Staying Safe: Security Resources for Human Rights Defenders

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Staying Safe: Security Resources for Human Rights Defenders

Note: This dialogue is PUBLIC. Do not share any private or sensitive information. For advice on a specific situation, please contact a participant privately.


The featured resource practitioners for this dialogue include:

  • Jane Barry - author of Insiste, Persiste, Resiste, Existe: Women Human Rights Defenders Security Strategies (with Vahida Nainar)
  • Wojtek Bogusz  of Frontline Defenders
  • Rick P. Ruiz - President of VaultletSoft and initiator of Project Autonomy
  • Marie Caraj of Protection International
  • Edna Aquino of Stop Stoning and Killing Women Campaign
  • Sarah Willcox of the Scholar Rescue Fund
  • Saira Hamidi of the Urgent Action Fund
  • Jackie Nolley Echegaray from JASS (Just Associates)
  • Michele Braley and Nils Dybvig - former Christian Peacemaker Team members, provided unarmed accompaniment to human rights defenders in Colombia
  • Ali Palh of RightsNow Pakistan
  • Allen Gunn (AKA Gunner) - Executive Director of Aspiration and Ruckus Society board member

[Photo credit: hennings]

 


 

Summary

In this dialogue, practitioners that work with human rights defenders developing security strategies discussed how human rights defenders and organizations can improve their safety and security while working in the field under oppressive conditions and under the watchful eye of states and adversaries. Specifically, the participants discussed and shared tactics, strategies and resources on how human rights defenders can create effective security protocols to protect themselves against physical threats and secure their data in the field or office.

Who is a Human Rights Defender (HRD) and what is security for HRDs? Why does security matter?

A human rights defender (HRD) was defined as a person who acceptances the universality of human rights, are defined and accepted according to the rights they are defending and according to their own right to do so, and whose actions are peaceful. HRDs consciously take on risk through their work, thus human rights work might by its definition be about giving up some security.

Security and safety for HRDs is essential to their work: “The key to thinking about security/safety and well-being is first recognizing that we are as valuable as human beings as the human rights work -- and as the people we are fighting for.” A silenced human rights worker, through kidnapping, jailing or intimidation, means a human rights worker not doing their work.  Protecting human rights defenders doesn’t always mean protecting them against physical violence. “slander, smear campaigns, stigmatisation, etc are all serious threats to defenders.”

There are many “non-traditional” HRDs, such as artists, academics and activists, that don’t self identify as a HRDs. They may be unaware they are entitled to protection and one participant suggested they should be informed that they are entitled to the title of human rights defender and that they there is a protection framework that is mandated to support them.

What impact does a defender’s gender (or identity) have on security?

Among LGBT human rights defenders there many challenges to developing effective security measures because many LGBT organizations are marginalized. Lack of funding for LGBT human rights work exacerbates competitiveness between organizations which hinders the creation of strong networks necessary for security. Furthermore because the prejudice and discrimination of people in the LGBT community is based on a moral argument that permeates society many “mainstream” HRDs shy away from issues affecting this community.

One story shared was about how the security of female HRDs in Pakistan increased and threats from their colleagues were reduced when respected male members of society came out using the media in favor of women in leadership roles. Religious leaders signing statements that said Islam does not bar women from taking leadership positions improved female HRDs standing and security in their communities and families.

How does security relate to information, communication and technology?

Ensuring the safety and security of records, resources, and information is essential to preserving HRDs safety and security. Everything done online, on a computer, or with something that involves transmitted data, whether analog or digital, is recordable, copyable, transferable, morphable and redistributable. And thus security considerations should be ubiquitous in all discussions relating to any of the above

Using open source software (software where the programming code is open to the public to verify its security) is the best way to share and disseminate tools and protocols when these very tools and protocols must be shared through often unprotected, unencrypted means. Following best practices with proven tools and platforms, and showing others how to do the same is an example of “hiding in plain site.”

When a group of HRDs are working together, it is important that everyone is communicating using secure measures. If one person in a group of people communicating does not follow recommended security protocols, they can expose the whole group and their clients.

With the many digital security tools available HRDs should incorporate digital security into their larger protection plans and see how it fits into their work. Some HRDs might need or want more or less digital security depending on their situation. Some are mystified at all the choices and need help deciding what tools to use.

The security of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services like Skype depends on a host on variables and there is no silver bullet. Nothing is totally secure but participants offered a number of helpful suggestions to improve the security of VoIP calls.

For many HRDs in the developing world the only way to access the internet is through internet cafes, which can be insecure. One contributor stressed that choosing a café where you can use your own laptop which has security software on it is an effective way to stay secure. Other tips for staying secure in an Internet Café were added here. Participants gave valuable recommendations on email services that can be trusted and the many factors to consider when choosing an email service to ensure security, here and here.

What can defenders do to protect themselves?

As a starting point new employees of human rights organizations should be informed of the risks involved in human rights work.

Self defense can be defined as a set of physical, psychological, and verbal techniques that can be used to defend one self in situations where one may be a target of verbal assault, physical abuse, or rape. It also involves knowing how to avoiding certain situations where we know we may be hurt.”  Self defense need not to be aggressive, a special art or a mystery. Many HRDs on the front lines instinctually use various methods of self defense against physical violence, verbal abuse or harassment. Sometimes running away is the best defense.

In a number of countries human rights organizations have come together to create joint initiatives focused on HRD protection and this can be an important source of joint training; relocation and emergency funds; and national and international advocacy.

Many organizations and networks of activists use secondary protests at police stations after an activist has been arrested at a rally or while doing human rights work.

Using social media and mobile phones for protection can be dangerous and insecure but in certain situations they can also be used by defenders to broadcast if they are in trouble. Sometimes making a case public or informing your network of your locations can increase your security.  Another way HRDs can use mobile phones is while traveling to check in daily with their organizations. It is best not to talk about specifics such as location when checking in and to use a set of code words because mobile phones should be considered insecure. Organizations should set up protocols if someone fails to check in and can’t be reached.  It is important to know that the location of a HRD using a mobile phone can be pinpointed if the GPS function is turned on, but even if it is off a person’s location can be found less accurately using cell tower triangulation. Taking the battery out of one’s phone is usually the only way to prevent tracking in this manner

What do the rest of use need to do to protect defenders? What can funders of human rights work do?

With security “we’re all in this together, like a lifeboat,;” one person’s action or inaction affects others in terms of security. Every HRD leaves digital footprints that have the possibility to expose other HRDs. “Security is a set of values to be engendered and shared, not a pizza to be delivered.” Organizations can “be proactive in supporting a security-positive culture, with lots of training and ongoing dialog.” Funders can stay anonymous when necessary; encourage grantees to write security costs into all grant proposals and then fund them. 

Organizations can designate a person/s to be responsible for monitoring new technologies and new security protocols and for updating passwords, and codes, as well as stressing vigilance. Secondly, international human rights orgs can develop relationships with trusted local advisers and meet regularly with them for their assessment of security risks.

Security tools and systems need to be more accessible and usable for human rights orgs. and defenders. Funders should provide additional resources for tech support. It is a challenge finding trustworthy IT support in foreign countries. Sometimes older, and simpler technologies such as a pad of paper and a pen as opposed to a laptop in the field are more secure.

Provide political accompaniment to increase safety. International or national NGOs can accompany local HRDs by acting as a witness and by providing public recognition of a HRDs work. This can involve having a physical presence or writing letters to American politicians or politicians in the host country. The political cost of harming local HRDs then increases if other people are watching and their profile is raised.

Participants noted a number of protection measures to pre-empt the imminent threats to HRDs or respond to threats after the fact. The list included such measures as: temporary relocation, trial observation, emergency grants and relief programs, emergency hotlines, safe houses, protective presence at HRDs offices or homes by internationals or influential nationals, and utilizing organizations that focus specifically on the protection of human rights defenders.

Training staff how to think critically about security rather than only specific tasks using a technology is important. If a HRD considers themselves not well versed in technology this methods helps them realize they know more than they think when it comes to common sense security approaches. They also realize security is an on-going process.

Resources:

Articles, Manuals, Reports

Resources for Securing Technology

What is security for human rights defenders?
  • What is security? What is a human rights defender? What is security for human rights defenders?
  • Why does security matter?
  • Who all are affected by the security issues of defenders? Family, colleagues, neighbors, etc?How does location affect security for defenders – rural areas versus cities, online versus offline activism?
  • How does context affect security (conflict vs. post-conflict, organized armed violence, disaster, repressive regimes, etc)?

Please share your thoughts and ideas by replying to this 'theme-comment'

Note: This dialogue is PUBLIC. Do not share any private or sensitive information. For advice on a specific situation, please contact a participant privately.

Who is a human rights defender?

The issue of 'who is a human rights defender' is at times hotly debated -- and it is critical to our understanding of security and the right to protection for human rights defenders. 

For example, is a human rights defender...

  • Only those who are 'at risk' (i.e., does the risk, or the location, define the defender)?
  • Someone who works for a registered organization (what does this mean for community organizers in large movements, or for underground activists who can't register their organizations because of insecurity)?
  • Someone who, by virtue of standing up for their own rights and identities, encounters backlash and resistance (indigenous people protecting their land, LGBTIQ people in repressive environments, violence survivors speaking out)? 
  • A human rights defender who is now living in exile? 

