Archive for the ‘Human Rights Resources’ Category

As you may have heard, the Massachusetts state of representatives passed a human trafficking bill unanimously.  HR.3470 is the bill that is supported by AG Martha Coakley.  It criminalizes the activity, creates a taskforce, and allows for the court to order restitution to victims if they win the case.  While this is certainly a step in the right direction, we need to do more for the victims.  If we do not provide the services that they need, I believe that it is highly likely that they will fall back into slavery.  S820/S1921 sponsored by Mark Montigny will provide more services for victims.  We should ask for as much as we can now to be in a stronger bargaining position if we have to compromise.

S1921 appears to be S820 without the minimum sentencing and with a more defined Safe Harbor clause.  Safe harbor would allow prostitutes under the age of 18 to be considered victims and not a criminal if they are picked up by the police during a raid. This is important because they may have a criminal record that would be detrimental in living an independent life.

Human trafficking is as much a domestic problem as it is an international one.  Many girls who are caught up in this problem are runaways or those who have been kidnapped like the Quincy teen who was forced into slavery this past May.

My real concern is that traffickers will continue to be let go even if the Coakley bill does become law.  To prove that it is a trafficking case, you have to prove that the trafficker coerced the victim.  The victims’ testimony is critical in proving coercion.  Without it, the trafficker may get off with a lesser crime.  Without services, the victim may be less likely to testify in court because they may be forced to earn money back in the trade to support themselves. If it is a labor trafficking victim (agriculture especially), they may not even remain in the state.  This is one way I feel like we can get more victim services back into the bill to show the legislators that they may still fail in getting traffickers locked up.

We could ask for a line item that would provide money for a safehouse.  As it stands in S820, it would be subject to appropriation.  Another concern I have is that the Coakley bill mentions corporations would be subject to the new law.  Small businesses like nail salons, massage parlors, and restaurants are the ones that are often the ones that enslave their workers.  When I think of corporation, I think of Wal Mart, Marriott, or McDonalds, not the Korean Massage Therapy or Hadley Massage Therapy.  I want to make sure that those businesses too will be subject to the new law.

Here are the members of the senators on the ways and means committee.  Steven Baddour,  Jennifer Flanagan, Michael Moore, Karen Spilka, Brian Joyce, Thomas McGee, Richard Moore, and Gale Candaras have cosponsored Montigny’s S.820 bill at the start of the session. It is just as important to thank them and ask for their continued support for the bill.  S820 could go before the ways and means committee soon.  I hope that some of you would have the time to contact a few members of the ways and means committee to ask them to support 820 because victims deserve more.  Senate President Therese Murray should also be called/ written to.

I have drafted my own letter that I’ve sent to members on the committee.  This is the letter that Not For Sale, an organization I’m also a part of, is asking their members to send this letter.  Feel free to include your own personal reason why you think more victim provisions is important in the human trafficking bill.  In fact, that would even be better.

Thank you for your help in this important cause.  A hollow victory is not enough.  We must pass a bill that will give the victims a chance to stand on their own.


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Greeting BFP Blog Readers!

Amy and Alicia and I, all international justice enthusiasts, have decided to start exploring international justice (IJ) issues using our group blog. I spent well over a year working closely with AIUSA’s Program on International Justice and Accountability. The Program focused on the international justice components of several conflicts, including demanding an International Criminal Court investigation into the conflict in Darfur. I loved my time with the program. I learned a lot about the international justice system, why it was important to human rights activism in general and I had the opportunity to work with some very talented and brainy folks who are super committed to the international justice system and growing grassroots support for that system in the U.S. The Program closed earlier this year, but the BFP invested so much time in training and networking in this area that I plan on continuing our work.

As an organizer, I’ve had a difficult time trying to get people to respond to the term “international justice”. It is both too vague and too clear. Of course human rights activists want justice! Isn’t that all we do, really? And yet justice itself is really the focus of IJ work. It means using the mechanisms provided by international law to ensure that allegations of the very worst human rights abuses- torture, disappearances, genocide, and crimes against humanity- are investigated and if necessary, prosecuted. But getting a grasp of international law, processes and these mechanisms can be downright intimidating. AIUSA has provided some fantastic fact sheets and even a film online that explores some of the key concepts with exceptional clarity. You can find those resources at

With these “What is International Justice” posts, we’ll be exploring these mechanisms in practice, looking at the role the tools of international justice could play in the many ongoing conflicts in the world. We’ll also be looking at some of the inherent problems with the notion of international justice. In addition to the posts from BFP -ers, I’m hoping that I can arrange for a few current and former IJ colleagues to guest blog about their thoughts and work.

