Communist regimes were also popularly elected bodies, since in the view
of our human rights monitor the pre-selection of candidates and violation
of article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR) which guarantees every citizen's "right to vote and be elected"
is non-contradictory to the concept of popularly elected bodies.
The position of the human rights monitor regarding the powerful Ministry
of Intelligence is more ambiguous than that taken in the case of unfair
and restrained elections. The reporter is well aware of the role played
by this organization in Iran, but attempts to attribute the suppressive
measures of this organization to the conservative rivals of Khatami:
"Compounding their control over these important institutions, it
is clear that the conservative religious forces opposed to President Khatami's
reform agenda also maintain strong links with and influence over Iran's
extensive internal security apparatus, notably the powerful Ministry of
The analysis distances itself from critiquing the public statements of
the Islamic Republic leadership and as such increasingly resembles the writings
of the reporters and politicians of Dovom Khordad. A technique commonly
used in human rights reporting is to illustrate the contradictory public
statements of the ruling class or the various human rights violations to
which it confesses. Unfortunately, the Human Rights Watch reporter does
not focus on critiquing Khatami's public statements at all. In fact, most
statements not in favor of Dovom Khordad are ignored. For instance, after
the murder of Daryush Foruhar, a political activist, President Khatami announced
that the Ministry of Information had been involved in the murders and demanded
the "resection" of the "rancorous tumor." In subsequent
speeches, Khatami repeatedly stated that he would "take out the eyes"
of the conspiracy. He dismissed the Ministry of Information and appointed
one of his supporters to the post. Khatami's conservative opposition repeatedly
protested, complaining that the Ministry of Information had been invaded
and was being controlled by the reformist camp. After the case of what became
known as "the Chain Murders" was brought to trial President Khatami
expressed satisfaction with the cleansing process within the Ministry of
Information on multiple occasions. In the HRW report these contradictory
public statements, President Khatami's responsibility for his cabinet, his
obligation to implement the Constitution, and the international obligations
of the Islamic Republic are all replaced with a simple political analysis
which reports that the Ministry of Information is in the hands of the anti-Khatami
faction. Even if this were true, how does expressing this advance the human
rights cause? More importantly, what other cause could it advance other
than that of Khatami and the Dovom Khordad faction itself? The political
bias of the report runs so rampant that a serious inherent contradiction
is created within the analysis, where after making a short reference to
the Chain Murders the report suggests:
"Other policies of the Khatami presidency, such as easing restrictions
on social interaction between the sexes and a more relaxed social climate,
have also been rolled back in recent months by strict enforcement of a
dress code and regulations concerning private social gatherings. The sense
of greater personal freedom among young people and women as well as the
professional middle class has been eroded by the activities of vigilante
groups linked to hard-line conservative clerics."
Both increases and reductions of social freedoms have occurred under
Khatami's watch, but from the biased perspective of this political report
the credit for greater freedoms goes to Khatami, while the conservative
opposition is blamed for the crackdown. It is not clear in the end whether
or not President Khatami is just a figurehead. If he is a weak president
and the power is concentrated in the hands of others then why should he
be credited with policies that result in greater social freedoms?
The report then goes on to suggest that a majority of the victims of
illegal actions under the current regime are pro-Khatami activists. The
reporter insists that future of human rights in Iran depends on Khatami's
"The outcome of the election will be crucial in determining both
the future political direction of Iran and the extent to which existing
human rights problems are addressed, and it will also have important implications
for human rights in the wider Islamic world. Within Iran, the reformists
have increasingly based their arguments on human rights principles, demanding
greater freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and the rule of
law, and the primacy of democratic accountability over clerical authority
in essentially secular political matters."
In other words if we dissect the anatomy of this argument, political
support for Khatami in the name of human rights and mixing pro-Khatami politics
with human rights work is legitimate human rights activity for the following
three reasons: 1) a majority of the victims of human rights violations are
members of pro-Khatami factions, 2) the outcome of the election, in fact
Khatami's reelection, is crucial to determining the future of human rights
in Iran, and 3) the pro-Khatami reformists have based their arguments on
human rights principles and as such are expressing secular political matters.