The generally accepted definition of a human rights defender is very broad and inclusive (see 'Who is a Human Rights Defender' by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/who.htm). If someone who defends human rights does not consider themselves a human rights defender, or is not seen as a defender by others, they can't access the same mechanisms for protection that 'recognized' defenders can -- so this is an important issue for discussion. I'd love to hear thoughts from others! Jane Barry

Who is a hrd?

Thank you Jane and Edna for opening this question. My perceptions below might be implicit in your comments.
For some (A), there is no definition of hrd but a definition of the activities and for others (B), a definition of hrd activities is not a 'non definition of hrd'.
A) will avoid legiferation on hrd protection arguing that:
to pass a law on something one needs to know what it is.
B)would probably not bother about that just as Brazil has done by adopting a decree on hrd that basically copies and pastes the UN definition (activities that define a hrd): Decreto Nº 6.044, de 12 de febrero de 2007 (it's a link).
In both cases it is a question of political will.
If a (C)exist, it could be somewhere where human rights are not seen as accessories.
Any way, if the UN declaration is implemented litterally then a hrd is a hrd the length of an activity.
What about other simultaneous activities? or before or after that one? and coherence? Plus the many other perspectives of which some have been mentioned by you both: hrd who are not aware of it and a partial hrd is not a hrd.
(I'd add: some victims also can be unaware of being victims).
The difficulty is to talk about all hypothesis if the criteria of the UN Declaration on hrd are not enough to draw conclusions about such and such cases. (I refer to the declaration as it is 'universal').
One way out could be to take one example.

Somehow the UN declaration makes it accessible to a wider range of people to be/become/cease to be hrd. It speaks of rights/duties/actions etc. and attitude to carry them out (without violence which for me is slightly different than peaceful, but it might be a question of language) and less of 'status/identity'.
At the end of the day it sounds close to the concept of 'who we are matters less than what we do with who we are'...the actions define the hrd.

From the protection point of view, the Un declaration defines well who does what (who is who): primary, duty-bearer and key stakeholders.
From the security/protection point of view, it's fundamental.

I mostly meet hrd who know they are hrd (some simply because they have a sense of who they are or they have become aware because they are part of hrd networks etc) and are part of the wider civil society with its many shades.
They are not necessarily aware of the existence of texts and mechanisms (this is another item of this dialogue more related to advocacy/protection)

Marie

Who is Human Rights Defender?

Thanks Jane, Edna and Marie for opening this topic. This is always asked by participants during trainings, workshops, discussions and in field. From my perspective: HRD is an individual who promotes and protects human rights.

  • Neither preaches nor supports violence
  • Expose corruption of state actors
  • Reports and documents human rights violations
  • Doesn’t have personal and political agenda
  • Reports and document human rights violations
  • Support government in protection of victims and their families and raise voice for remedies for them
  • Does constructive criticism on government policies, plan and legislation
  • Respects GOOD laws and oppose bad laws
  • No particular academic qualification or degree is required for being HRD. Any individual who is lawyer, doctor, teacher, bisnessman and journalist who promote and protects human rights can be hrd  
  • Support government in making pro human rights policies, strategies and plans.
increasing our network of HRDs increases our security

Hi Todd,

Thanks for sharing this inspiring and creative work!  Learning about each others' work and growing our global community of HRDs through this dialogue is an important element in increasing our security. I am grateful to add each of you and your organizations to my list of allies and resources!

resources for "non traditional" defenders

 Todd,

Thanks for your post.  We closely follow your work and the incredible networks you have built.  I wanted to add a comment to your discussion about defenders who wouldn't fall into the traditional sense of the word.  And Michele, perhaps this falls in line with the allies and resources you are gathering for your work.

We (Scholar Rescue Fund) work with senior academics (professors, public intellectuals, writers, scientists, and sometimes artists) who, by the nature of their academic work are threatened by state and non-state actors seeking to silence dissent. Scarily, it is not field specific.  Whether their work is in in the humanities, the sciences, or law, academics around the world are brought into the human rights discourse --  either by direct action or by circumstance -- and ultimately into the defense of human rights. The practice of their trade in free thinking and new ideas -- assuming a natural right to academic freedom -- puts them in harms way.  Like other human rights defenders, many have paid dearly.  They are an easy target:  silence one professor and you silence their classrooms, their universities, their communities.  And the silence is deafening. In less than eight years, our small program alone has received applications from over 4,000 people in the over 100 countries. (450 have received direct support.) Our work aims to protect the most severely threatened academics because their safety -- secured temporarily at host universities around the world -- goes beyond immediate protection and allows them to produce the work that would otherwise fall victim to repression.   Furthermore, bringing them to safety, if only for six months or a year, provides environments in which to recover from past trauma and contribute to their fields from afar. In this way, in defense of academic freedom, in defense of the freedom of thought and academic practice, these scholars are in their own way circumnavigating the security challenges and beating the system, so to speak.  Many have completed works that have made it back to their home communities, thereby feeding free thinking back to those who have suffered the loss of its departure.  Some have written human rights manuals, others have led advocacy campaigns for compatriots suffering at home, and with few exceptions, most take their own safety as a responsibility, and continue to expose the human rights abuses in their home communities.  All could no doubt benefit from the vast range of tools and resources posted here. I am eager to share this with them.

Sarah

Art and Artist have more force to fight against regimes

Thanks Todd and Sarah, for sharing such useful resources. ………………

I believe that Art and artist have more FORCE to fight for the rights of people and WILL to resist to repressive regime. An artist also has more power to mobilize large  number of people in less time..….People trust artists more than anyone else?……… At the same time art and artist face more and serious threats....... In majority of cases repressive regimes try to eliminate artists because they know it is almost difficult for them to silence an artist…. This shows artists protection needs are higher ………..  Glad to know about Scholar Rescue Fund it includes support for broader group of hrds

Does Human Rights work require giving up some security?

jackie wrote:

“Drawing from our experience, these are the characteristics of a WHRD:

This definition cannot limit itself by closing itself off to the enormous diversity in the identity and the struggles of WHRDs. Nevertheless, we believe that the following characteristics must be taken into account by every WHRD:

  1. Consciousness of the oppressions that we are subject to as women...;
  2. An ongoing commitment to advancing women’s struggles...;
  3. Fighting for the transformation of society in all spheres, from the personal to the public to the political, and including civil society...;
  4. Consciousness that we are living at risk due to our work...;
  5. Defending human rights is not a profession...; and
  6. We do not all identify as feminists....

#s 3, 4 and 5 are easily transferable to a discussion about all HRDs.

I really like this definition for a WHRD, and by extension the application of #s 3, 4, and 5 to all Human Rights Defenders. I hadn’t thought of it before reading these definitions, but characteristic #4 seems particularly relevant to this discussion about security. I believe that in many ways what defines us as HRDs is our willingness to take on risk.

Human Rights work assumes an environment where Human Rights are not respected. Anyone working to change this environment - often opposing powerful, entrenched interests - takes on some risk. We can work to minimize risk by implementing strong security practices, but risk is inherent in the work. And importantly, HRDs are willing to take on risk, to give up a little of their personal security, because they know that the end they are working for will justify the personal risk they assume.

Next steps on 'Who is a Human Rights Defender'???

Greetings to all,

This dialogue has been so helpful and rich, thank you to everyone. I really appreciate the discussion on who is a human rights defender, because it has very practical implications in our work. If you are 'recognized' as a human rights defender, you have increased access to protection. You, and your work, are visible. And valued. If you are not, then you have less access, visibility and voice. 

So, in reflecting on our dialogue around this, it seems to me that we are facing two key issues.

The first, is that there are many activists, journalists, violence survivors, survivors of discrimination (LGBTIQQ people for example), artists, academics, etc. who are fighting for human rights and don’t know that they are entitled to protection -- because they may not identify as human rights defenders themselves, or because others would not recognize them as human rights defenders.

Secondly, as Marie points out, there are many human rights defenders who do recognize their work as human rights defense:

‘I mostly meet hrd who know they are hrd (some simply because they have a sense of who they are or they have become aware because they are part of hrd networks etc) and are part of the wider civil society with its many shades.’

However, even when human rights defenders know this is a title they can claim, they don’t know that this category gives them access to protection, and what forms of protection they are entitled to, as Marie elaborates:

‘They are not necessarily aware of the existence of texts and mechanisms (this is another item of this dialogue more related to advocacy/protection)’

I suggest, as a step forward from this dialogue, that we do the following to ensure a much broader and deeper protection framework for hrds:

  1. Help elaborate the principles and characteristics that define a human rights defender (see some of the points suggested below). Critically, this should be a process where human rights defenders define themselves. The UN Declaration is broad enough that we can positively say that these are people who must be included within it. This can be developed within key coalitions who would take it on, and supported by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
  2. Ensure that all people who defend human rights know that they are entitled to the title of human rights defender and that they there is a protection framework that is mandated to support them.
  3. Engage human rights grantmakers in this process.
  4. Tackle some of the hard issues of defenders who are excluded from the ‘human rights defenders’ world, discuss what ‘non-violence’ really means.

