Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

Forensic Architecture and similar in Berlin are building Investigative Commons, a kind of super-hub for human rights activism

June 28, 2021

The Guardian of 27 June 2021 carries a fascinating article entitled “Berlin’s No 1 digital detective agency is on the trail of human rights abusers” about investigators in Germany who are using Google Earth, YouTube clips and social media posts to bring political crimes to the courts

Projecting images across a 3D model can help determine real-world distances between objects.

Projecting images across a 3D model can help determine real-world distances between objects. Photograph: Forensic ArchitecturePhilip Oltermann in Berlin@philipoltermann

…..this second-floor space inside a beige brick former soap factory is something closer to a newsroom or a detective agency, tripling up as a lawyers’ chambers. Next month it will formally be launched as the home of the Investigative Commons, a kind of super-hub for organisations whose work has revolutionised the field of human rights activism.

Most of the desks will be taken up by Forensic Architecture, a team of architects, archaeologists and journalists whose digital models of crime scenes have been cited as evidence at the international criminal court, contributed to the sentencing of the neo-Nazi leaders of Greece’s Golden Dawn party, and led to an unprecedented apology from Benjamin Netanyahu over the accidental killing of a Bedouin teacher.

Then there is the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a human rights NGO headquartered on the floor below, which last year brought to court the first worldwide case against Syrian state torture.

Bellingcat – the organisation started by British blogger Eliot Higgins that revealed the perpetrators behind the poisonings of MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny – will have its name on a desk in the hub as well as Mnemonic, a Berlin-based group of Syrian exiles who build databases to archive evidence of war crimes in their homeland, and Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who worked with whistleblower Edward Snowden to expose the National Security Agency’s (NSA) global surveillance programme.

They all share, says Poitras, “a commitment to primary evidence”: each group works on the cutting edge of what has come to be known as “open-source intelligence”, the mass-harvesting, modelling and examination of publicly available material from Google Earth, social media posts or YouTube videos. In the post-truth era, they excel at the painstaking task of corroborating the facts behind disputed events. “The traditional model for human rights work is that you have a big NGO that sends experts to the frontline of a conflict, speaks to sources and then writes up a report on their return,” says Forensic Architecture’s British-Israeli founder Eyal Weizman. “Nowadays, evidence is produced by people on the frontline of the struggle. You no longer have one trusted source but dozens of sources, from satellite images to smartphone data. Our challenge lies in assembling these sources.”

Eliot Higgins, founder of the investigative journalism website Bellingcat.

Eliot Higgins, founder of the investigative journalism website Bellingcat. Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Observer

These groups have occasionally collaborated, but have broadly followed their own paths for over a decade. The decision to pool their investigative tools, with the added legal heft of ECCHR, is a sign that open-source investigations could be coming of age, moving one step further away from art and academia towards a world where the ultimate judge of their work will be a sober, bewigged individual in a courtroom.

“Facts need good litigators,” says Weizman. “Human rights work is transforming: you used to have these big clearing-house-style NGOs that did everything. Now it’s more like an ecosystem of investigators and litigators. Rather than one person writing up a report, there is a constant workshop, with people being brought in all the time as long as confidentiality allows.”

As with any all-star team, there is a risk of key players stepping on each other’s toes as they jockey for the same position on the field.

“Of course there’s a certain tension,” says ECCHR’s founder, Wolfgang Kaleck. “You have to be aware which pitch you are playing on at any given stage, and what the rules of the game are.”

The first showcase of the physical collaboration is a joint investigation documenting human rights abuses in Yemen. Syrian journalist Hadi al-Khatib’s Mnemonic has amassed and verified thousands of videos of airstrikes in the multisided civil war on the southern end of the Arabian peninsula.

Forensic Architecture applied its own mapping software to tell the story of these incidents through time and space. Evidence from the scenes of these attacks, such as fragments of munition found on site, then provided clues as to the identity of the western manufacturers of the weapons used – which is where ECCHR’s lawyers have come in.

The fact that this assembly line for investigations into human rights abuses will be physically located in Berlin has much to do with the German capital’s history and social environment – but also the conditions for investigative work in post-Brexit Britain.

Both Bellingcat and Forensic Architecture were once British success stories. The former was started in 2014 from the front room of Leicester-based Higgins, then still an office worker-cum-blogger going by the Frank Zappa-inspired alias Brown Moses. The latter grew out of, and continues to be affiliated with, Goldsmiths, University of London, and was nominated for the Turner prize in 2018.

