In October 2012, Amnesty International met with activists and technologists from around the world in Nairobi, Kenya to explore the opportunities created and risks of using digital tools in human rights work (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
By Tanya O’Carroll, Technology & Human Rights Project Officer and Danna Ingleton, Individuals & Communities at Risk Research & Policy Advisor
All over the world, individuals who speak up for and defend the rights of their communities often endure unspeakable acts of violence for doing so. At the Front Line Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) this month, we heard testimony from numerous HRDs who have been threatened, defamed, attacked, injured and tortured in retribution for their human rights activities. It quickly became clear that the key lesson of this gathering is to share what can best be described as survival strategies – behaviors, approaches and interventions that act as a counter balance.
One striking theme this year was in relation to how technology (phones, computers, cameras, social media, software, and the list goes on) has become deeply entwined with the work of defenders and the types of threats that they face. This post explores some of those stories and asks questions about how we can support a safer environment for HRDs in their use of tech.
In the Bouca area, approximately 485 structures—represented here by yellow dots—appear burned in imagery from November 2013. Image (c) DigitalGlobe 2013.
“These new images offer a glimpse of physical scarring to homes and civic life visible from space, but the true scale of the human impact of the crisis cannot be captured by satellite.” - Aster van Kregten, Deputy Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.
Expert analysis of new satellite imagery we have obtained from the Central African Republic (CAR) reveals the shocking aftermath of recent human rights abuses amid spiraling violence by armed groups and security forces.
The images - some less than a week old - include evidence of 485 homes being torched in Bouca as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) massing near the town of Bossangoa as people flee the ongoing violence.
“Shell is being disingenuous about the devastation caused by its Niger Delta operations. This new evidence shows that Shell’s claims about the oil spills cannot be trusted,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
Nadya had publically complained of threats she received from prison officials (Photo Credit: Maksim Blinov/AFP/Getty Images).
Pussy Riot member Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova is rumored to have been transferred to a prison colony in Siberia. But we can’t know for sure because Russian authorities refuse to disclose her whereabouts.
If these reports are true, transferring her to a prison colony thousands of miles from Moscow would make it impossible for her family and lawyers to see her. This would be a grave violation of her human rights and Russia’s own laws.
It was just after midnight on the East Coast when the first news story came out. I’d been sitting on another edge of another bed in another bland hotel room for a few hours by then, typing up notes from our tour stop in Madison and planning the next day’s action in Minneapolis. At least that’s what I’d meant to do. Really, I was waiting for this very moment. The new Amnesty International report on drone strikes in Pakistan had finally been released.
My Twitter feed was soon full of chatter about drones, and about the civilian deaths outlined in the report. I clicked over to the Amnesty website to open the report, and saw the face of Nabeela Bibi, the eight-year-old girl who had watched her 68-year-old grandmother, Mamana, blown to pieces while she was picking vegetables in the family fields. My cell phone buzzed and I looked down at a text message from my friend, a fellow activist who has been working on this issue for years.
Money is tight for everybody and the pool of available social housing in Rome is already hugely oversubscribed. Italy has a big housing problem and Rome is no different.
We are aware of this.
But there is no escaping – or justifying – the fact that Roma faces additional obstacles when trying to access adequate housing that do not have their origins in brute economic fact, but in something more elemental: prejudice.
There are also indications that a man known as “Alireza M” – who had been subjected to a botched execution, had been declared dead and who was then discovered to be alive in the morgue the next day - will not have to face the horrific prospect of a reattempt of his execution.
Since its founding in 1982, Salvadoran human rights victims, their families, and other witnesses have trusted their testimony to Tutela Legal, the human rights office of the Catholic Church’s Archdiocese in El Salvador. They had confidence that Church leaders such as Archbishop Rivera y Damas (who replaced Oscar Romero after his assassination in 1980) and María Julía Hernández (the long-time head of Tutela Legal) would preserve the crucial evidence they provided so that one day the criminals who committed wartime atrocities could be brought to justice. They also felt safe turning to Tutela Legal, believing that their testimony would remain confidential.
On September 30, those Salvadorans who had confided in Tutela Legal were shocked to learn that Archbishop Escobar Alas had disbanded the organization, locking the doors and dismissing the staff without prior notice. Since then, he has changed his explanation for doing so several times – but not provided any evidence to support any of his reasons.
ByNaureen Shah, Advocacy Advisor at Amnesty International USA
A year ago almost to the day, on October 24, 2012, a U.S. drone strike killed a 68-year-old woman named Mamana Bibi. She was gathering vegetables in her family’s large, mostly vacant fields in north Waziristan, Pakistan. We don’t know whom the U.S. intended to target, but it is hard to imagine that a policy that allows the killing of this grandmother, who was blown to pieces before the eyes of her young grandchildren, is anything but a catastrophic failure on the part of the U.S. government.
The latest revelation from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, reported in the Washington Post, suggests the NSA cast a “surveillance blanket” over parts of northern Pakistan, feeding enormous amounts of data to the CIA’s secret lethal drone program. Even if the NSA didn’t pick up chatter after the killing of this grandmother, the U.S. government claims that it conducts post-strike assessments of who is killed. It knew, or should have known, that something went wrong.
By Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan Research at Amnesty International
It was a sunny October afternoon last year when Mamana Bibi was blown to pieces before her grandchildren’s very eyes. The family matriarch, Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family fields in northwestern Pakistan when a remotely piloted aircraft – or “drone” – used by the United States fired a missile directly toward her, killing Mamana instantly. A second volley of missiles was fired a few minutes later, injuring some of the children who ventured out to where their grandmother had been struck.
Almost a year to the day, the Bibi family’s lives have been torn apart. In a number of in-depth interviews over the last eight months, the family recounted to me how they sold ancestral lands to pay for their injured relatives’ steep medical bills. Mamana’s grief-stricken elderly husband, a respected retired local headmaster, rarely leaves the house. Their grandchildren, including 8-year-old Nabeela, now live in constant fear of the drones, which seem ever present in the skies.