 I thought it might be helpful to recap some of the points raised in the dialogue for our review, specifically:

  1. Key principles and characteristics of human rights defenders
  2. That all people defending human rights must be recognized as human rights defenders
  3. Points of discussion and elaboration

a) Key Principles

Edna referred to three minimum standards identified in the Declaration as follows: 

  1. Acceptance of the universality of human rights: Human rights defenders must accept the universality of human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [3] A person cannot deny some human rights and yet claim to be a human rights defender because he or she is an advocate for others. For example, it would not be acceptable to defend the human rights of men but to deny that women have equal rights.
  2. Human rights defenders must be defined and accepted according to the rights they are defending and according to their own right to do so. Whether or not they are legally correct is not relevant in determining whether they are genuine human rights defenders. The key issue is whether or not their concerns fall within the scope of human rights.
  3. Peaceful action i. e  actions taken by human rights defenders must be peaceful in order to comply with the Declaration on human rights defenders. (Marie noted correctly that there is a difference between the concept of ‘non-violence’ and ‘peaceful action’, and this is significant on the spectrum of both who is a human rights defender, and also, what measures are appropriate to protect human rights defenders.)

Ali offered some very practical points primarily around human rights defenders’ activities (what they do) and approaches (how) -- as well as raising a core concept -- that there is no academic or professional requirement to ‘become‘ an hrd:  

  • HRD is an individual who promotes and protects human rights.
  • Neither preaches nor supports violence
  • Expose corruption of state actors
  • Reports and documents human rights violations
  • Doesn’t have personal and political agenda
  • Reports and document human rights violations
  • Support government in protection of victims and their families and raise voice for remedies for them
  • Does constructive criticism on government policies, plan and legislation
  • Respects GOOD laws and oppose bad laws
  • No particular academic qualification or degree is required for being HRD. Any individual who is lawyer, doctor, teacher, businessman and journalist who promote and protects human rights can be hrd  
  • Support government in making pro human rights policies, strategies and plans.

Jacqueline raised some key characteristics of a WHRD that emerged from the Mesoamerica meeting.

“Drawing from our experience, these are the characteristics of a WHRD: This definition cannot limit itself by closing itself off to the enormous diversity in the identity and the struggles of WHRDs. Nevertheless, we believe that the following characteristics must be taken into account by every WHRD:

  1. Consciousness of the oppressions that we are subject to as women...;
  2. An ongoing commitment to advancing women’s struggles...;
  3. Fighting for the transformation of society in all spheres, from the personal to the public to the political, and including civil society...;
  4. Consciousness that we are living at risk due to our work...;
  5. Defending human rights is not a profession...; and
  6. We do not all identify as feminists....

 b) Ensuring that all people who defend human rights are recognized as human rights defenders.

Todd and Sarah talked about human rights defenders who are not traditionally recognized as such, those who use art/creativity/expression:

Todd: These folks are sometimes artists and sometimes community organizers ... typically they wear many hats and it is hard to fit them into one vocational category. The danger can be just as severe as that experienced by other HRDs, but is often experienced in isolation.

Sarah: Academics (professors, public intellectuals, writers, scientists, and sometimes artists) who, by the nature of their academic work are threatened by state and non-state actors seeking to silence dissent. The practice of their trade in free thinking and new ideas -- assuming a natural right to academic freedom -- puts them in harms way 

Shaun and Saira also raised a critical issue in defining who is a human rights defender and understanding the complexities of security from the perspective of LGBTIQQ defenders. Shaun in particular also elaborated the issues around defenders who are facing multiple discriminations.

 c) Key Issues for discussion

Edna’s point about self-identification is extremely important -- she asks us to ‘recognize the interchangeability of 'human rights defender' and ‘human rights activist' and to honor how individuals and groups working for human rights  would prefer to identify themselves.’

Marie brought up a key point about a literal interpretation of the UN Declaration, which could cause us to limit the definition of a human rights defender to the time in which they are perceived as active in human rights defense. She asks: What about other simultaneous activities? or before or after that one? and coherence? Plus the many other perspectives of which some have been mentioned by you both: hrd who are not aware of it and a partial hrd is not a hrd.

Jacquelyn also commented on the idea that human rights is not a profession, saying: ‘Personally, I am particularly interested in knowing how other practitioners respond to #5, as it generated some dissonance with my own definition of an HRD.  The report elaborated on this idea as follows: “Defending human rights is not a profession. It is not an office job carried out from 9AM to 5PM.  The defense of human rights is fed/nourished by problems from everywhere, from the street, from the neighborhoods, from everyday work and from contact with other people.”

Saira further questioned the binary of separating and supporting different genders of defenders -- how do groups who support ‘women’ human rights defenders expand in their understanding of who is a ‘woman’ in a world where we understand that there are many different gender expressions than simply ‘male’ and ‘female’ -- there are gay male defenders, transgender defenders, intersex defenders, and many defenders who choose not to identify according to gender at all. Are we excluding them?

I have many thoughts on all of these questions, but for now, will simply include them here as a recap. My apologies if this doesn’t properly represent everyone’s views, it is just my take on them at the moment.

Why does security matter?

Why do so many human rights defenders put the lives of others above their own?

Why is the response to thinking about security issues so often -- its not a priority, its not that bad (compared to the situation in xx country), I don't have time to worry about this, if they're going to get me, they'll get me -- no matter what I do. 

If we don't talk about the human beings behind the human rights defense -- what motivates them to protect themselves -- or to consider security important and possible, then how can we develop practical, usable tools and tactics? 

I'd love to hear experiences and thoughts about working with human rights defenders to see the value of taking care of their security and well-being.

Why does security matters

Dear Jane,

Yours is a difficult question to start with! Existentialist (Irony given the fact that you are wondering why hrd put the lives of others above their own). Have you put the question to some of defenders?

In the training PI gives, assumptions of such positions are explored and what comes out often, is that the underlying assumption is that the hrd believe they can't do much about their own security/ risk can not be decreased. So, we work on that: on the fact that a risk has got variables that belong to the hrd/hrd organisations on which they can work: decrease vulnerability and increase capacity as to lower the feasibility of a threat and therefore, the risk. Why make it easier for the potential aggressor to get at a hrd?

Human psychology and motivation is fundamental in security and has to be taken into account. The related human behaviour is a determining factor.
It takes time to talk about it and the psychosocial impact of political violence. The psychology of liberation provides several entry points. Groups of mutual support can be set up among hrd to talk about their motivations, their feelings, choices, to carry out political analysis and call things by their names. It can help working through the different steps and put things into perspectives. It empowers the individual and the group. A Group of mutual support is also more than that.

There is a group of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists commited to supporting hrd and who work also with victims/survivors of natural/war disaters. it is called Grupo de Apoyo Comunitario-GAC- (can easily be found on internet and some of their collaborators speak English) GAC has dedicated contact people and organisations in many countries in the world. GAC doesn't necessarily carry out its work from the perspective proper of security and hrd, yet the security of hrd has got several entry points: the risk to get to speak about the psychological and motivation dimension or the latter to get to speak about security. And many other entry points.

The above is a general opinion to your more specific questions...sorry.

Marie

effectiveness of hrd means paying attention to security

Greetings,

For me, its not possible to separate the defense of human rights and vigilance about safety/security of the human rights defender.  A silenced human rights defender (whether its through death, kidnapping, loss of visa, etc.) can no longer defend human rights.  In my work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (accompanying communities/organizations at risk of violence due to the armed conflict) we were very diligant about our personal safety because our ability to bring attention to the threats our Colombian partners were receiving, depended on staying safe ourselves. That does not mean the work does not require risks and acceptance of the possibility of death or kidnapping, but we did not see time spent on strategizing to minimize those risks as a waste of time.  I look forward to our mutual learning about how to increase our security in the discussion thread on that topic!

Michele Braley

 

Why does security matter?

Dear Marie, 

Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. We have indeed spoken with hundreds of human rights defenders around the world about this question, and it is an integral and essential (rather than existential) part of the integrated security workshops that we've been running over the past years. Some of these conversations are reflected in What's the Point of Revolution if we Can't Dance? , Insiste, Persiste, Resiste, Existe: Women Human Rights Defenders Security Strategies and Integrated Security -- The Manual (forthcoming 2010).

The key to thinking about security/safety and well-being is first recognizing that we are as valuable as human beings as the human rights work -- and as the people we are fighting for. So that at its core, we see our security/safety/well-being as vital (and this equally and intrinsically applies to our IT/communications security). The simple message is that it is worth the 'effort' to be safe and well.

The second message -- and this was raised in our earlier conversation -- is that it is also possible to be safe and well. That every human rights defender is already doing so many things naturally to protect others (and themselves) -- many of the best strategies are within us, but just aren't recognized as strategies yet.

In our workshops, we spend a lot of time sharing those strategies among human rights defenders -- giving them space to share with, and learn from, each other. 

So I completely agree with your point that: 

the security of hrd has got several entry points: the risk to get to speak about the psychological and motivation dimension or the latter to get to speak about security. And many other entry points.

The simplest tactics for training on security/safety/well-being involve:

  • Finding the right entry points (as you mention) -- because the important thing is that we begin the conversations -- and weaving security/safety/well-being into all of our work
  • Giving human rights defenders the safe space, and time, that they need to discuss their concerns about their work and their lives (removing the idea that some things are 'private' and 'public', therefore we should only speak about 'public' threats/challenges)
  • Supporting human rights defenders to share strategies among themselves and hear strategies from others around the world
  • And then introducing specific tools that they can use and adapt -- not strict protocols, policies or plans, but ideas that help them create their own flexible prevention and response strategies
Thanks so much for the reference to GAC, their site http://www.psicosocial.net/ looks great, and I hope that others look at it as well! 
I also highly recommend: Self Care and Self Defense for Feminist Activists, it is a wonderful combination of safety and well-being, very useful exercises and in-depth thinking. 
Jane
Safety vs Security (semantics)

In our work, we often are asked for a distinction between "safety" and "security."  Are they not one in the same?  As the language is developed for human rights defenders (and the relevant standards commited to either safety or security of defenders) why is it that some choose exclusively "security" while others are compelled to use what seems a semantic discussion using the two terms.


