Seeking Justice

Engaging the United Nations Human Rights Council

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Thank you for joining the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the New Tactics online community for an online conversation on Engaging the United Nations Human Rights Council from February 11 to 15.

The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. When utilized strategically, the HRC can be a powerful force for change. There are several different ways that human rights organizations can engage the HRC, including: providing reports for the Universal Periodic Review, sending complaints to the Special Procedures, and raising situations of human rights violations in the plenary sessions of the HRC. The key is to know when to use which approach, and how to maximize your efforts.

Familiar Tools, Emerging Issues: Adapting traditional human rights monitoring to emerging issues

Researchers during an interviewThe Advocactes for Human Rights (formerly known as the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights) uses traditional human rights monitoring methods to document human rights abuses.  The group has also made a practice of adapting this methodology to emerging human rights issues. Minnesota Advocates has identified and developed practical and sustainable strategies for adapting human rights monitoring methods to address domestic violence (in Eastern Europe and the U.S.), child survival (in Mexico, Uganda and the U.S.) and transitional justice (in Peru).

Reparations: Using civil lawsuits to obtain reparation for survivors of human rights abuses and to challenge the impunity of their abusers

Group of citizens holding a posterThe Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) represents survivors using the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which gives both U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike the right to sue human rights abusers who live in or visit the United States. CJA has effectively used these acts to help end the possibility of abusers using the U.S. as a safe haven, to assist survivors in gaining reparations, and to break the silence that has enabled abusers to live in impunity.

Uncovering the Evidence: The forensic sciences in human rights

Forensic anthropologists uncovering human remainsForensic science has been a powerful tool in the scientific documentation of human rights violations around the world, and especially in Latin America. The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team has been in the forefront of efforts to train human rights NGOs to use forensic tools to advance their investigations, to provide more support for victims and to strengthen the credibility of their work against impunity.

Expanding Access to Justice: The Instituto Pro Bono in São Paulo

Banner held by protesters in BrazilUntil a few years ago, there were no legal firms in Brazil that offered free services to people in need. The Pro-Bono Institute has created a new legal tradition in São Paulo, convincing major law firms to donate their legal services and connecting them with NGOs in need of legal services. The Institute has recruited about 140 lawyers and is offering a variety of free services to all kinds of NGOs, including support for important human rights cases. It has achieved a rapid change in attitude in the legal community and pro bono work has become steadily more popular.

Testing for Discrimination: Identifying and Prosecuting Human Rights Abuses

The Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) in Hungary learned about a testing tactic from a U.S. group that had successfully proved instances of housing discrimination by sending in “testers” of different races to apply for apartments. Similar discrimination was also occurring in Hungary against the Roma population – in housing, employment, access to public spaces and public services and other areas. NEKI adapted the tactic of testing to fit into its strategy of using lawsuits to challenge human rights violations.

I'll Walk Beside You: Providing emotional support for testifiers at the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission

People testifiying at the truth and reconciliation commissionThe South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) developed the concept of “briefers” to install a victim-friendly process. Victims were provided with the opportunity to testify and be supported before, during and after the process. The TRC selected briefers—chosen from the caring professions, such as ministers, social workers and nurses—from the community to provide this support. The briefers acted as volunteers and were trained to perform various tasks with regard to the entire structural process of the TRC.

Archiving Human Rights for Advocacy, Justice and Memory

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Thank you for joining Grace Lile of WITNESS and the New Tactics community for this conversation on archiving. Archiving and preservation have long taken a backseat to more urgent aspects of human rights documentation and advocacy, but that is beginning to change. Human rights archives are increasingly playing a pivotal role in advocacy, restorative justice, historical memory, and struggles against impunity. At the same time, however, archivists and activists alike are grappling with the mounting challenges posed by the proliferation of digital documentation. How can we ensure that the critical documentation created today will be preserved and accessible in the future?  Dialogue participants discussed the tactics and methods used by archivists to preserve human rights information.

Corporate Accountability Beyond Borders: Exploring home states’ efforts to protect against business-related human rights abuses

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Thank you for joining ESCR-Net and the New Tactics online community for a dialogue on Corporate Accountability Beyond Borders. While governments are the primary duty-bearers for upholding human rights, businesses can have disproportionate impacts on all human rights, in all economic sectors, everywhere—supporting or undercutting domestic government actions.

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