High Tech #Activism: New Technologies in the Fight For Human Rights

Yes, I’m worried about tomorrow. Which is exactly why I am going – we cannot, will not let them scare us. #jan25

This statement, posted on January 24, 2011, and referring to the first day of protests in Egypt, was one of the early tweets using the hashtag #jan25. One dictator later, it has become the global short code to follow the uprising across the Middle East and North Africa.

Can a tweet bring fundamental human rights change? I don’t think so. However, after the events of the last few weeks in the Middle East, nobody will dispute the power of social media for organizing and for the advancement of freedom of speech. Social media is only one of many new tools human rights advocates use to bring about change. Other new areas are the emerging field of crisismapping, the use of remote sensing such as satellite images and systematic data analysis.

If you are interested to learn more about some of these new trends and how they are used by human rights advocates, join our event on “High Tech #Activism” (pdf) at Amnesty International USA’s upcoming Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

From sophisticated satellite imaging techniques and “crowd-mapping” to Facebook and Twitter, the new technological reality is dramatically shaping the human rights landscape in places such as Egypt, Haiti, Sudan and Sri Lanka. Experts from Amnesty are joining leaders in other fields to explore the potential and limitations of new technologies and scientific progress for human rights work:

What: A discussion with Patrick Meier, Director of Crisis Mapping and New Media at Ushahidi, Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO of Benetech, Scott Edwards, Director of AIUSA’s Science for Human Rights Program and Juliette Rousselot, International Justice Advocacy Staff at AIUSA.
When: Saturday, March 19th, 2011 @ 10:40 AM
Where: The Fairmont Hotel (Terrace Room), 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, California

Libya Crisis Map

#agm11
I am sure you did not see this coming, but you can follow the panel discussion on March 18 in San Francisco online by following #agm11 on Twitter.

Sudan: The Best Monitored Crisis in History?

This posting is part of the Sudan Referendum Watch series

No matter how uncertain the weeks following the referendum will be for Sudan, one thing is guaranteed: The situation in South Sudan is the best monitored and documented potential human rights crisis in history, with no shortage of comparisons to Rwanda and similar human rights catastrophes. What is different this time around is the fact that there is also no shortage of new monitoring tools to record – and potentially deter – human rights abuses.

Geography of Risk

For download of the background briefing, click on the image (pdf, 5.5 MB).

We have just put out a background briefing called “Geography of Risk” (pdf) that provides a series of maps to give a better context of the situation on the ground and to visualize some of the issues that we are concerned about (e.g. attacks against civilians). You can download all maps for use in your own advocacy and campaigning work about human rights in Sudan. This is only a small contribution to document the human rights situation in the

Heat map of attacks against civilians in South Sudan. © Amnesty International USA. Data source: CRMA/UNDP.

run-up to the referendum and we will continue to monitor the situation closely over the next months. Our ongoing concerns include abuses in both the north and south of the country; and don’t forget that there is still an active conflict going on in Darfur, a topic the public seems to have forgotten recently.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Mapping CIA Black Sites

AGM Countdown: In the run up to Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting in New Orleans this weekend, the Science for Human Rights program will be posting a new blog entry every day this week. All of the projects presented this week—and many more—will be at display in New Orleans.

In its most extensive study of secret detention practices to date, the UN released a 222-page report on the practice of secret detention in dozens of countries. The report was to be presented to the Human Rights Council in March but the Council has agreed to postpone the discussion until June. The detailed study conducted by four independent UN human rights experts accuses the Bush administration of utilizing practices in severe violation of international law.

Map of US secret detention facilities, based on information provided by a recent UN Human Rights Council report. (c) Amnesty International. Producend by AAAS. CLICK TO SEE FULL MAP

Map of US secret detention facilities, based on information provided by a recent UN Human Rights Council report. (c) Amnesty International. Produced by AAAS. CLICK TO SEE FULL MAP

Following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. began to limit and remove mechanisms protecting human rights in the context of the Global War on Terror. Lumping the United States with the likes of Stalin and Pinochet, the study cites the U.S. practices as an “unprecedented departure” from established international humanitarian and human rights law, specifically pointing to the Geneva Convention.

The report focuses on the CIA run secret detention facilities and the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on high value detainees.  While the U.S. has generally refused to disclose the locations of these facilities, the specifics have slowly leaked out.  The study found evidence confirming CIA “black sites” in 20 locations around the world, including Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Kosovo.

During the operation of these sites, the U.S. used secret flight plans, charter aircraft and subcontracting agreements to remove evidence of U.S. government involvement. Individual case reports have begun to fill in the missing details of the locations and use of enhanced interrogation techniques at these secret detention sites. Amnesty International has created a visual representation of the UN study mapping the locations of the reported secret detention sites.

Shahna Esber contributed  to this blog.