 Does this distinction matter in the tactics/tools and even higher level discussions on the minimum standards of safety or security for defenders?  Some interpretations include:


safe - unlikely to cause physical harm; secure - invulnerable to external attack

Safety vs Security (semantics)

Dear Sarah,

Personnally, I think it does although it might appear as superfluous given that, often, in the common language, the same acception is attributed to both of them.

Words mean and evoke things, ideas.

The interpretation you mention is interesting. I personnally associate safe with status and secure with action: security providing (more probability of) safety (result).

Thanks for your question as in fact I had just decided to skip talking about safety vs security on the assumption that we were talking of security although using the word safety. Thanks.

Marie

Safety vs Security (semantics)

Hi Sarah:

I think it's more than just semantics.  I think the terminology 'security' has increasingly become part of our everyday language especially since after 11/09.  In the Philippines - we tend to associate  'security' with the State counter-insurgency policy that extends to curtailment or restrictions of basic rights and freedoms of activists.  We use 'safety' when referring to securing, protecting, ourselves as activists and those close to us; and also pre-empting the foreseeable dangers that are likely to come and underscoring that all these are temporary measures.   There are reservations, too,  amongst some activists - not only in the Philippines - with the word 'security' - also because of their view that they can never be secure in a very insecure environment which they have no control over.   And finally - there is the question of translation.  In our language - 'safety' has a direct translation while 'security' doesn't have.  This ilustrates that indeed there are nuances  and difference around the terminologies that we use and adopt as part of our global language and those of activists on the ground due to the latter's context -specific realities. it's always important to clarify, describe what we meant, negotiate, adjust and finally agree on what is the most appropriate terminology without losing the essence of what we meant. 

Safety vs Security

Greetings! 

Thank you all for raising this important question: the difference between the terms 'safety' and 'security.'  I agree with Edna that it really depends on contexts and language/translation.  There are many places (Kurdish cities in Turkey, Palestine, the Philippines, to name only a few) that are so militarised and repressive against activists that the thought to consider one's own security seems almost irrelevant.  We see this regularly in grant requests when a WHRD is facing serious threats and will request funds for an awareness raising campaign for instance, and not for immediate measures for her own security. 

My question in these cases is, when physical (not to mention emotional, financial, or otherwise) security is seemingly so unattainable that it's not even considered, would there be any distinction between the terms and/or concepts of 'security' vs. 'safety?'  Or does it again depend on language and context.  I believe that may well be the case but I'm not totally sure.  This will indeed require some further thinking on my part...

In terms of languages, contexts, and translations, the situation Edna describes in the Philippines is similar to that in some parts of the Arab world.  In Arabic for instance, the term for security is rather clear and often always associated with the state or state apparatus.  However, there are different words for safety (one is the same as the word for security) that are used more for the individual state of being.  One term for safety (salaama/salaameh), has at its root, the word for peace and also means integrity.  I will stop here because if I launch into a discussion on Arabic etymology it may never end.

Lastly, the term 'security' can also set off some red flags within the philanthropic community in the US.  Particularly post 9-11 with all of the so-called counter-'terrorism' measures that are increasingly posing obstacles to the funding world.  Our colleagues at another US fund that is much larger than ours, have strongly advised us to specifically abstain from using the word 'security' when discussing grants via email that are in our Protection and Security category because it may well be flagged by authorities.  Which authorities?  I do not know for certain but could guess.  They have requested us to use 'safety' instead.  I note that they are a much larger fund than UAF because one would think there is less scrutiny on such large funds with their teams of expert lawyers but apparently not.

Thank you all for the thought provoking posts.

Until tomorrow

Peace

Saira

language and flags

Hi Saira,

Thanks for your post.  You've really raised for me the concerns of and the abuse of language in the HR context.  We all know language can be twisted so easily for sinister effect and of course must choose our words wisely.  Not only as a responsibility but as a tactic to avoid the red flags you mention that may unnecessarily hinder the work at hand. Perhaps a list of no-go words should be included in the following ICT discussions.  Ironic to think that "security" may well be one of them!

Sarah 

To me: Safety means

To me: Safety means protection against something and security protection against someone..............safety is protection against  fire, electric shock etc which is result of an accident and there is no conscious effort behind it ...it happens due to a mistake or negligence….. Security is protection against someone/person's or an organization's action which deliberately try to harm defender to achieve an objective....

Security and HRDs: the personal and the political divide

Drawing from my own experience,  I would say that our activism is very much influenced or moulded by the dominant 'values system'  of our movements or organisations which then partly defines how we respond to situations  including safety / secuity questions. In my case, for instance, I was deeply involved for  years (snce my youth days)  in social movements whose value systems view valorism and embracing of hardships and personal sacrifices as 'givens' and as important tests to prove one's commitment to the cause.  And if you're a woman in my society, there is another layer of value system that further reinforces these values that promote the sublimation of one's personal needs to the greater cause. Thinking of one's own safety or security before that of others can therefore easily become a source of guilt or mental baggage to many activists or HRDs coming from that similar milieu I just described. Jane Barry's insights drawn from her many conversations with WHRDS in various contexts regarding their well-being and security resonate this theme over and over again.    

I think it's really important to build into any security strategy a space for HRDs to examine their perceptions and attitudes in relating their personal needs for safety and well-being with their work on behalf of others. Beyond the technological resources and infratructure, we need tools and skills , too, that would facilitate the mindshift and help build a safety-/ security-positive culture that breaks down the invisible barrier between the personal and the political aspects of our lives as human rights defenders.  This would probably have a greater prospect of sustainability.    

Security and HRDs: the personal and political divide

Quoting Edna : “Thinking of one's own safety or security before that of others can therefore easily become a source of guilt or mental baggage to many activists or HRDs coming from that similar milieu I just described”

Apart from the many other assumptions on which the ‘guilt feelings’ might be based on, there might be also the one of having to choose between the ‘others’ and oneself as if the security of both was not interrelated and there were no choices possible that contemplated the security of hrd as also the security of the groups they are working with. An increased security of hrd means also an increased seurity of the groups. If a hrd is hit individuals and group are hit too and viceversa.

Marie

Situation of HRD in post-conflict southern region of Kyrgyzstan

The issue of secutiry for human rights defenders became sharp after the April events in Kyrgyzstan. The Provisional Government couldn't prevent the ethnic conflict in the South of Kyrgyzstan. Civil society and human rights defenders did their best to help people and protect the 'core' of human rights listed in art. 6 of ICCPR. However, due their active role in Osh and Djalalabad cities Human rights defenders are threatened.
This cases below show how a HRD trying to defend HR becomes himself/helself a subject of violations and is threatened. For example, Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, the director of Human Rights Center 'Citizens against Corruption' had to leave country for a while, because she was threatened for defending victims of violence. Another HRD Azimdjan Askarov was detained and without fair trial has been kept in prison. Moreover, he has been subjected to torture. Acting Prosecutor General commented on it as if 'Azimdjan quarreled with his cellmate and was hit on head, fell down and got injuries.'
It hard to establish any mechanism of security for HRD, as in Kyrgyzstan Rule of Law does not exist. The country joined UHRD 1948, ICCPR 1966, and other UN Decleration, however in most cases these international obligations are not fullfilled, and there is not effective mechanisms to 'push' Kyrgyzstan to implment these obligations. WHICH MECHANISM COULD BE USED AND BE EFFECTIVE TO ENSURE SAFETY OF HRD IN THE ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT BY THEM?

Situation of HRD in post-conflict southern region of Kyrgyzstan

Dear Kyrgystan,

Your question " WHICH MECHANISM COULD BE USED AND BE EFFECTIVE TO ENSURE SAFETY OF HRD IN THE ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT BY THEM?" is not easy to explore as it would require a thorough field forces, actors mapping and risk analysis to start with. Also the current level of security implemented by hrd in Kyrgyzstan. So the risk is to repeat banalities and anyway, be general given the public nature of the dialogue.

Unfortunately, in security, there is no guarantee of result or result guaranteed. Field forces and actors mapping analysis should also help find out many factors and among them, also 'interest relations between actors' that can be used in the security strategy building. Example: if a country A depends on counries B, C,D etc for trade, then the security startegy could integrate advocacy with B, C, D embassies and pressure from organisations of countries B, C, D on their governments and parliaments aiming at country A authorities to change behaviour as the political cost of an aggression increases and margin of impunity decreases. This is based also on the assumption that amidst countries B,C,D etc, there some who are committed to the cause of hrd.

The risk analysis can help the hrd in reducing their exposure to risk. The risk is never equal to zero. Of course, theory is easier than practice.  And general theory even easier than specific practice. The context is very complex especially if there is absence of Rule of Law and, consequent, lack of State structures to receive hrd complaints and follow up on them positively.

