About Scott Edwards

Scott Edwards is Managing Director of Crisis Prevention and Response at Amnesty International USA. He has written and consulted extensively on complex humanitarian crises, protection, and armed conflict, and notable publications include “The Chaos of Forced Displacement,” advancing a computational model of forced migration for use in operational planning. Current professional activity focuses on the development of early warning mechanisms for humanitarian crises, as well as the practical use of geospatial technologies for human rights compliance monitoring and research. Scott previously served as Amnesty’s Advocacy Director for Africa, and Director of the Science for Human Rights Program, and is a Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. He completed his doctoral work in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, focusing on causes and consequences of violent political conflict.
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Israel As Safe Haven For Refugees? Not Even Close.

Sudanese refugee in Israel

A South Sudanese girl awaits deportation to South Sudan from Israel on June 17, 2012. (Oren Ziv/AFP/GettyImages)

Earlier this month, an Israeli court paved the way for Israeli authorities to deport over 1,500 South Sudanese migrants back to South Sudan, where they face an uncertain future, and may face threats to physical security depending where they end up.

One might get the sense that Sudanese are unwelcome in Israel.

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body,” said Miri Regev, member of the Knesset during a public demonstration in Tel Aviv, which saw African passersby attacked.

Today is World Refugee Day—a day marked to remind the world of the tens of millions who face uncertainty, threats to physical security, and persecution by repressive governments.


Google, the Benevolent Behemoth?

google censored

Google's new transparency report documents an alarming rise in censorship by governments, from the US to China.

If you are not familiar with Google’s transparency reporting, you should be.

By monitoring access to Google services and publishing that data in real time, Google’s transparency tool “visualizes disruption in the free flow of information, whether it’s a government blocking information or a cable being cut,” which has great potential to augment early warning efforts for mass repression.

At any time, you can see requests for url removal from search results for copyright claims, and see who those purported owners are. As we know from discussion on this blog around PIPA and SOPA, Google’s efforts to combat infringement of intellectual property rights—at least narrowly defined—are in keeping with human rights law, and important for staving off really bad policies.


Getting Over ‘Sudan Fatigue’

The rainy season in Sudan has begun, and for UN and aid agencies operating just across the Sudan border in the dozens of refugee camps housing those who’ve fled from the indiscriminate bombing of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), a logistic and operational nightmare is very present.

For the hundreds of thousands displaced by the bombing campaign, food and (paradoxically) water shortages have reached crisis proportions.

Last night, Amnesty released its newest research findings in ‘We Can Run Away From Bombs, But Not From Hunger,’ documenting the illegal and indiscriminate bombing campaign of the SAF in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in Sudan.


Hacking Away at Threats

mobile phone activate

Developing an App to securely capture and transmit photo and video

In a little over a week, I’ll make my way to San Francisco to participate in an innovation event that represents the cutting edge of the promise of science and technology in the fight for human rights.

Colleagues from Amnesty International will simultaneously be convening in Berlin, and in both cities, Amnesty and their partners Random Hacks of Kindness, (with their apt slogan “Hacking for Humanity”) will seek practical solutions to the very real threats that refugees and migrants face in transit in Mexico and the Mediterranean in a two-day “hack-a-thon.”

As an aside, for those wedded to the pejorative association with ‘hack,’ ‘hacking,’ ‘hackers,’ a hackathon event is “a gathering of technically skilled individuals focusing on collaborative efforts to address a challenge, issue, or goal.” In this case, the challenge is significant.

Every year, tens of thousands of women, men and children are ill-treated, abducted or raped as they travel through Mexico without legal permission as irregular migrants. As we’ve tragically seen as people have fled Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, the “Mediterranean takes record as most deadly stretch of water for refugees and migrants in 2011“.


Don't Fear the Tweets, Fear the Tweeters

twitter activist protesterLast week, UN Secretary General Ban delivered the keynote address at the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, in which he made the pointed remark:

“Some dictators in our world are more afraid of tweets than they are of opposing armies.”

Being a mere 86 characters, that quote made its way through the Twitterverse in fairly short order, with some glib derision in response.


#Kony2012 and the Warping Logic of Atrocity

Joseph Kony Uganda LRA

Joseph Kony (STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images)

In the past 48 hours, there has been a flood of criticism of Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 campaign—much of it fair, some of it less so.

My first exposure to IC’s work was some time ago when—with Resolve—they launched the LRA Crisis Tracker. In stark contrast to the criticisms of implicit disempowerment of affected people by the Kony2012 campaign, this tool empowers communities through radio and digital communications to effectively form an overlapping system of neighborhood watch in LRA-affected areas. It is—in short—good work, and represents the promise of access to the benefits of science and technology, whether for underprivileged people in the US, or communities facing security threats in Uganda and elsewhere.


For So Many Reasons, Eyes on Russia

Russia Protest

An opposition activist holds a one man protest in front of the Russian Central Election Commission headquarters in Moscow, on March 1, 2012. The sign reads: "stop the dictatorship!" (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian Federation has had an unenviable place in the news of late. With the outrage over the government’s disastrous and unconscionable opposition to meaningful UN Security Council action on Syria, to Amnesty’s recent findings that Russian weapons continue to supply the machine of misery unleashed on the people of Darfur and Sudan, it would be easy to be blinded to the risks to rights protection in Sunday’s Presidential election.

Last Saturday, thousands rallied in St. Petersburg in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s decision to run for a third presidential term, chanting “Russia without Putin.” On Sunday, over 30,000 people organized together to create a human chain spanning 15.6 kilometers in length throughout Moscow in solidarity over growing discontent over the election.


Syrian Perpetrators: Beware the Long Arc Toward Justice

In an overwhelming demonstration of broad global consensus on the ongoing atrocities in Syria, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday adopted a resolution on the Syrian crisis by a vote of 137 to 12.

While a welcome show of outrage over crimes against humanity occurring in Syria, the largely symbolic vote does little to address the abysmal failure of the UN Security Council to act on the situation. This failure—precipitated by vetoes from Russia and China and reminiscent for me of a similarly precipitated failure to act quickly on crimes against humanity in Darfur—has had immediate impact. “Emboldened” by the failure, the Syrian regime actually stepped up attacks on civilians over the last week, killing hundreds in Homs and elsewhere.

I try to avoid charged words. Words like “horrors.” But I am at a loss to label the atrocities unleashed on the civilians of Homs and cities across Syria with anything else. Being so far removed from these horrors—and witnessing much closer the failures in New York—it can be difficult to see any light ahead. But the General Assembly’s resolution offers a glimmer of hope.


Repressive Regimes Rejoice, Twitter to Censor Content

twitter bird censoredTwitter dropped quite the shocker last week when it declared its new policy to remove Tweets in certain countries to abide by specific national laws. While a tweet will remain visible to the rest of the world, specific messages will disappear in the target country (e.g., following requests by governments).

The ensuing backlash saw a lot of people screaming “censorship” (ironically, on Twitter). While the first wave of criticism has quickly calmed down, for a human rights watchdog, the announcement is quite alarming:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. …. Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.


Where's my Wiki? SOPA, PIPA, and Balancing Rights

google censored

Sites across the Web are "blacking out" to protest SOPA

Following a previous post on this blog which makes the case that internet access is inseparable from the enjoyment of many or most rights, I wanted to address the imperiled Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill from a human rights lens.

In that previous post, I referenced Art 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Actually, I only referenced section 1 of Art 27. Section TWO can be interpreted as guaranteeing human beings the right to intellectual property (IP), and states the following: