Kathryn Striffolino is currently the Advocate & Science for Human Rights Project Coordinator for Amnesty International's Crisis Prevention & Response Unit, based in Washington DC. She conducts research, advocacy, capacity building and manages projects primarily on armed conflict and urgent human rights developments globally, with an emphasis on leveraging scientific progress and technology for human rights protection. She has been with Amnesty International since 2007 and has conducted field work in Africa and Latin America for the organization. Prior to her work at Amnesty, she lived with communities at risk in southern Mexico and studied Political Science and International Affairs. She is fluent in English and Spanish.
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Kathryn Striffolino (center) at #Freedomhack in Mexico City (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
This is the first post of a series: “Technology for Human Rights Protection” with new entries being published every week or so. We will be discussing the latest innovations for human rights protection and how the human rights community writ large is or can be utilizing science, technology and open innovation for human rights defense. Posts primarily by @katiestriff and @tanyaocarroll, who work in the intersection between technology, science and human rights defense for @Amnesty and @amnestyonline, with the occasional colleague and guest contributor.
The weekend of August 11 and 12 was unprecedented. Technology start-ups, NGOs, journalists, human rights defenders and technologists joined forces for good at the #Freedomhack. We connected to one another digitally; one group located in Washington, D.C. and the other in Mexico City and we collaboratively worked on identifying and developing secure digital reporting methods for journalists and human rights. In Mexico as you may know, it is a very complicated and extremely deadly environment for reporters of any sort.
This post was written in collaboration with Nate Smith, of the AIUSA Military, Security and Police (MSP) Coordination group.
There are some misconceptions currently floating around about the U.S. government’s Leahy Law and we want to set the record straight on a few things. The Leahy Law is a powerful yet often-overlooked tool to help prevent the U.S. government from directly arming human rights violators in the ranks of foreign security forces and to help the U.S. avoid complicity in the commission of human rights violations.
So how can you distill fact from fiction?Allow us to deconstruct some of the facts, fictions and misconceptions about the Leahy Law. And expect more in the coming weeks about this important law, and other instruments available to the U.S. and global community to prevent arming human rights perpetrators.
After over two months of dragging its feet, the Salvadoran government has finally acted to save Beatriz’s life. On Monday, Beatriz, the young mother we’ve posted frequently about, received an early cesarean section and is now recovering in the hospital.
Our activism helped to save Beatriz’s life.
The hundreds of thousands of people around the world who mobilized on Beatriz’s behalf helped make it possible for her to – upon recovery – be able to return home to her family which is what she has wanted all along. Because of this overwhelming support, Beatriz was never alone in her struggle to access the medical care she wanted and needed.
There has been an overwhelming amount of global support over the past few weeks for Beatriz and those in El Salvador working tirelessly on her behalf to save her life. Much of this support has emerged online via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other outlets. Because of these digital tools, countless people are closely following events unfold in El Salvador and calling on the authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations by immediately granting Beatriz authorization for an abortion.
Will Salvadoran authorities listen to Beatriz’s plea and take action to save her life in accordance with her wishes and at the advice of the medical professionals caring for her?
Women’s human rights activists gather in El Salvador to demand Beatriz is granted the life-saving treatment she needs (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
As you’re reading this, the Salvadoran authorities are STILL biding their time discussing the merits of Beatriz’s case, the young mother we posted about earlier this month. While she’s in the hospital experiencing early stage kidney failure, the authorities are holding the key to her life that is quickly fading.
We’ve promised updates on this case. Unfortunately, we know that Beatriz has been subjected to another week of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and have no news regarding action by the authorities to save her life – in accordance with her wishes, and the recommendation of the health professionals responsible for her care.
Imagine you are in a hospital. You have lupus and you are experiencing kidney complications as a result. You have a one-year old son at home who was delivered by cesarean section weeks early because of pregnancy-related health complications. You’re pregnant again, and have been diagnosed as high-risk.
You found out after three sonograms your fetus is anencephalic, meaning that a portion of the fetus’s brain - consisting mainly of the cerebral hemispheres including the neo-cortex - doesn’t exist. With very few exceptions, fetuses with anencephaly do not make it to term and none survive infancy.
As you may have read recently on this blog, Beatriz from El Salvador is 4.5 months pregnant and suffers from lupus and other medical conditions, including kidney disease related to lupus. She also suffered serious complications during her previous pregnancy, resulting in her being deemed at high-risk of maternal mortality should this pregnancy progress. Three scans of her fetus have confirmed it is anencephalic (lacking a large part of the brain and skull). Almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after.
Click to explore some emblematic human rights cases throughout the Americas, many of which have been positively influenced by the Inter-American System. These were taken from Amnesty International’s report “Transforming Pain into Hope: Human Rights Defenders in the Americas” (Photo Credit: Katie Striffolino via ArcGIS).
On September 22, 2012, Honduran human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera was killed. Gunmen shot him five times outside a wedding ceremony in a southern suburb of the capital, Tegucigalpa. Antonio Trejo Cabrera had reported receiving death threats linked to his work representing the victims of human rights abuses amidst the ongoing land conflict in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras. Antonio Trejo Cabrera had been a lawyer for three peasant cooperatives embroiled in the complex land-rights dispute in Bajo Aguán. He had helped campesino communities to regain legal rights to land in the valley and was due to travel to Washington, D.C. in October 2012 to take part in hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
One of the recurrent challenges associated with utilizing social media outlets to report and monitor a situation during a period of time when ground events may or may not be rapidly developing (such as in Kenya): the situation is often times much more complex than 140 characters can convey, and the incorrect use of just a few words, could easily become an overflow of ingredients to an already bubbling human rights situation (Photo Credit: Till Muellenmeister/AFP/Getty Images)
Like many others, I have been closely watching the Kenyan elections. In fact, these elections may be the most “watched” elections ever. I am not necessarily talking about observers on the ground. Digital tools, including social media outlets, have greatly enhanced remote monitoring capability, and have emerged as a major component in the Kenyan elections.
Mali is currently facing its most serious humanitarian and human rights crisis since its independence in 1960, with myriad rights abuses rampant, amounting to what may become charges of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. Cue the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Syrian women demonstrate against President Bashar al-Assad's regime KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images
First, the welcome news: a new tool was launched last week by the Women’s Media Center’s project, Women Under Siege, to track sexual violence committed against women in Syria. Using Ushahidi technology, this project uses crowdsourcing to collect and map evidence of sexual violence, in real time or as close to real time as the “crowd” would like. Survivors, witnesses, and first-responders can submit reports via email, Twitter (using #RapeinSyria) or directly via the site.
Collecting this type of data is vital toward ensuring accountability for human rights crimes related to sexual violence, especially in conflict settings where human rights monitors may be unable to gain access. By highlighting the issue to the public and policy-makers, by empowering women and girls with a tool to share their stories, and by compiling reports of crimes related to sexual violence which are incredibly under-reported as it is, new technological tools allow us to see through the fog of war and send a strong message to perpetrators of violence—your crimes will not go unnoticed. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.