Have you had a look at the publications on PI's website for hrd? www.protectionine.org  You can of course find our publications:

Risk analysis: NPMHRD suggests a checklist of information needed to assess vulnerabilities and capacities. And there is more information in the NPMHRD. Allen reminded (talking about IT security in his contribution 'Like a lifeboat'):

gunner wrote:

TOR browsing takes longer than insecure browing, security tools take time to learn and install, security culture is a chronometrically consuming discipline just like a garden is. Both take time to blossom and sustain.

There is an analogy with developing security strategy, security plan and management. Post-conflict is ambiguous as it often means that there is no 'war' as such but it doesn't reflect the lack of justice that is variable of a conflict context. I feel uncomfortable with my answer as the description you sent is serious. Yet I wanted to chip.

Marie

Mechanisms

Dear Kyrgystan,

First of all, thank you so much for sharing the situation of human rights defenders in Kyrgystan -- I am so sorry that the situation has changed so rapidly in your beautiful country, and that for you all, as human rights defenders, standing up for the rights of all the citizens of your country, and for peace, has become so urgent, and so risky.

Without getting into specific cases, as that would pose challenges if we were to discuss it on an open forum such as this, I would like us as a group to discuss some particular mechanisms that relate to both Kyrgystan, and to other countries where these issues are so similar.

1. Deploying the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders

First of all, I had heard that some groups in Kyrgystan have already done some work with European Embassies in helping them understand the importance and use of the EU Guidelines -- they are a very practical tool in this instance for advocating to the European Embassies (and even to the non-European Embassies) to both provide protection to human rights defenders -- and to speak out to the government on the behalf of human rights defenders and their work. I believe that the guidelines have been mentioned a bit on this discussion so far, but I would love to hear more about their practical use here!

2. Connecting to Regional and International Coalitions

I believe there is a regional (CIS) coalition for human rights defenders? Perhaps this is a useful information and advocacy network to get your message out, and to think about concrete ways to have these discussions with the new government. Secondly, there are other networks that might be equally useful on the international level, I can think of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/) as just one example (Edna, any thoughts?). 

3. Collaboration with International organizations that provide advocacy and grants around security of human rights defenders

I am sure you know many of these organizations -- like Front Line, Amnesty International, Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights, etc. -- but it may be worth pulling together a list of your allies such as these and keeping them up to date on your situation -- and asking for support in pushing the government to respect the work of human rights defenders.

Also, in instances related to torture, it is worth being in touch with the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) -- http://www.omct.org/ -- they are very experienced and helpful in these cases.

4. Ensure that security/safety/well-being is included in all your project budgets

As one of our colleagues (Rick?) has already mentioned -- it is vital that we tell our donors the situation (communicating this through secure channels), and integrate into our budget requests funds for ensuring the protection of individual human rights defenders and your organizations. This includes physical protection (safe transport, communications, mobile phones, security cameras, protection for your homes, etc, as well as funds to cover health care costs and support for your families, among others). It also includes funds to ensure you have the time and space to safely strategize together. These aren't 'nice to have', they are 'must haves' -- you all need to be able to respond quickly and flexibly if a colleague is arrested or needs to temporarily relocate or falls ill or has an accident. If your donors question these costs, then have the discussion with them -- and you can remind them that there is a movement among many human rights donors to ask these very questions and to include them in the budgets they offer!

I hope these are some useful and practical thoughts, and that others will come in with more for you. 

Spasibo bolshoye za Vashu vazhniyu rabotu. S glubokim uvazheniyem vsyem, Jane

Kyrgyzstan

Thank you all for your comments on Kyrgyzstan.  We've been helping a scholar there who has committed his academic life to human rights law and working across ethnic divides.  As an ethnic Uzbek, he can no longer go safely to his university and is barricaded in his home with his family, leaving only for the sparse basic necessities now available in his city.  Our program is offering assistance to get him to a university outside of his country for a year, in hopes things calm enough for his return.  In the meantime, he is stifled and his voice is not being heard.  He says he would take more security risks, but he has family to provide for and to worry about.  This brings home the difficult choices human rights defenders have to make in bringing their work home or bringing their home to work. 

Meanwhile, we (www.scholarrescuefund.org) are monitoring the situation as closely as possible from afar.   Jane, thank you for your list of organizations to connect to. The International Crisis Group, HRW and Amnesty have had their usual good coverage and continue to impress upon the international community that the next flare up may be imminent, and may be much worse.  It seems that international intervention is absolutely necessary.  Until then, how much longer can people remain prisoners in their own homes?

Sarah

Pointers for HRDs for engaging the EU and Norway (by Front Line)

Connecting human rights defenders to embassies in their countries has been brought up a few times in this dialogue (such as the quote below from Jane) and it piqued my interest.

Revolutions wrote:

1. Deploying the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders

First of all, I had heard that some groups in Kyrgystan have already done some work with European Embassies in helping them understand the importance and use of the EU Guidelines -- they are a very practical tool in this instance for advocating to the European Embassies (and even to the non-European Embassies) to both provide protection to human rights defenders -- and to speak out to the government on the behalf of human rights defenders and their work. I believe that the guidelines have been mentioned a bit on this discussion so far, but I would love to hear more about their practical use here!

I read the Front Line Handbook titled 'What Protection Can EU and Norwegian Diplomatic Missions Offer?' and found it very helpful with great suggestions on all the different ways that defenders can strengthen their relationships with this diplomatic missions.  Here is the checklist of 'overall pointers' that the Handbook offers at the end of the document:

  • Provide complete, credible, detailed, and up-to-date information about your case. Diplomats will only want to take action on your case if they feel they have adequate information.
  • Be professional and impartial in your work. Diplomats will more easily take action, especially if it is public action, on behalf of a HRD who enjoys a reputation of integrity and whose work is respected.
  • Make yourself and your work known to the diplomatic community. While their policies require that diplomats be proactive in contacting HRDs, they will not always be so.
  • Have contact information of the staff of diplomatic missions (mobile phone numbers, etc.) with you at all times; provide your contact information to diplomats.
  • Collaborate with international human rights organisations in relation to your work and your own situation. Diplomats are more likely to take action in relation to issues and cases that the international human rights organisations bring to their attention. Give a personal reference of an international organisation you work with.
  • Engage ambassadors and foreign ministries. Make efforts to ensure that decisions on whether to take action in relation to your case are not left only to less senior staff at embassies. However, be wise in your approach – write a letter giving a clear and accurate account of your situation and ask for a meeting. Then follow up with a phone call.
  • Know the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and refer to it when reporting on your situation or the situation of local HRDs.
  • Understand the structures and processes (such as political dialogue) of the EU and Norway so that you know how and when you should lobby for attention for your situation or the situation of local HRDs.

Now, I am curious to know more about how defenders can utilize the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders - any Handbooks on this out there?

Mechanisms

Many of the participants have already made references to Protection mechanisms and I would like to just mention that in the Library of PI, www.protectionline.org, under PI publications, there is the following manual that I hope can add to the tools at hrds’ disposal:

Protection of human rights defenders: Best practices and lessons learnt
Volume I: legislation, national policies and defenders’ units.

Where legislation and national policies have been developped for the hrd defenders (mostly in some countries of Latin and Central America), the rate of violations against hrd has not necessarily decreased.
The manual also illustrates some non governmental initiatives by hrds' units. Hrds'units are set up by the civil societies. Their sole mission is the protection of hrds. For example, in Guatemala: Udefegua; in Colombia: Somos defensores; in Uganda: EHAHRDP.

Manuals and Guides

Thank you so much, Kristin and Marie Caraj. Invaluable reading and resources for us to read and to share with our partners.

Protecting HRDs beyond physical violence

Protectin HRDs is an issue in many placese, even where we are not in danger of physical violence or arrest.  In Israel there is a campaign in place against the human rights community that includes, among other things, attacks on HR and HR NGOs by extreme right wing organizations and the adoption of this deligitimizing and demonizing stance by the Government and the Legislature, as is happening in Israel.  It is possible to look at the annex to PCATI's briefing the the UN Human Rights Committee to learn more about this at

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/PCATI_Israel99.pdf

Also, human rights defenders, such as those who demonstrate agains the Occupation/settlements and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem often face direct physical violence by the Israeli security forces.  Similalry when arrested they face bannishment by the Court from the sites of the demonstrations.  Also the security forces often try to close the demonstration areas, such as those in Bilin and Sheikh Jarrah, to demonstrators on a very selective basis that is clearly biased against HRDs

Resiste: WHRDs Security Strategies & Integrated Security

Thank you, Louis, for challenging the assumption that protecting human rights defenders means that there is physical violence or arrest on the line.  Indeed, slander, smear campaigns, stigmatisation, etc are all serious threats to defenders.  I have been thinking about your comment as I paged through Jane Barry's book Insiste, Persiste, Resiste, Existe: Women Human Rights Defenders Security Strategies and Integrated Security

Jane starts the book by focusing on the threats that human rights defenders face - women, in particular. She analyzes why women defenders are persecuted, what the tactics have been to persecute these defenders, the baseline of these threats, how defenders are intimidated, and who is behind these threats.  Next, she explores strategies that women defenders have used to face these threats.  Here are a few examples (quotes from the text):

  • On the most fundamental level, WHRDs use the courage of their convictions to protect themselves. 
  • Choosing your battles: WHRDs make strategic choices about when and how to take a stand.
  • Taking action against slander - legal action, ignoring it, finding the moment when your opponent's threat backfires
  • Strategic spirituality and symbolic resistance
  • For many WHRDs, their families are their first line of protection
  • Because isolation is one of the most serious threats to the security of WHRDs, solidarity is one of the most effective protection strategies in the world.
  • Building strong networks is part of an inherently feminist approach to collective action.
  • Staying under the radar, has its pros and cons, but it often works to keep WHRDs alive, active and effective.
  • Assuming different identities
  • and many more!