But as these groups have grown on the back of their successes, Britain’s departure from the EU has made the task of bringing in new researchers with international backgrounds more cumbersome, with EU nationals now required to show proof of settled status or a skilled-worker visa. Goldsmiths announced a hiring freeze last May.

Traditional human rights NGOs have started using Berlin as the place to launch their own open-source investigations. Amnesty International’s Citizen Evidence Lab, which has used satellite technology and 3D modelling to uncover human rights abuses in Ethiopia and Myanmar, has been led for the last five years from the city. Human Rights Watch’s Digital Investigations Lab has key staff in Berlin, as well as a project with the German space agency.

Bellingcat, which made its name with an investigation into the 2014 crash of the Kuala Lumpur-bound Malaysia Airlines flight 17 from Amsterdam, moved its main offices to the Dutch capital in 2018. “Brexit created uncertainties on the horizon,” says Higgins. “We didn’t want to be a in a position where our international staff couldn’t stay in the UK. We needed something that gave us more flexibility.”

Another factor behind the move was that investigative journalism per se is not a recognised charitable purpose in the UK, and consequently has limited access to the funding opportunities and tax advantages of charities. In the Netherlands, Bellingcat is now set up as a stichting, or foundation.

As well being a founding member of the Investigative Commons, Forensic Architecture is moving a quarter of its staff to Germany to set up Forensis, an NGO that will be a registered association or eingetragener Verein under German law, allowing it to access funding that would not be available in the UK. It will focus its work on human rights issues with a European dimension, from cybersurveillance and rightwing extremism to immigration.

The University of London will continue to be a home for the group of digital detectives but could eventually become more of an “incubator” for new research methods, says Weizman.

Berlin has been in a similar situation before. In around 2014 the city looked briefly as if it had become the world’s ultimate safe harbour, from where hackers, human rights groups and artists would expose humanitarian abuses globally.

WikiLeaks staffers were marooned in Berlin’s counterculture scene, fearful of being detained upon return to the US or the UK. Poitras edited her Snowden film, Citizenfour, in the city, concerned her source material could be seized by the government in America. Chinese dissidents such as Liu Xia, Liao Yiwu and Ai Weiwei also found new homes here.

For multiple reasons, that promise was not fulfilled. …

“Perhaps then the expectation of what Berlin could become was simply too great,” says Kaleck, who is Snowden’s lawyer. Nowadays, Berlin may be less of a city for dreaming of digital revolutions, and more of a place to get work done. “We’re on an even keel now – that’s a good starting point.”

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/jun/27/berlins-no-1-digital-detective-agency-is-on-the-trail-of-human-rights-abusers

8th Werner Lottje Lecture: Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in Colombia

April 20, 2021
La cátedra Werner Lottje hace parte de la programación del Instituto Alemán para los Derechos Humanos.

The German Institute for Human Rights and Bread for the World announce:

the 8th Werner Lottje Lecture: “Protected by the Collective – Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in Colombia
April 20, 2021
5:00 – 7:00 pm CET

More on Werner Lottje see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/

Livestreaming: English, German, Spanish (simultaneous interpreting)

For years, Colombia has led the dismal ranking of countries with the highest number of murders of human rights defenders worldwide. Members of  indigenous communities who defend themselves against the intrusion of armed groups, organized crime, and the overexploitation of natural resources on their ancestral territories are especially affected. With the 8th Werner Lottje Lecture, we therefore honor the Guardia Indígena de Cauca – Kiwe Thegnas, winners of the 2020 Colombian Human Rights Award and the 2020 Front Line Defenders Award (Americas), who impressively demonstrate how effective the collective peaceful defense of their territories can be. What particular threats do indigenous communities face in Colombia and around the world? [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/26619974-ee3f-42ff-9e94-3e34ebc5ba9b

What effects did the COVID-19 pandemic have? What strategies have these communities developed to defend themselves? What kind of support is required from the international community to protect indigenous communities? We discuss these and other questions with:

•             Guardia Indígena de Cauca – Kiwe Thegnas, Indigenous human rights collective, Colombia
•             Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
•             Dr. Peter Ptassek, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Colombia

Please register here: Anmeldung/Registration/Registro

Further information (in German)+ Google Calendar+ iCal Export

Details

Date: April 20 Time: 17:00 – 19:00 CEST Website: https://www.institut-fuer-menschenrechte.de/veranstaltungen/detail/8-werner-lottje-lecture-schutz-im-kollektiv-indigene-menschenrechtsverteidigerinnen-in-kolumbien

Annual Werner Lottje lecture in Germany on 21 February 2019

February 15, 2019

Hungary: civil society and human rights defenders under pressure, is the topic of the upcoming Werner Lottje Lecture in Berlin on 21 February. Werner Lotte was one of the most outstanding human rights leaders in Germany who is rightly honoured with an annual event.

