A proliferation of self-appointed watchdogs and ‘human rights’ agencies have helped market the idea of ‘humanitarian intervention’, in recent years. This can be seen most starkly in the long proxy war on Syria. These advocacy groups have argued the extreme pretexts thought necessary to ignore conventional international law against intervention and foreign support for armed groups. Yet most such groups are paid or co-opted by the same governments which back military intervention. This paper examines the role of this human rights industry during the war on Syria. It begins by looking at the marketed popularity of ‘humanitarian war’, then at the normalisation of associated conflicts of interest. The third part examines two large agencies, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, presenting evidence to demonstrate systematic bias, including engagement in fabrications over the war. Part four studies two more specific agencies, custom built for this war, ‘The Syrian Campaign’ and ‘The White Helmets’. Once again, sufficient evidence is presented to show their partisan role. Together with powerful states, corporate media and other contracted advocacy bodies, these agencies have found an important place in the marketing of humanitarian war.
Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies, Research Paper 1/18