From "The Persecution of Human Rights Monitors" (Human Rights Watch, December 1987):

By and large, legal mechanisms are not available to make governments comply with the international agreements they have signed to respect human rights. Usually, the only effective way to get governments to respect their commitments is to assemble information on their violations of human rights and to disseminate that information. . . . By embarrassing governments with the records of their own misdeeds, human rights monitors generate the pressure that promotes respect for their international commitments or, at least, promotes a reduction or mitigation of abuses. Inevitably, however, human rights monitors also attract the abuses against themselves . . . as governments seek to stem the flow of information on their repressive practices.

It is not only because disseminating information about abuses of human rights is the most effective way to curb those abuses that human rights monitoring has acquired such significance. It is also because collecting and recording the names of those who have been abused, the torments they have suffered and the identities of those who inflicted the suffering is itself a method of recognizing the worth and dignity of the victims. It is out of such impulses that efforts proceed to document gross abuses of human rights even when the victims are long dead; even when the governments that committed abuses have been transformed; and even when there is no longer a possibility of obtaining redress. . . .

This report discusses the persecution of nearly 500 human rights monitors in 39 countries . . . rang{ing} from threats, harassment and denials of the right to practice their profession to imprisonment, torture and, in 10 cases, killings and, in another two cases, disappearances.