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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Is Internet Access A Human Right?

An internet cafe in Istanbul. (UGUR CAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A curious op ed appeared in The New York Times recently, titled “Internet Access is Not a Human Right.” In this piece—which I read as I do most news and media, via my computer—Vinton Cerf, a “father” of the Internet, makes an argument that despite the critical role of Information Communication Technologies (the internet) in the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, access to the Internet is not a human right.

I should note that his right to express himself so is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to… seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Satellite Images Show Fire Damage in Jos, Nigeria

Over the past decade, Nigeria has seen its fair share of violence. On January 17th, Nigeria came back into the headlines as violence erupted in the central city of Jos and in surrounding villages. Although there is disagreement over the exact number of people killed during January’s violence, most residents and aid workers estimate that around 400 people lost lives. Around 18,000 were displaced by the violence.

Using the power of satellite images, which were acquired and analyzed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we were able to document the impact of January’s violence on infrastructure in Jos. The image on the left depicts an area of Jos before the violence and the one on the right depicts the same area but after the main bouts of violence of January 2010. What you can see most clearly from these images is the widespread damage caused by fires in this neighborhood of Jos. And this is just one example. Satellite images of other areas of Jos showed similar damage. Throughout many neighborhoods of Jos, the damage to the physical environment reflects the violence suffered by the inhabitants of the area.

In imagery collected after the events of January 2010, this area of the city appears to have been extensively burned. (9.9397N, 8.8831E). ©2010 DigitalGlobe

In imagery collected after the events of January 2010, this area of the city appears to have been extensively burned. (9.9397N, 8.8831E). Before image: ©2010 DigitalGlobe & Google Earth. After image: ©2010 DigitalGlobe

 

 

Sadly, the story doesn’t stop here. On March 7th, attacks on predominantly Christian towns near Jos lead to the death of an estimated 200 people, most likely in retaliation for the violence of January, during which mostly Muslims were killed. Some estimates are even higher, suggesting that as many as 500 people may have died.

I am deeply concerned that there has been more inter-religious violence, with appalling loss of life. I appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint. Nigeria’s political and religious leaders should work together to address the underlying causes and to achieve a permanent solution to the crisis in Jos - UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, March 8, 2010.

The communal violence in and around Jos is years-old. AIUSA joins the widespread calls for justice for these crimes through prompt investigations and prosecution of those responsible. The Nigerian government must fulfill its responsibility to provide security for those living in areas of conflict Nigeria. This includes ensuring that the Nigerian security forces respect human rights and comply with international standards on the use of force.

Juliette Rousselot contributed to this blog post.

A step towards justice for Darfur?

The ICC’s pre-trial chamber has issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the head of state of Sudan. Already, the government in Khartoum has rejected the court’s decision.

The government of Sudan must comply with the arrest warrant. The ICC case against al-Bashir and already-issued arrest warrants against Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman must proceed without delay. The United States–no traditional friend of the ICC–joins the ranks this morning of states and peoples around the world who demand justice for violations of the most inviolable prescriptions of international law.

Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International echoed the legal obligations of Sudan: “The law is clear. President al-Bashir must appear before the ICC to defend himself. If he refuses to do so, the Sudanese authorities must ensure he is arrested and surrendered immediately to the ICC.”

Amnesty has long campaigned for justice for Darfur, and campaigned for Khartoum to cooperate with the ICC. Omar al-Bashir’s war crimes, steadfast obstruction of justice, and evident crimes against humanity have placed him rightly among other indicted international criminals. His role as head of state of Sudan is not a shield against the law; while he has been happy to use his power to violate the law and create an a climate of impunity, that power must–and will–bend to the most fundamental notions of justice.

Stay tuned here as news and analysis continues to develop throughout the day…

Amnesty’s Solution to DRC is…More Guns??

I was asked today about Amnesty International’s increasing calls for the UN Security Council to act to reinforce the peacekeeping force currently in DRC (acronym MONUC…it’s French and I can’t find the circumflex character to spell it out). Given the awful situiation in the East of the country, calling on the Security Council to, in his words, “put more guns” in the Kivus was “not going to help in the long run,” he offered. After quickly noting that Amnesty’s call is to strengthen the ability of MONUC to protect civilians…which include more police and armed personnel, but also trucks, aircraft, training to help victims of sexual violence, and a whole slew of logistical support, I gave it a little thought.

Like Amnesty’s support for the UN Mission in Darfur, the calls for increasing support for MONUC—already the largest (most expensive) peacekeeping mission in the world—may seem a desperate recommendation to some. But aside from the obvious and pressing needs of the most vulnerable of people in Eastern DRC—the war affected, the starving, and the displaced—there is no doubt that the humanitarian crisis itself is a policy problem. While Amnesty’s call is surely motivated primarily by the need to address human suffering, there is longer term wisdom to that call.

The roots of the current crisis in DRC can be traced back to the broader “Great Lakes” refugee crisis following the Rwandan genocide. We can trace the general instability of the Kivus and eastern DRC more broadly to the displacement of millions at the borders of Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi. That is, we can trace the current political and security situation in DRC back to the displacement and human insecurity of nearly 15 years ago and years since.  

Rwandan refugees setting up camp in E. DRC, 1994

Rwandan refugees setting up camp in E. DRC, 1994

This displacement destroys communities, shreds political fabric, militarizes local commerce, invites predation, increases incentives to take up arms, and destabilizes displacement-receiving communities and countries. The number of people displaced from the Kivus in the past couple months is about equal to the total number of Darfuris who’ve fled to neighboring Chad over the past 5 years. MONUC must be strengthened because civilians will suffer even further if it is not. But the wisdom of strengthening the UN’s thus-far ineffectual presence in the Kivus extends to a generational metric. If the spiraling human security situation in the Kivus isn’t soon slowed, we’ll be citing the international community’s failure to act in 2008 as a key cause of another yet-avoidable catastrophe years down the road.

Yes, securing vulnerable people now is just and necessary (see Mr. Koettl’s post from earlier today). But it has the added advantage of allowing future generations a chance to live in relative peace.