In the best of times, human rights advocacy requires constant tactical innovation. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 generated huge additional challenges. In early 2020, the African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED) in The Gambia was working on creating an in-person traveling memorialization exhibition of their “The Duty to Remember” project. They planned the launch as part of Human Rights Week 2020 organized by the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
Since the onset of conflict in 2011, over 400,000 Syrian lives have been lost, and more than half of the population remains displaced; nearly 6 million refugees are living outside of the country and an additional 6 million are displaced within Syria’s borders, according to a 2020 World Bank report. Those who have lost their loved ones and their homes are often left voiceless, leaving an astonishing number of stories left untold.
When abuses are hidden, or accepted by members of society, it can be difficult for victims to prove that a human rights violation has taken place. A group in Hungary uses a testing method to provide evidence of discrimination and bring legal cases on behalf of victims.
This tactic provides a pathway for victims of severe abuses perpetrated against them to seek justice denied them in their home country. Although it may require considerable time, the application of universal jurisdiction is gaining recognition by countries around the world as an effective way to internationally combat impunity. Universal jurisdiction is a legal principle of international law that allows national courts to prosecute such crimes regardless of where they occurred or the nationality of the perpetrator or victim.
When addressing human rights violations in a public reconciliation process, it’s important to make the process comfortable for victims who testify. One tactic is “accompaniment” of victims by volunteers trained in psychosocial support and the practical realities of the process. The goal is to give victims an empowering experience that helps their healing and does not contribute to re-traumatization.
To address gross human rights violations committed during apartheid, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was initiated by legislation in 1995. Their mandate was to document violations committed by state bodies or armed opposition, to promote national unity and reconciliation, and to offer policy reforms to prevent future abuses. In addition to amnesty and human rights hearings, special hearings were held, focused on abuses suffered by women and children. These hearings were held around the country and were covered extensively by all media.
Mexican citizen and journalist, Epigmenio Ibarra, created tumblr blog #IllustradoresConAyotzinapa which combines social media and artistic illustrations of 43 disappeared college students to sustain awareness of their disappearances and to memorialize their individual lives.
Ta’ayosh, the Coexistence campaign, is working to erase the negative social stigma around patients of AIDS and the discrimination they face from health providers due to the misconceptions the public health providers have towards the virus and its transmission. The campaign works to raise the public awareness of HIV virus.
The “Free Net” campaign joined forces with Jordanian online newspapers in announcing the 28th of August, 2012, to be internet blackout day. Online websites along with online news sites decided to turn their pages black in protest of the legal restrictions regarding press freedom after passing a bill on press and publication.
Kituo Cha Sheria (Legal Advice Centre) helps to empower prisoners to advocate for themselves by providing legal education in Kenyan prisons.
Issues of poverty, marginalization, and vulnerability affect people’s access to justice. Kituo Cha Sheria, founded in 1973 by a small group of legal professionals, works to combat this lack of access by providing free education to the most marginalized communities, particularly prison inmates. In Kenya, the ratio of legal practitioners to the population is 1 to 5,000, so these services are desperately needed.
The Khulumani Support Group organizes South African apartheid survivors into a collective voice in order to better provide support and advocate for reparations.