The text is sprinkled with powerful quotes from women human rights defenders from all over the world (many of the interviews are carried out by Vahida Nainar).  It is an empowering and inspiring read - please take the time to download it, read it, and disseminate it to you colleagues, grant recipients, donors, and friends. 

What impact does a defender's gender have on security?
  • How is security different for human rights defenders of different genders?
  • How is security different for human rights defenders of different identities (religion, politics, race, nationality, disability, class, etc)?

Please share your thoughts and ideas by replying to this 'theme-comment'

Note: This dialogue is PUBLIC. Do not share any private or sensitive information. For advice on a specific situation, please contact a participant privately.

Identity and Security

Protection of LGBT Activists:

I personally think that when we are looking at how identity or identities can affect the levels of security and protection  that defenders can enjoy we have to look at structural forms of prejudice and discrimination. To develop specific protection measures or to have our rights to protection legally recognised we need to unpack not only how discrimination is entrenched in legal systems but also how  the practices of "mainstream" defenders communities can often perpetuate similar prejudices and forms of discrimination.  Simple or multiple discrimination can in effect exclude defenders from the discussions that set protection agendas. If defenders are being marginalised and excluded then discussions that centre around protection and security management will fall short of reaching the required specificity.  How do you develop security plans for defenders whose personal lives are considered illegal and possibly immoral by the prevailing legal and social system?  How do defenders exercise their rights to freedom of assembly, fundamental to any rights campaigning, if those meetings are subject to raids and the defenders to imprisonment and torture? how do you address issues of secondary victimization if crimes are reported to State authorities. I speak mainly of the LGBTI defenders community as that is my main area of interest and  I have unfortunately found that many organisations claiming to work on protection of LGBT activists approach the issues from a very hetero-normative perspective that can in effect distance activists from the messages the organisations are trying to deliver.

There are many countries where same-sex activity is still illegal which not only prevents people from openly forming organisations to defend human rights but actually prevents the development of communal protection measures due to fears of outing through association. When there is no recourse to the law for protection because who you are is illegal often defenders will resort to family and friends for protection and security. There are extremes where family members have outed their relatives and those defenders have had to leave their home countries. Friends can become very "fair weathered" when facing similar charges and the possibility of arrest. The work is driven underground making the "one size fits all method" of publicizing threats and talking to officialdom and diplomatic representations pretty much redundant.

Trans activists can often be arrested simply because their id documents don't match their physical appearance and often face considerable hostility when traveling to national and international conferences because the laws in their country do not recognise the right not to be discriminated against because of their gender identity or expression. Many of the trans activists I personally know are also sex workers and I have often seen their profession colour responses to their protection from the the threats they receive because of their activism. The recent case in honduras where two trans activists that denounced abuses by the police and were then subjected to violent attacks and harassment is but one example where embassies were very slow to respond despite pressure from national and international organisations.

National LGBT organisations do exist despite the tremendous obstacles many of them face. Obstacles that range from a  lack of funding to having rights to privacy violated because of who you are perceived to be.  The marginalisation that many LGBT organisations and activists experience is one of the greatest challenges to developing effective security  and protection measures. Lack of funding for LGBT human rights work exacerbates the competitiveness between organisations which effects the capacity to build  the strong networks necessary for any form of protection. International organisations that have taken up the cause of LGBT defenders are often at best misguided in their approaches to the work. The recent case of the two people in Malawi is one such example of how the international community got it wrong.  In the rush to champion the "gay" issue and the rights to non-discrimination many internationals categorised both people as men when one of them clearly self-identified as a woman. Her identification and understanding of her rights to self-expression and development of one's own personhood is what was being attacked. Linked with anti-african sentiments, she was accused of being un-african and under the influences of the west. Blindness to the diversity of the LGBT community around the globe is yet another obstacle to the development of specific protection measures. In Malawi we were not dealing with a simple case of criminalized sexual activity the issue was/is more complex and that complexity needs to be recognised, unpacked and worked with if we are to effectively ensure protection.  

The local organisation in Malawi whilst this case was drawing the attention of the both local and international press was also undergoing investigation having been charged with violating the local public decency ann morality laws. Charged with having pornographic material in the office and with its members facing court cases and possible prison sentences  they were in no position to deal with the "other" Malawian case. The case was then taken up by internationals that had little contact with either of the two and the subsequent mistakes were made. International pressure got them released but under the threat of re-arrest should they commit similar "crimes" in the future,  There is a need now for relocation yet the international community that supported them in prison has moved on to the next sensational case and one of the activists is still at risk. As they were being charged another organisation in Zimbabwe was also being investigated under similar laws and two of its members arrested for possession of pornographic material. One of them has now been released, being a woman she would have no interest in "gay" porn I think was the Judge's verdict, the other, her male colleague still awaits trial.  South African organisations have complained of similar tactics being used against them and their offices being raided. Further north in Uganda people have been outed in media campaigns fueled by the religious right as homosexuals, and assumed pedophiles. In Kenya known trans activists have been picked up on the street, the police having assumed they were soliciting "why else would a man be in woman's clothing", arrested and then tortured until bribes were paid to gain their release.  From my experience in Asia and Latin America the picture is very similar. 

I raise these cases as I think this is one of the greatest challenges to ensuring protection, how do we counter act the prevailing public morality argument that is not only designed to spread fear in every household throughout the land, thanks to the media, but also distances Diplomatic Missions and other international multilateral bodies from becoming involved because of the morality issue? 

Going back to multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion. Women within the LGBT community are often silenced and mis-represented by their male peers. Lesbian leadership is the exception not the rule presenting challenges if we are to develop the specificity needed to protect them. Unfortunately the feminist movement in many countries has also shied away from taking up the issues of lesbian activists. A seemingly obvious ally that in reality tends to reflect  wider societal norms and values rather than celebrating the diversity of the women's movement. Socio-cultural norms often translated into quasi legal structures prevent women from organising and collectively campaigning for their rights. Their almost subjugation and invisibility within the LGBT movement makes it all but impossible to get discussions on protection and security on the table unless specific programmes are developed for them and the space created for them to organise and attend. Getting women out of the home is one of the primary challenges we face in developing protection measures. Combine that with a lack of funding and hetero-normative approaches to security and protection and we still have long way to go in accessing this sector of the human rights community. If the majority of women are not afforded human rights can we expect much for this minority population? How do we address discrimination within discrimination?

In short when we talk of protection of the LGBT community we need to address firstly our own approaches to the questions of security and protection and secondly to recognise the diversity of community we are working with, being prepared to challenge not only our own prejudices but also our very sense of gender. Having done this we might be ready to step up and take on the challenges that will in effect lead to real protection for LGBT activists.

For more information see PI's Protection Manual for LGBTI Defenders revised ed. 2009

RESOURCES:WHRDS and security issues confronting them

Here is a list of 'essential ' readings regarding the WHRDS and which answer most of the questions related to their distinct security issues based on their gender.  This is not an exhaustive list but it's worth noting that the report of the UNSR on HRDS (item 1) has inspired and has effectively provided the foundation for most if not all of these outstanding body of work on women, their gender and its impact on their work as HRDs.  The proceedings of the International Consultation in 2005  (item 4) offers some very rich insights on how the specific threats to the security of WHRDS are attributable to the 'gender and identity'.  Many of these resonate Shaun Kirven's earlier posting on Identity and Security.

1.  Report of the UNSR on Human Rights Defenders to the 58th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (See Part II-B ) http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G02/111/22/PDF/G0211122.pdf?O...

 2. Claiming Rights, Claiming Justice: A Guidebook on Women Human Rights Defenders http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/pdf2008/EN_Claiming_Rights.pdf

3. New Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders (3rd Edition), Chapter 1.9 on Secrity for Women Human Rights Defenders http://protectionline.org/IMG/pdf/1-9_Manual_English_3rdEd.pdf

4. The International Consultation on Women Human Rights Defenders was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, between 29 November and 2 December 2005. 2005.http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/pdf/WHRD-Proceedings.pdf

 5. Urgent Action Fund (UAF) Gender Focused Rapid Response Teams:A Preliminary Discussion of the Concept and Potential for Implementation http://www.urgentactionfund.org/assets/files/uaf-pubs/RRT%20Report_Final...

 6. “Insiste, Persiste, Resiste, Existe “  Women Human Rights Defenders’ Security Strategies http://www.urgentactionfund.org/assets/files/Resiste/Resiste-Final-Web.pdf

 7. “Rising up in Response”  Women’s Rights Activism in conflict (Jane Barry and UAF) http://www.urgentactionfund.org/assets/files/RUiR/Rising-Up-In-Response.pdf

New publication on gender perspective from FOR

Thanks, Edna, for this list of resources.  I would add this recent publication by Fellowship of Reconcilliation: Womens Peacemaker Program:

“Engendering Peace- Incorporating a Gender Perspective in Civilian Peace Teams”. 