So while you folks spend the weekend reviewing the AIUSA film and fact sheets (hey, an IJ activist can dream, right??!), I’ll be researching more about this : http://www.salon.com/wires/ap/world/2009/09/01/D9AEPAFG4_lt_chile_dirty_war/index.html and this http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/08/24/holder/index.html.
I think it is interesting that the role of the International Criminal Court is to hold the “architects” of these crimes accountable while the Chilean investigation seeks to investigate “all who have participated” and the Holder investigation is, at least for now, only looking at CIA interrogators and some military contractors. I look forward to reading some more and picking the brains of my brilliant friends working in the field. I will report back next week for sure!

In solidarity,

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I encountered a great slide show on establishing a social media map for your nonprofit org compiled by nonprofit social media guru Beth Kanter.  Easily applicable of course to any community group – even to you on a personal basis.

The slide show gives a basic breakdown on the power and modus operandi of social media tools and how social justice groups have used and should use these tools to forward issues and calls for action.  Has interesting implications as well on rounding up new generations of previously uninvolved activists (i.e., the untapped – or uninterested? – young professional set).

If you make it through the slide show, you’ll find its author is a key contributor to the We are Media wiki. Another great resource on social media for nonprofits curated by NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network).

Have you seen anything interesting or truly progressive, in a forward-thinking sense, done by any nonprofits? What about small community or volunteer-based groups?

With the growth of online activism powered by MoveOn, Care2, Avaaz, etc., nonprofits are on Facebook, are blogging and more. But there are sure to be a plethora of special and targeted online or social media focused campaigns and projects garnering support and action right? Please share if you know of or are involved in some.

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Been very remiss in my “weekly” links and sites of interest for human rights enthusiasts. But, today I came across a web resource that sparked memory of my having committed to contributing weekly to this blog and to you in your work as a human rights activist. So I’ve found my way back – appropriately with a resource entitled Compass.

I spearhead the quarterly newsletter that the Boston Firefly Project publishes, and in preparation for our next newsletter (which reminds me I should post our previous newsletter on this blog!) I began brainstorming what topics are au courant. One media relations trick that often works well is pitching stories based on holidays; so I went in search of a comprehensive human rights calendar with hopes of finding some inspiration.

During my search, I came across a great human rights calendar  put out by the Council of Europes’ Compass initiative.  The calendar lists human rights holidays as celebrated internationally. I found especially intriguing the activity links that correspond with each holiday. What better way to celebrate the upcoming International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination than to try and unravel racism on a personal, interpersonal and institutional level?

Digging further into the Compass site, I found other invaluable resources listed on the contents page. I’ll definitely be looking more thoroughly at chapter 2, so I can add some icebreakers and interactive activities to my bag of tricks, as well as chapter 5, to brush up on deepen (it is a never ending process learning about human rights) my knowledge of human rights issues.

Hope you pull some valuable tools, tips and information from this resource. Hopefully upon further investigation I will find inspiration for the newsletter too.

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This is the first of my (intended) weekly posts on resources that encourage readers of this blog to stay abreast of human rights news as well as become aware of interesting sites and articles that assist in activist capacity building and personal enrichment.

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Increasingly, satellite technology is coming into use as a tool to monitor human rights crises and provide infallible evidence of injustices and crime in real time.  I first heard of satellite imagery being used in this manner several years ago when the Zimbabwe government denied razing nearly 5,000 buildings and farms and internally displacing nearly 700,000 of its own country’s people in Operation Murambatsvina (meaning “drive out rubbish”).  

Amnesty International found the following, very clear before and after shots of the forced demolition and evictions:

Amnesty/Digital Globe

Satellite images from 2002 and 2006 showing the destruction of the Porta Farms settlement outside Harare. Photo: Amnesty/Digital Globe

AI also embarked on a satellite imagery project to document the ongoing crisis in Darfur, called “Eyes on Darfur.”  Increasingly, these types of tools and situation reporting, (including social media), seem to foster a greater sense of connection, deepened understanding and impassioned action among activists, journalists, students and others.  Pictures often can drive action more powerfully than words.

Outside the scope of Amnesty’s work with satellite technology, I recently learned that the UN Institute for Training and Research has an Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT)  that uses geographical information systems, field workers, satellite imagery experts and more to deliver “satellite solutions to relief and development organisations within and outside the UN system to help make a difference in the life of communities exposed to poverty, hazards and risk, or affected by humanitarian and other crises. ”

I came across Gaza Strip Damage Maps when searching for some of the latest information regarding the Israeli bombing of the UN compound

UNOSAT as you’ll see has maps for many other countries and regions and for various events ranging from train collisions in North Korea to population distributions in Mexico. 

I think we’ll be seeing more and more satellite technology make its way into how humanitarian crises and other human rights news are reported and also digested by readers – perhaps it will be the one extra push some might need toward pursuing action.

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