But each of these basic assumptions is a distortion of the existing realities
of Iranian society. Not only do most of the human rights violations come
from within the pro-Khatami faction, but a brief look at the trial procedures
and prisons of the Islamic Republic reveals that violations of the rights
of those outside the Dovom Khordad coalition pale in comparison to those
who are pro-Khatami. In fact, the Dovom Khordad prisoners have never experienced
the widespread massacres ordered by Khomeini, violations that have been
documented since Ayatollah Montezeri decided to publish Khatami's order
on the Internet last year. The 1989 massacre of some 4,000 political prisoners
in Evin prison is one of the darkest chapters of the Islamic Republic of
Iran. Human Rights Watch, purposely or out of ignorance, decided not to
investigate the matter further.
The students and activists who were not part of the Dovom Khordad elite
or who expressed goals that differed from those of Khatami proponents suffered
the same fate. These "outsiders" faced heavy prison sentences
in Tohid, an infamous prison, and were tortured in the "safe houses"
of the Ministry of Information. Even in Tohid prison, the Dovom Khordad
prisoners had more rights than other political prisoners were afforded.
They benefited from occasional vacations, could meet with their families
and lawyers, and were brought to meet their families with a private car.
Other prisoners lived in far worse conditions, could not meet their lawyers,
and were rarely brought to meet their families. When they were it was in
the back of meat trucks.
In fact, when one of these non-Dovom Khordad prisoners receives global
attention the very first reaction of the Iran section of Human Rights Watch
is silence. The case of Farj Sarkoohi is instructive on this point. Through
a complicated and bizarre web of deception, the Islamic republic kidnapped
him from the airport, kept him in a safe house of the Ministry of Information,
and insisted he had traveled to Germany. The multiple contradictory statements
issued by the Islamic Republic went completely unchallenged by Human Rights
Watch until the German government and many German writers and human rights
activists publicly protested this action and exposed the lies. Ms. Hicks
expressed blind faith in the fabricated story of the regime and repeatedly
stated to many, and recently to me, that Farj Sarkoohi was phony. After
Amnesty International entered the scene protesting the actions of the Iranian
government and demanding an explanation, Mansour Farhang, a Human Rights
Watch advisory board member and former ambassador to the United Nations,
phoned Eric Goldstein, head of the Middle East Division at that time, to
inquire about the case.
Goldstein's response was as expected. Human Rights Watch had not intervened
because Ms. Hicks believed that the detained writer was a phony. Sarkoohi's
case was not just a simple oversight; it was one of the most important Human
Rights cases of the decade in Iran. Ms. Hicks has performed similarly in
the case of Abbas Amir Entezam, the longest held prisoner of conscience
in Iran. While Entezam's rights have been repeatedly violated and he has
been deprived of a fair trial and exposed to various tortures, Ms. Hicks'
interviews with Tehran papers express confidence in the assurances she has
received from the judiciary on his case, and to this day she continues to
remain silent. Such political reactions at the Middle East section have
not been limited to Ms Hicks. When Daryush Fruhar and his wife were butchered
in their house in Tehran, Gary Sick, a member of the advisory board, announced
that Khatami's government was not involved in this murder asserting that
paramilitary and extremists had committed the crime. However, even after
President Khatami confessed publicly that the agents of the Ministry of
Information had actually committed these murders and ten people, including
the Deputy Minister of Information, were arrested, Human Rights Watch still
failed to recognize the direct involvement of Khatami's government and did
not demand an independent investigation or recommend that an investigative
team be sent to Iran. Today, even after the government closed the book on
the mysterious murder of the detained Deputy Minister of Information (who
allegedly ordered the chain murders), declaring it a suicide, Human Rights
Watch has yet to ask for an external independent investigation. The trial
of the accused chain murderers was held behind closed doors while the families
of victims boycotted the hearings. Yet despite the overwhelming lack of
transparency during the trial and evidence that implicated the state apparatus,
Human Rights Watch did not demand an independent external investigation.