The lead-in to the chapter on Gender, Conflict and Peacebuilding states, "There is no conflict in recent history where women and girls have not
been targeted for sexual violence, whether as a form of torture, as a
method to humiliate the enemy, or with a view to spreading terror and
despair. If that’s not potentially relevant to the protection of international
peace and security, what is?"  – Marianne Mollmann, Human Rights Watch,
Women’s Division1

Security of women hrds, Identity and other factors

Thanks Edna for sharing list of reading regarding the security of whrds. As we know, women hrds have specific threats and protection needs. In most cases, their threats were identified from their co-workers and colleagues who were not ready to accept them at leadership positions. The one of the workable strategies was recognition to women hrds by well recognized male members of society and their statement in media in the favor of their work increases the level of security of women hrds an dreduces the threats from their collegaues.

Statement of religious leaders in favor of women at leadership position not only stop other religious leader to issue verdicts against women HRDs but help creating space and acceptance in the religious pockets of the society. Also help improve whrd’s general security situation in the area. One such tactic used by one woman hrd in Pakistan was very useful when she wrote a document saying ‘women have equal leadership qualities to men and Islam does not  bar women from taking leadership positions. She got it signed by more than 20 religious leaders of the area and got it published. It also had very good impact on her and other whrds security. WHRDs acceptance within their family and close social circle also help improving the general security of WHRD.

One powerful, well recognized and well-respected woman who is also elected representative (Member of National Assembly) in Pakistan visited a woman hrd which increased the acceptance for women hrd and her work in the area and improved her security. Not only is this, after such visit, whrds’ institution has started receiving funding offers from donors. So we can see how donors are influenced by the power.

Currently, 33% women representation in parliament and women ministers in the cabinet has a very positive impact on women and whrds’ security and recognition of their work.  

Using statements of religious, tribal and spiritual leaders’ in favor of sexual minorities create acceptance for them in the societies.

Regarding LGBT, their acceptance within their family and their close social group has also positive impact on their security in the society. Strong financial situation also plays important role in the improvement of security and acceptance of LGBT. So does education and profession.  In Pakistani society generally people think that DANCE is not allowed by Islam so if LGBT learn and do dance come under threat or face harassments. As compare to rich and educated LGBTs poor and uneducated LGBTs are more vulnerable to these threats.

is visibility security?

Hi Ali,

Your point on raising the visibility of women hrds through public recognition is important.  While we discuss the importance of security measures that help to shield the identities of hrds who could be harmed for their work, we should remember that the press, advocacy campaigns and other high visibility mechanisms are yet other means to protection.  Each case is unique of course and the choice to "go public" is complicated and must be weighed with all potential repercussions. But as your examples illustrate, it can be effective and a shield in itself.

Sarah

What's Up with Dropping G's?

On how the issue of security is different for HRDs of different identities and genders -

There is not much I would add to Shaun Kirven's eloquent articulation regarding security issues within LGBTQI communities.  I appreciate the issue of threats to trans individuals being raised as well.  As we know, due to increased visibility of trans activists, particularly those engaged in sex work, the threats and attacks against them are higher in number and often very severe. 

I have been noticing what I find to be a bit of an alarming trend within the women's movements as of late.  What I'm referring to is the dropping of letters, specifically the G, in the oft growing acronym LGBTQQI...  I can understand the history of access argument to an extent but exclusion is not the best way to work toward social justice.  Diversity within our movements is something to celebrate and from which we should learn.  Shaun's point on this is excellent.  In terms of diversity, I think there are different, intergenerational lenses, which, when collaborative in nature, would be very helpful in the way forward on this issue. 

Threats, risks, attacks...any breach of security discriminates according to contexts and identities.  Homophobia is ubiquitious.  'Passing' in certain contexts can be very important but that's not to say lesbians and gay activists do not face a high level of threats as well.  Gay and trans men in Jamaica for example, are often the targets of violence and hate crime.  Is it acceptable, then, to limit our support to trans or women-identified human rights defenders?
 

How does security relate to information, communication & tech?
  • In what ways do ICT tools assist in providing security for defenders?
  • In what ways do ICT tools make defenders more vulnerable to security incidents?
  • What resources and tools can defenders utilize to be more secure?

Please share your thoughts and ideas by replying to this 'theme-comment'

Note: This dialogue is PUBLIC. Do not share any private or sensitive information. For advice on a specific situation, please contact a participant privately.

How does it not?

Everything we do online, everything we do with a computer, everything we do that involves transmitted data, whether analog or digital, is recordable, copyable, transferable, morphable and redistributable. And thus security considerations should be ubiquitous in all discussions relating to any of the above.

The question posed should not be "how" but "where", and the answer is "everywhere". And then some.

Protecting what we store, protecting what we send, and protecting how others perceive and consume what we produce in earnest is critical to effective social change efforts in the online and digital contexts. Understanding how to encrypt, sign, authenticate and employ other verification protocols, and then faithfully following those processes, is an utterly essential component of all trust-dependent collaborations.

This also brings up the paradox of backup. We absolutely need to back up appropriate and requisite resources and records (and delete the rest via aggressive non-retention policies) in order to assert "our side" of stories that are appropriate to preserve, but we need to store such assets in a secure, encrypted fashion, away from those who would seek to confiscate or otherwise abscond with them in order to erase that which is not in their interest. Encrypted, off-site backup: it's like a safety net for your electronic reality and for your human rights work.

sharing tactics for

Hi Allan,

This is certainly an area we are most concerned with as we work "virtually" with human rights defenders around the world. Our concerns are most often related to interceptions of messages and communications. I have a question for you that most likely can't be answered as clearly as one would hope, given the nature that all (including these posts) is recorded, read and shared, and often with and by those who are not the intended recipients.

How can one securely share tools, protocols, and verification strategies when these very tools, protocols and verification techniques must be shared through often unprotected, unencrypted means? Are we relegated to face-to-face sharing/training? Or are there relatively simple techniques with basic technology that we can use to keep one step ahead of those who may be seeking to intercept our communications?

Thanks,

Sarah

I believe that open source

I believe that open source philosophy and "hiding in plain sight" are the only way to go in disseminating security tools and associated knowledge. If "keeping tools secret" from the "other side" is your primary protection against compromise, that's a weak boundary to say the least.

Trying to be secretive about security tools is a distraction in my opinion. While there is no need to overshare or save your adversaries time by telegraphing unnecessary details, "They" know all about the tools in play and/or can pay others who do. Good security tools and platforms (TOR, Public Key Encryption, OTR, Linux) can stand the scrutiny and it makes them better.

That is distinct from being secretive about tactics, strategy and senstive knowledge and data; that's the stuff you want to keep off radar using the free and open security tools. Verification strategies fall into the category of things to be circumspect about.

But tools and protocols? The way you stay one step ahead is to follow best practices with proven tools and platforms, and show others how to do the same. Hide in plain sight!

 

Secure Communication

Hi Allen, I certainly agree that ensuring the safety and security of our records, resources, and information is essential to preserving our own safety and security. Activists need to understand how to employ these tactics, as well as employ them consistently so the risk of detention or abuse is lessened.

I would like to share a piece written by Patrick Meier of DigiActive entitled "Quick Guide to Secure Information". This article includes a very thorough list of ways to stay safe and protect your data when taking part in digital activism. He includes tactics and technologies that can be used with:

  • Mobile phones
  • Digital cameras
  • Computers/Laptops
  • Flash disks
  • E-mail
  • Browsers and Websites
  • VoIP (online telephony)
  • Blogs and Social Networking Sites
  • File Sharing
  • Cyber Cafes

The list is truly exhaustive, and I would urge anyone interested in keeping safe while participating in cyber-activism to read this piece. There are tons of links throughout the article, some of which include:

CryptoSMS, SMS 007, and Kryptext (secure texting)

Bitlocker, TrueCrypt, PGP Whole Disk Encryption, and Check Point (hard drive encryption)

Hushmail and Rise Up (encrypted email platforms)

Tor Software and Psiphon (secure browsers)

As I said, there are many more links, as well as very useful tips on how to store and access information safely, so please see the original article for more information.

Seriousness towards security also add to security

Thanks Ali for sharing Patrick Meiers guide. Links are very useful. In internet communication and browsing, softwares and secure emailings improves security.  Not only this, these systems gives sense of security.

In contexts, where i have worked or working hushmail emailing and true crypt are well tested and reliable. Will definitely check others.

I always stress on seriousness and responsible attitude  towards security. In one communication loop if one member at the sending/receiving end doesn't follow the security rules and protocols can expose the whole group  even if rest of the group members are taking security very seriously and strictly following security protocoals. 

 

 

Thank you

Great list! Thanks to everyone for sharing and pointing to specific resources. I already knew of some of these, but not all. This is quite useful. I've been researching software tools specifically for use in the human rights and NGO fields, and summarized some of results already (with apologies for the self plug). Obviously there's some debate about the efficacy and value of each, but there's no doubting the need for these kinds of tools.

I've been following this entire conversation with interest. Keep it up!

