Engaging local level monitors to document cases of slavery to be used as legal documentation in courts

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Overview

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The National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedom (HOOD)

The National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedom (HOOD) trained local monitoring teams in communities to document cases of slavery in Yemen in order to be used by the victims as a legal document in the courts. Utilizing a documentation form that is signed by the interviewer and three additional witnesses who expressed their willingness to testify in the court at a later stage, HOOD was able to document more than 100 cases of slavery in three Yemenite governorates. As a result, the issue of slavery was brought up into public awareness, facilitating a breakthrough in overcoming the cycle of fear. In addition, one “slave” was able to get a sentence in his favor setting him free. However, the other members of his family are still captured as slaves by other individuals.

Slavery is prohibited by the Yemenite law but important loopholes exist at the implementation level. After a recent outbreak of information related to slavery cases in the North Western governorates in Yemen, a number of non-governmental organizations, HOOD being among them, started sending field monitors to document those cases.

HOOD started its initiative to document slavery cases by first sending its staff to regions where there are doubts about the existence of slavery cases. Initially, the staff was able to document only one case, as they were considered outsiders by the local communities.

In order to overcome this, HOOD began to train local community members on documenting slavery cases as a way to bridge this social obstacle. The monitoring teams established by HOOD were composed of individuals belonging to the local communities where slavery cases were going to be documented.

Second, HOOD created a documentation form that could be be used as an eligible legal document in the courts. HOOD then trained individuals in the local community on how to use the documentation form in a deliberate way to monitor slavery cases, using the most confidential conditions. This documentation form encouraged the victims of slavery to testify, as it was considered a trustworthy means to end the slavery situation in which the victim was being held.

For example, once a slavery case is detected, a person know by the victim is sent to document the case, or at least to introduce the victim to the person documenting. An interview is conducted to generate the most comprehensive amount of data needed to be useful and able to be used in the courts. Most significantly, the documentation form is then signed by the interviewer and three additional witnesses who expressed their willingness to testify in the court at a later stage.

In engaging local level monitors and adopting such a methodology to document slavery cases, HOOD was able to document more than 100 cases in three Yemenite governorates. As a result of the documentation process, the issue of slavery was made public and facilitated a breakthrough in the fear cycle.

HOOD is a leading non-governmental organization in Yemen dedicated to promoting human rights advocacy through: voluntarily providing legal assistance to the victims of torture and human rights abuses; creating legal and human rights awareness among, in particular, the underprivileged sections of the society through training; and mounting advocacy campaigns, monitoring, and following-up to human rights abuses.

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