The cases I have cited above are illustrative of a particular pattern
or strategy that defends Khatami's political interest to the extent that
it violates the principles of human rights advocacy and neutrality. If the
Human Rights Watch reporter states that the majority of victims of human
rights violations are pro-Khatami supporters it is because she has decided
to ignore the violations that target others a priori.
The report's statement that the results of the presidential election
will determine the outcome of the human rights process in Iran carries an
even bigger illusion. It is increasingly clear that human rights violations
in Iran are independent of election outcomes. Even after Khatami's second
victory, all independent newspapers have been shut down and the journalists
who were investigating the Chain Murders are in prison. Widespread and pre-planned
violations of human rights in Iran continue to occur parallel to Khatami's
government. It is evident that the Khatami victory has had no impact on
the overall extent and severity of human rights violations.
A second illusion is that a majority of Reformists base their agenda
on human rights principles, while in fact the pro-Khatami reformists are
merely demanding freedom of expression for themselves and not all citizens
of Iran. They demand rule of law, but a law that discriminates in their
favor. They demand a judiciary not manipulated by the Rafsanjani mafia group,
but instead one that is loyal to them. And they do not seek blanket abolition
of laws that are in direct contradiction with the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Many of these pro-Khatami reformists are, in fact, far
more brutal and totalitarian than their Conservative opposition. It should
not be forgotten that during the first two years of Khatami's presidency,
considered shining days of freedom by many Reformists, newspapers consciously
and systematically censored news of Abbas Amir Entezam and similar human
rights violations that targeted the non-Khatami oppositi on. Reformist leaders
silently orchestrated these violations and summarily ignored them. Today,
while brave Reformist journalists like Akbar Ganj are targeted and punished
for "crossing the line" by former president Rafsanjani, the reformist
papers remain silent on the matter and treat his case as if he were one
of the opposition. But all this does not make our Human Rights Watch reporter
reconsider her views about the pro-Khatami reformists dedication to human
rights, nor does she take the initiative to advocate for the victims who
do not belong to the pro-Khatami faction.
Part II. Recommendations
This part of the human rights report is comprised of five recommendations
to the government of Iran:
* Release immediately all writers, editors, publishers, members of the
Iran Freedom Movement and others detained or imprisoned for their peaceful
exercise of freedom of expression, and ensure that others against whom charges
are being brought have immediate and regular access to legal counsel and
family and medical visits.
* Lift the banning orders on newspapers, and amend the press law and
related legislation to guarantee freedom of expression, in accordance with
Iran's obligations as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights. In particular, provisions in the press law that permit
the prosecution of writers and journalists on charges such as "questioning
the tenets of Islam and the revolution" should be revoked.
* Amend articles 24 and 26 of the constitution as well as relevant laws
and administrative procedures to ensure that they are not used arbitrarily
to penalize the exercise of basic civil and political rights such as freedom
of expression and freedom of association.
* Revise the legal and administrative procedures of the Revolutionary
Courts and the Special Court for the Clergy to bring them into full conformity
with international fair trial standards. This includes ensuring that defendants
are allowed prompt and regular access to defense counsel and that they have
the right to call defense witnesses and question prosecution witnesses,
and have the right to appeal to a higher independent tribunal.
* Revoke the banning of the Iran Freedom Movement by the Tehran Revolutionary
The report creates an inherent contradiction when it selects the Khatami
government as its target audience for recommendations. Initially, it convinces
the reader that President Khatami has no real power and that responsibility
for repeated daily human rights violations lie with "others".
Soon thereafter the reader learns that the recommendations are directed
towards this apparently powerless government. Thus it would seem that making
any recommendations to the Khatami government would be an exercise in futility.
If the violations of human rights are done by "others", then it
is these "others" that should be the target of the recommendations.