[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/]

Organised by Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights (two of the organisations that Werner played a crucial role in developing) the event covers Hungary’s slide away from human rights respect which has been documented often [also in this blog, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/18/excellent-background-piece-to-hungarys-stop-soros-mania/].  With the European elections coming up it is a timely meeting.  See also: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/hungary-should-address-many-interconnected-human-rights-protection-challenges

 

Programme

18:00    Greetings: Dr. Julia Duchrow; Human Rights, Bread for the World

18:10    Lecture: Marta Pardavi; Co-Chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee

18:30    Panel Discussion, moderated by Dr. Wolfgang Heinz; German Institute for Human Rights.

  •             Marta Pardavi;
  •             Manuel Sarrazin; member of parliament, German Greens
  •             Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy; Kalunba, refugee organisation from Hungary

20:00    Reception

Place: Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1 10115 Berlin Room: O.K.06. There will be English German interpretation

Registration: https://info.brot-fuer-die-welt.de/termin/ungarn-zivilgesellschaft

For last year’s event see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/08/5th-werner-lottje-lecture-in-berlin-focuses-on-cambodia/

“Law versus Power” – Book talk by Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR General Secretary

January 23, 2019

Wolfgang Kaleck, who was in 2007 the founder of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) is presenting his new book LAW VERSUS POWER – Our Global Fight for Human Rights.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/15/ecchr-launches-new-institute-for-legal-intervention/]

Kaleck’s work has taken him to Buenos Aires, to stand with the mothers of youngsters “disappeared” under the Argentinian military dictatorship; to exiled Syrian communities, where he assembled the case against torture mandated by those high up in the Assad government; to Central America, where he collaborated with those pursuing the Guatemalan military for its massacres of indigenous people; to New York, to partner with the Center for Constitutional Rights in taking action against Donald Rumsfeld for the “enhanced interrogation techniques” he greenlighted after 9/11; and to Moscow, where he represents the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, “a likeable man whose talents go far beyond his technical skills.” In recounting his involvement in such cases, Kaleck gives voice to those he is representing, emphasizing the courage and persistence they bring to the global search for justice.

The Berlin book launch will take place on 6 February 2019 in Berlin (19h00) at the Denkerei, ORANIENPLATZ 2, where Wolfgang Kaleck will discuss – with Nadja Vancauwenberghe, publisher and editor in chief of Exberliner – today’s challenges and opportunities in the struggle for human rights. Syrian musician Abdahllah Rahhal is an international artists whose work aims to highlight humanity in every moment of life.. The event will be held in English and can be followed via livestream.

https://www.ecchr.eu/en/event/law-versus-power-book-talk-by-wolfgang-kaleck-1/

 

Turkey’s Academics for Peace to Receive 2018 Courage to Think Defender Award

April 16, 2018

On 16 April 2018 the NGO-network Scholars at Risk (SAR) announced that Turkey’s Academics for Peace is the recipient of its 2018 Courage to Think Defender Award, for their extraordinary efforts in building academic solidarity and in promoting the principles of academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, and the peaceful exchange of ideas. The award, which will be presented at the Scholars at Risk Network 2018 Global Congress, will be accepted on behalf of the group by Muzaffer Kaya, of Technische Universität Berlin, and Tebessüm Yılmaz, of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Rose Anderson, SAR’s Director of Protection Services stated: “By connecting their threatened colleagues both inside and outside of Turkey to resources, opportunities, and support, they are working to ensure that Turkey’s vibrant higher education community can continue to pursue scholarship, and be free to think, question and share ideas. The solidarity of the Academics for Peace community is an inspiration for all of us who work on behalf of threatened scholars and academic freedom worldwide.”

