Human Rights Watch has suspended its senior military analyst after it was revealed that he is a collector of Nazi memorabilia.
The group initially stood by Mark Garlasco, saying he “has never held or expressed Nazi or antisemitic views”.
His work, according to Carroll Bogert, the New York-based organisation’s associate director, had been “extensively reviewed, lawyered, scrutinised, pulverised by our programme and legal staff, and we have not in six years ever had cause to question his professional judgment”.
On Monday, however, he was suspended “pending an investigation”.
“We have questions about whether we have learned everything we need to know,” Ms Bogert said.
Mr Garlasco’s hobby was first exposed by the Mere Rhetoric blog. The blog showed that he collected Nazi medals given to anti-aircraft ‘flak’ gunners, and authored a 400-page reference book on the subject. He said his hobby was inspired by a German grandfather who was conscripted into the German army.
Mr Garlasco had also commented on collector sites under the pseudonym “Flak88” — 88 being a Nazi code for ‘Heil Hitler’. On one site he wrote, “That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!”
Mr Garlasco led HRW’s investigation into the Gaza beach incident in 2006; its examination into the use of white phosphorus during Operation Cast Lead; and another report investigating Israeli use of drones to deliver precision-guided warheads during the Gaza operation, called “Precisely Wrong”.
Earlier this summer it was revealed that the group made a fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia in which its Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, told potential donors that HRW needed their money in order to battle “pro-Israel pressure groups”.
It was later revealed that Joe Stork, HRW’s Middle East deputy director, is a former Marxist radical who attended a hate-Israel conference sponsored by Saddam Hussein in the 1970s, had edited a journal which condemned Zionism as racist and imperialist and had justified the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.