Certainly, the target must have the power to act upon some or all of these
Apart from this inconsistency, the recommendations ignore some of the
fundamental problems of the human rights struggle in Iran, and in certain
cases seriously jeopardize the goals of the human rights movement. The first
recommendation appears to be advocating for all citizens who oppose the
Islamic Republic regime. However, upon closer examination, the pro-Khatami
bias of the recommendation is easily revealed. Today many political prisoners
are detained not merely for peaceful expressions of their point of view
but because of demonstrations, strikes and other acts of civil disobedience.
Even those who have chosen to confront the regime by using violent means
are human beings and should be afforded human rights like the rest of Iran's
citizens. Resorting to violence does not justify stoning, torture, or execution
without trial. Political prisoners have certain rights, including access
to family, a defense attorney, a physician, and most importantly a fair
trial. They should benefit from the presumption of innocence, even after
committing murder under pressures of injustice or out of desperation.
It should be noted that a large number of political activists who do
not belong to pro-Khatami factions were arrested and tortured by the Ministry
of Information after the paramilitary attack on the University of Tehran
dormitory. The Ministry created a fabricated case against the student activists
based on tortured confessions and extorted large sums of money from the
victims' families. These Khatami opponents were released conditionally and
were warned that their cases "remained open" and that any new
political activity would reactivate their case immediately. These unfortunate
victims have no place in the recommendations of the Human Rights Watch report.
There are no accusations against them and yet threat of a reactivated case
and possible repetition of horrifying tortures is held over their heads.
This enables the regime to create the desired effect of silence without
being accountable to the international community. These victims are seemingly
free in the eyes of the human rights watcher, who refuses to acknowledge
the violations of their rights.
The second recommendation is meant to recognize the violation of the
rights of journalists and advocates for freedom of the press. However, the
reporter manages to ignore one of the important foundations of the Islamic
Republic censorship, forced self-censorship. The press law in the
Islamic Republic holds the entire paper responsible for every article or
opinion expressed, thus indirectly establishing a censorship network within
each editorial board. The editors, knowing they will be punished for opinions
expressed by others, censor the article before it reaches the government
desk. The writer, knowing in advance that he will be punished for the content
of the article, attempts to save his or her career and the fate of the journal.
What must change here is the law that holds the entire paper responsible
for opinions expressed by individual writers, and shuts down the independent
press for laughable accusations such as "questioning Islam and Islamic
The third recommendation suggests changes in the constitution, but only
calls for changes in article 24 and 26. It is not entirely clear why, if
the constitution has to change, articles 5, 109, and 110 regarding the position
of Supreme leader should not also be targeted. Why should a fallible human
be above the law of the land? The root of the crisis and massive human rights
violations in Iran today lie in these articles. Should one presume that
the Human Rights Watch reporter finds these articles acceptable and in no
conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
The fourth recommendation addresses the need to revise the legal and
administrative procedures of the Revolutionary courts and suggests that
they should be brought into full conformity with international fair trial
standards. Here however the problem is that the revolutionary courts, as
well as the special courts for the clergy, are illegitimate institutions
to begin with. Even according to the laws of the Islamic Republic the continuing
presence of revolutionary courts and tribunals and their intervention in
"political crimes and press issues" is entirely illegal. The recommendation
to "revise the legal and administrative procedures" of such revolutionary
tribunals has its root not in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
but in the thinking of the pro-Khatami reformists. Let it be clear that
the goal of all revolutionary courts and tribunals and "special trials"
everywhere in the world is to suppress the government's opposition. The
main purpose of such courts is to circumvent normal and routine judicial
procedures, such as a fair trial or the presence of a jury and defense attorney
-- processes that revolutionaries would consider slow and cumbersome. No
human rights advocate who believes in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and the ICCPR could accept the legitimacy of these revolutionary
tribunals in any country, after any revolution. From a human rights perspective
the recommendation should be to dissolve all such special courts and tribunals.
The report also recommends conformity of the "special court for the
clergy" (Dadgahe Vije Rohanyat) with international standards. The recommendation
implies that the reporter is willing to accept that the clergy are a special
class of citizens and as such need a special separate court and procedure.