 

How does security relate to information, communication & tech?

hi. wanted to share with you couple of thoughts..

one element that for me is very important in ICT security for human rights defenders (HRDs) is to put digital security in a process based framework. starting with bigger picture, integrating digital security with the overall protection plan HRDs may have. to understand how it falls into their work, into the context of the risk they face. and than carefully work on building security on the top of this. reviewing the physical security of the information, working on the foundation of the protection against malware, spy-ware, updating software or switching to free and open source software (however some times it is too much to ask from HRDs to switch entirely to Linux), exercising passwords skills (however simple this may seams), demystifying different elements of technology. and only than working the way towards more complex elements like encryption of the information on the computers and communications (email, web, text and voice chat), hiding the existence of the information on the computers (e.g. steganography) or "hiding" the communications (circumvention tools like TOR). it is important that this is the a process of many relatively simple elements working together.

digital security may seem overwhelming to many people. that is why, i think, the process based approach is helping. it is showing clear path. HRDs can decide how far they need, how far they are able (and some times how far they can) walk on this path. still one improves the security by taking even few steps in this process (for example just cleaning the computer from malware, and setting better passwords on the email accounts). of course the more steps you take the better :-)

there are times where taking too many steps on this path is risky. HRDs working in specific situation cant use some of the tool (e.g. encryption tools like GPG or secure email providers like VaultletSoft.com) as this may lead to increase of risk rather. but those decisions are possible only when one understands the implications of the usage of the tools, the logic behind the tools.

one other element that was interesting to see in our development of the 'security in a box' toolkit is that HRDs are very often lost in the abundance of the tools. they do not know which one to choose. this is why we decided to choose (in most of the cases) one tool to answer the given ICT security need. it may seem risky to put all the trust on one tool. but it actually let HRDs proceed.

Wojtek Bogusz
Information Security; Front Line - The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; www.frontlinedefenders.org

Is VoIP telephony secure?

I've really appreciated the breadth of experience in this dialogue, and since since you are on-line as a resource, I have a technical question for some of you with more expertise in these areas:  How secure is encrypted VoIP (Internet telephony) technology?  Is  this a secure communication tool that can be useful to HRDs, or is there reason for caution?  What practices do we need to enact to keep VoIP conversations secure?

VOIP security

Nils, that's a great question. I'm not an expert on the subject, but I can tell you what I know:

Let's start with the obvious but important point: there is no totally secure system, anywhere, ever.

That said, encrypted VOIP *can* be pretty secure. Among other things it depends on:

  • Control of the originating and terminating VOIP servers: a big part of the game in encryption is controlling the machines that encrypt and decrypt. If those are boxes located in places you control or trust, with administrative access available only to yourself and those you trust, you're heading in the right direction.
  • You need to be sure that the keys/certificates used in the encryption have themselves not been compromised. If you're really thorough, you can always generate new ones when in doubt, though that's not always viable/advisable.
  • You want to be sure that the client machines, where the conversation is being input and output, are themselves secure machines, hopefully running a hardened OS like linux. You can do a perfect job of end-to-end encryption of a VOIP call, but if you're on a compromised Windows machine, it's entirely possible that the conversation can still be surveilled.
  • Skype is encrypted, but should NEVER be considered to be secure. We have no idea what happens to the data within the skype cloud.
  • In general, if your encryption solution is not 100% free/open source software that has been verified/certified by folks you trust to certify such things, you should not consider it secure.
  • A more advanced topic is anonymizing the end points; doing point-to-point voip calls has the disadvantage of linking those two machines in terms of IP traffic. Anything that can be done to anonomize those boxes is worth trying, though that's a tough one. TOR in particular won't in my experience give you adequate bandwidth, though I believe that's improving.

The above are just some key points; it is by no means a complete threat matrix by any means.

I welcome others with more knowledge to correct me and let me know what I left out :^)

lets take an example of skype...

hi Nils, this is very good question. people ask a lot about security of communication over Skype, Google Talk and other tools. (since i don't want to recommend yahoo or msn i will not mention them here :-) maybe you want to discuss some other specific tools? than please bring the name in. below i will concentrate on skype as this is the most popular tool at the moment.

skype voice & text communication is encrypted when you communicate between two computers in the internet. so communication is much more secure than communication between two phones or mobile phones! [1] of course when you call from skype to the landline or mobile phones the last segment of the communication is carried unencrypted over the lines of the local telephone company, local to the phone number that you call. so one need to be aware of this.

important thing about skype (and other tools mentioned above) is that this is a proprietary tool. what means that we do not know what exactly it does with the information. we (as a internet community) have no access to the source code and we cannot independently verify it. and as far as i know there is no decent free and open source tool that can offer you VoIP. so we need to take special measures:

  • all computers used for any communication should be free from malware: spyware, adware, remote-controlled programs, worms, and computer viruses. also environment around you should be clean from listening devices, etc.
  • username and password used for Skype should not be used for anything else. of course password should be strong, changed often, etc.
  • you need to decide for yourself should skype username identify or have relationship to the user’s real name, organisation or occupation? you can have many different accounts to separate the groups that you work with. in case the account will be broken into. in this was you protect the network of the people you work with.
  • always have alternative ways for contacting each other – Skype can become unavailable in any moment.
  • always independently verify the identity of a person that you are communicating with. it is so easy to masquerade as someone else in the internet. especially when text chatting. so it is really important to be able to ask the question that only the person you would like to talk with is able to answer.
  • still it is important that you will be careful of what you say – maybe develop a code system - same as you mentioned for the mobile phones.
  • with skype it is also important to remember that by default it log down (stores on the disk of the computer) all the text chat that you have, and also all the history of the calls. it is possible to disable this and clean the history.


[1] skype is a product of US company so there is an open question how easy is to tap into communication over skype for US law enforcement agencies. there are many stories/rumours about this. i do not want to go into this here :-)

Wojtek Bogusz
Information Security; Front Line - The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; www.frontlinedefenders.org

Securing VOIP: No Easy Answers, That's for Sure!

Greetings to Wojtek, Nils and Gunner!

I'm glad that Wojtek took a biG chunk out of important issues surring secure VOIP - It's a tough topic to address quickly, and requires both a high level and a low-level view of all the pieces, parts and participants in a relatively secure VOIP converstation.

Here are a couple of additional possibilities to consider, although they're not all neccessarily viable options for some:

  1. The simplest (but not cheap!) way to get easy and relatively secure VOIP and/or video conferencing is to get two cheap(er) mac laptops and install the ZFone point-to-point plugin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zfone for encrypting VOIP clients that adhere to the SIP standard http://zfoneproject.com/prod_zfone.html.
  2. A cheaper approach would be to use GTalk with ZFone
  3. Or you could use Skype and take your chances.

While none of the possible solutions is optimal and/or completely free, each has its pros and cons:

  1. Mac laptops aren't cheap (~$1,000?), and you're implicitly trusting Apple's proprietary VOIP client to do the right thing with your voice data.  The one huge advantage it does have however is that it's trivially easy to set everything up.
  2. Using GTalk with ZFone is free, but you're also trusing Google's proprietary client to do the right thing with your voice data.
  3. Skype is secure (in theory), but it's not been audited, and they have proven themselves to be to not be trustworthy by helping the Chinese government to censor conversations about Falun Gong http://blog.valeso.org/2008/10/06/skype-messages-monitored-in-china/

The one bit of good news here is that ZFone addresses all kinds of esoteric VOIP security problems and weaknesses, and is the brainchild of Phil Zimmermann http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Zimmermann . On top of that, it's incredibly elegant in the way it works and is extremely intuitive and easy to use with confidence.

So, with a bit of time, patience and luck, you may end up finding an Open Soure VOIP client that's compatible with ZFone and works on the operating system of your choice.  We're not asking for too much here, are we ;-)

Rick

Security in the Internet Cafe

Hi, Many human rights defenders that i train during recent years ask the questions about mobile phone - but this topic was covered by Nils, Rick and others already :-) So let me bring another question that i come across often, especially in the less developed countries: Is it secure to use internet café? For some defenders this will be the only way they can use Internet.

Security in internet café is a challenging topic, please treat recommendation below as conditional, that would apply only if possible in a given situation.

  • Consider which Internet cafés you are using. Think of the patterns of usage that you follow. Do they put you more at risk? Make best strategy according to the context of your environment. Consider using café that are not closest to your home/office. Consider random patterns.
  • Carefully choose which computer you use in the café, where is it, how is it orientated towards doors and windows. Do you see people approaching you before they will be able to see what you work on. Can anybody look behind your shoulder on your screen or on your keyboard. Make plan and exercise it of how will you close the applications and files in case of the emergency.
  • Choose Internet café where you are not asked to present your ID and where information about you are not logged.
  • The most important factor is that you choose Internet café that let you use your own laptop computer. With your own laptop you can use all kind of tools to protect yourself and encrypt information and connection. But still do not trust the connection.

All the items below are assuming that you use the computer from the Internet café:

  • Always put into consideration that the café manager could be snooping on your session screen.
  • Choose Internet café́ that uses Linux OS, or free and open source software tools like Firefox & OpenOffice.
  • Choose Internet café that uses legal Windows OS and updates all the software on the computers.
  • Choose Internet café that on all computers uses updated, good anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall and that do not let users login with the administrators privileges.
  • Always clean traces of your work after you finish (use: Portable CCleaner or clean manually).
  • Choose Internet café that allows you to insert USB and run your own programs.
  • If possible, prepare your messages (to be sent) before you come to Internet café. If your addresses accept encrypted email, encrypt them beforehand.
  • Use portable Tor Browser for browsing the Internet.

Wojtek Bogusz
Information Security; Front Line - The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; www.frontlinedefenders.org

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