Since 2003, Iraq has suffered devasting conflict and insecurity. The country witnessed large-scale violence caused by the terrorist group Da’esh, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). From June 2014, ISIS launched a genocidal campaign against ethno-religious minorities in Iraq. The targeted violence sought to erase the presence of religious minorities in Iraq altogether, and particularly the Yazidis. ISIS decried the Yazidis as devil-worshippers. ISIS executed those who refused religious conversion.
ACT for the Disappeared (ACT) is a Lebanese human rights association founded in 2010 by a group of women activists. ACT’s mission is to provide answers for missing civil war victims’ families through collecting and preserving information about the missing and to foster a sustainable reconciliation process.
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.
Reconciliation and peacebuilding rest upon knowing as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes, and extent of gross violations of human rights that have been committed. Investing in the education of youth is important because it expands their worldview and challenge stereotypes. By successfully doing so, youth can actively participate in shaping lasting peace and contribute to justice and reconciliation in their respective societies. For example, Canada has integrated meaningful reconciliation into classrooms and workshops to help learn about its history of colonization and think creatively about the future. South Africa has also recognized the importance of educational reform in order to address the problem of reconciliation and conflict transformation in youth. The importance of empowering youth to engage and take an active role in non-violence, dialogue, and reconciliation was at the center of this conversation of the potential roles that youth can take in truth and reconciliation at both the local and global level.
There are estimated to be 470 million indigenous people in the world, from 5,000 different ethnic groups, living in 90 countries. James Anaya, former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, has defined indigenous people as "living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest." Despite the United Nations having issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including land rights, the land rights of indigenous people have increasingly come under threat.
Protecting survivors and witnesses of human rights violations is crucial to effective human rights work. Protection is important because when survivors and witnesses fear further persecution, they are unlikely to report their experiences, making redress and accountability much more difficult. The state is formally responsible for providing protection, but it is the state that is often the greatest source of perceived risk amongst witnesses and survivors. In this conversation, participants together with New Tactics in Human Rights and DIGNITY (Danish Institute Against Torture) discussed the various strategies to protect witnesses and survivors of human rights violations, the challenges faced and the role of civil society.
Daily headlines around the globe portray the numerous conflicts that arise as a result of heated points of contention. Seemingly disparate ideologies, unequal distribution of resources, political, ethnic, cultural and religious differences can all be contributing factors in the emergence of conflict between groups. In the aftermath of conflict, what role can reconciliation play as a path forward; toward healing, peaceful relations, improved communication and functioning societies?
Where does the process of reconciliation begin, with whom and when? These questions and more were discussed in New Tactics in Human Rights Conversation - Reconciliation Post-Conflict: Approaches, Practices and Realities. This online conversation sought to identify the role of reconciliation in post-conflict environments. Practitioners shared experiences, lessons learned, approaches, and challenges with the reconciliation process from the perspective of reconciliation efforts around the world.
Children encounter unique obstacles to accessing justice mechanisms for seeking remedies to human rights violations. Providing access of justice for children requires “child sensitive mechanisms” that identify their needs and integrates their voices in justice systems. As a result of the challenges children face when accessing justice, The United Nations passed in April 2014 a third optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (OP3) enabling children to bring complaints about violations directly to the committee on the rights of the child if they have not found a solution at a national level. Improving access to justice for children can occur by examining the challenges faced by children, the use of alternative dispute mechanisms, collective litigation strategies, tactics to help child victims through the court process and how to use regional and international complaint mechanisms. This conversation took place in October 2014.
For many communities access to justice represents a near impossibility because of cost, distance, lack of knowledge and the fear of reprisal. Paralegals utilize rapport and trust to increase access to justice for their clients. Despite possessing knowledge and expertise in the legal field they engage in diverse responsibilities in their communities. They advise elders and community leaders, assist individuals find lodging in cases of domestic abuse and conduct fact finding for remedies to rights violations.
Thank you for joining Daniel D’Esposito of HURIDOCS, Enrique Piracés of Benetech and the New Tactics online community for a conversation on Working Safely and Effectively with Documentation Tools held from June 9th to the 13th, 2014.
Documentation is a crucial aspect of the quest for justice, accountability and transparency. Whether our goal is to raise awareness about an issue, build a case for human rights court or commission, or collect evidence for a criminal proceeding, documenting what happened (or what is happening) is often the first step towards positive change.
The information we are collecting is sensitive by nature. It often includes information about human rights abuses such as victims' testimonies, names of perpetrators, witnesses, and locations. It may include digital evidence like video or images. How can defenders, who are not technologists, ensure that their information is secure? How can defenders reduce their own risk of harm throughout the documentation process? How can defenders make sure that they have the ability to uphold their commitment to safeguarding the information of vulnerable populations?