How can a human rights advocate justify such double standards in the legal
And finally the fifth recommendation demands that the "banning of
the Iran freedom movement should be revoked." This is clearly another
policy of the pro-Khatami reformist movement permitting the "nationalist-
religious opposition" to express their views. They believe that revoking
the ban on the Iran Freedom Movement is like an insurance policy for the
future of the regime. Regardless of the effectiveness or correctness of
such a political strategy it is not legitimately an acceptable human rights
standard. Human rights proponents would recommend revoking the ban on all
political parties and not just one particular party. There is no legitimate
reason to ban, for example, the "Office of Consolidated Unity"
and related student movements. The silence of the pro-Khatami reformists
regarding suppression of the reformist opposition is rooted in daily political
maneuvers and various factional struggles and compromises. Freedom of political
expression is a basic human right, and the right to organize or be a member
of a political party is the right of every citizen of Iran. From a human
rights perspective political parties, unions, or syndications are free to
express their views and the government has a duty to be protect their rights.
Even a terrorist organization like "Mujahadineh Khalgh" should
not be banned from entering the political scene if they were to put aside
guerilla warfare and embrace routine political activities.
This critique of the Human Rights Watch report is written at a time when
Iran is going through a difficult transition from dictatorship to democracy.
The ruling class is divided into two factions and despite Khatami's reelection,
widespread violations of human rights are reaching disastrous proportions,
to the point where Iranian youth are arrested, beaten, and tortured for
celebrating Khatami's reelection or a soccer victory in the streets. The
Human Rights Watch reporter makes an attempt to keep her distance from the
regime's opposition and within this context concentrates her efforts on the pro-Khatami reformist faction.
In effect, this strategy threatens the human rights movement in Iran by
betraying several fundamental human rights principles. The reporter became
too close to Khatami's camp and was accused by the conservative faction
of working for them, particularly in the case of the "Tape Makers."
The Human Rights Watch reporter had to retreat under this attack and deny
her role in the entire affair. Such incompetence negatively impacted the
human rights organizations and the victims of human rights violations since
she could not effectively defend the victims of that affair. Pro-human rights
Iranians must remind Human Rights Watch of these mistakes and distractions.
Ken Roth and other members of the Human Rights Watch administration must
be made aware of the shortcomings and special political problems of the
Appointing a non-Iranian national to the Iran desk of Human Rights Watch
would make an immediate improvement. It is common practice for the Iranian
regime to manipulate the opposition through blackmail and coercion by threatening
family members in Iran. This is why most human rights organizations select
personnel who are non-native experts for country positions. Selecting a
non-Iranian for this position would ensure that Iranians are not forced
to put their own families at risk or compromise human rights standards.
Ramin Ahmadi, MD MPH
Dr. Ahmadi teaches and practices medicine at Griffin Hospital in Derby,
CT. His long standing passion for human rights has taken him to many countries,
most recently, Chechnya and East Timor. He is the founder of the Griffin
Center for Health and Human Rights and the Iran Civil Society Institute.
He is the author of four books in Persian and writes on the subject of human
rights for several publications including the Par Monthly Journal.
His first book, a collection of poems was published in 1992. His second
book, Iranian Poetry in the 80's was a collection of reviews and
interviews with Iranian critiques and poets including familiar names such
as Ahmad Shamlou, Nader Naderpour and Mohamad Mokhtari. He has since published
two books on the longest prisoner of conscience in Iran, Abass Amir Entezam.
All these books are available from Par
Joanne Cossitt, MA
Ms. Cossitt joined The Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights
in 2000 after completing her Masters degree in International Communication
and Development at the School of International Service at American University.
She currently serves as the managing director and coordinator for the center's
projects. Ms. Cossitt has worked extensively on human rights issues in
Asia, South America and the United States. She has advised numerous organizations
on human rights and international relations, including Yale University,
Griffin Hospital, and the Women's Health Access Program in Derby, CT.