(AFP) – Sep 15, 2009
WASHINGTON — Human Rights Watch has suspended a senior military analyst who has led research teams to the Middle East after a pro-Israel blog said he was obsessed with Nazi German paraphernalia.
"Human Rights Watch has been looking into the matter of senior military analyst Marc Garlasco's collection of Second World War memorabilia and an inquiry is under way," the global rights group said in a statement sent to AFP Tuesday.
"Garlasco has been temporarily suspended from his research work with full pay pending the inquiry. This is not a disciplinary measure. Human Rights Watch stands behind Garlasco's research and analysis," the statement said.
US doctoral student Omri Ceren last week published on his pro-Israel blog, Mere Rhetoric, a photo of Nazi uniforms which he said were part of Garlasco's collection of World War II Nazi German military paraphernalia.
Ceren wrote in the story accompanying the photos that the human rights investigator, who has published "shrill attacks on Israel," was "obsessed with the color and pageantry of Nazism."
"This is about a guy with a serious thing for Nazi stuff issuing widely read reports on the actions of Jews defending themselves. It's about judgment, propriety, qualifications... and Human Rights Watch," Ceren wrote.
In a retort posted on the Huffington Post website, Garlasco concurred that his hobby of collecting World War II memorabilia was "unusual and disturbing to some," but said he thought it made him a better analyst.
"I'm a military geek, with an abiding interest not only in the medals I collect but in the weapons that I study and the shrapnel I analyze," Garlasco wrote.
"I think this makes me a better investigator and analyst. And to suggest it shows Nazi tendencies is defamatory nonsense, spread maliciously by people with an interest in trying to undermine Human Rights Watch's reporting," he said.
Garlasco is HRW's senior military analyst, specializing in battle damage assessment, military operations, and interrogations.
He has led research teams to Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon for HRW, the rights group said.
Among reports Garlasco has worked on for HRW was "Rain of Fire," published in March.
In the report, HRW accused Israel of violating international law by "repeatedly exploding white phosphorus munitions in the air over populated areas" in Gaza, even though the dangers posed to civilians by the chemical were well known to Israeli military commanders.