Fo more on the SAR’s Courage to Think and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/courage-to-think-award. For last year’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/09/scholars-at-risk-gives-its-courage-to-think-defender-award-to-egypts-detained-scholars-and-students/

For more information about the Courage to Think Award and the Global Congress, including registration information, the Congress program and speaker bios, visit https://www.con-gressa.de/gc2018.

https://www.scholarsatrisk.org/2018/04/2018-courage-to-think/

5th Werner Lottje lecture in Berlin focuses on Cambodia

February 8, 2018

On 21 February 2018, Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights organise for the 5th time the Werner Lottje Lecture [the lecture is named after the German activist who was a major force in the international human rights movement [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/].

This year the focus is on human rights defenders in Cambodia.

For last year’s lecture see: : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/26/the-4th-werner-lottje-lecture-showcases-the-zone-9-bloggers-from-ethiopia-15-february/.

Programme:

Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel; President Bread for the World

Naly Pilorge; Acting Director, LICADHO, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights

Julia Duchrow; Head Human Rights and Peace, Bread for the World

Michel Forst; UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

19:00 panel discussion with Gyde Jensen; MP, chair of the Bundestag Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance; Michel Forst; Naly Pilorge; and Dr. Julia DuchrowModerated by Michael Windfuhr; acting Director German Institute for Human Rights

 

Date and place: 21/2/2018, 17:30 – 20:00 at Brot für die Welt, Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1, 10115 Berlin.

To attend please contact eimear.gavin@brot-fuer-die-welt.de (+49 (0)30 65211 1811) before 15 February.

 

There will be German – English interpretation.

 

The 4th Werner Lottje Lecture showcases the Zone-9 Bloggers from Ethiopia (15 February)

January 26, 2017

This year’s Werner Lottje Lecture is dedicated to freedom of speech in Ethiopia, to which two Zone-9 bloggers (Zelalem Kibret und Jomanex Kasayehave been invited. The Zone-9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (of which the late Werner Lottje was one of the founders). See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/

The event “We blog because we careDas Recht auf Meinungsfreiheit in Äthiopien” takes place in Berlin on 15 February 2017 at 17h30 in there building of Bread for the World– Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst, Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1, and is co-organised with the German Institute for Human Rights. To attend please contact Alexandra Prieß: alexandra.priess@brot-fuer-die-welt.de.

2000 appr Werner LottjeSee also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/10/18/2nd-werner-lottje-lecture-on-10-november-in-berlin-with-alejandra-ancheita-and-michel-forst/

The fight against impunity starts at home: US and torture

December 17, 2014

The issue of impunity is pertinent to the protection of human rights defenders. For that reason I refer to an interesting development that follows the disclosures on torture and abduction by the CIA in the courageous Senate report. If only more countries were willing to investigate so publicly their own records (China, Russia?).

The Federal Prosecutor must investigate former CIA boss Tenet, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and others – and should not wait until they are on German soil.  Read the rest of this entry »

Edward Snowden gets another human rights award in Berlin

December 15, 2014

Former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden was given the Carl von Ossietzky Medal in Berlin on Sunday, a medal which honors those who exhibit extraordinary civic courage or commitment to the spread and defense of human rights. According to website of the International League for Human Rights in Berlin, which has awarded the prize since 1962, Snowden was chosen because of his “momentous decision of conscience … to put [his] personal freedom on the line” to expose the “abuse of power” exercised by the US and Germany.

Verleihung des Alternativen Nobelpreises an Edward Snowden

Snowden shares the medal with Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke his story, along with Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who was in Berlin to accept it on the whole trio’s behalf [Snowden appeared on skype]. Several speeches were given, including one from former federal Interior Minister Gerhart Baum and human rights lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck, who represents Snowden. Baum spoke of how the Snowden had “opened our eyes to the largest intelligence surveillance scandal I know.” See more: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/snowden/

The von Ossietzky medal is named after the German Nobel Peace Prize winner who spoke out actively against the Nazi regime. Not to be confused with two other awards in the name of Ossietzky.

Edward Snowden gets human rights award in Berlin | News | DW.DE | 14.12.2014.

Friedrich-Ebert Award goes to Fartuun Adan from Somalia

November 12, 2014

(Fartuun Adan, Director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, Mogadishu/Somalia. Photo: Fartuun Adan)

The Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation’s human rights award 2014 recognizes Fartuun Adan’s long-standing and persistent commitment to the human rights of women in the complex political context of a society shaped by decades of civil war in Somalia. Bestowing the human rights award on the director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center also acknowledges that women are no mere victims of violence and discrimination, but socio-political actors, who actively contribute to peace and reconciliation.

[Fartuun Adan is the director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center. She founded the organization in 1991 with her husband Elman Ali Ahmed, who was murdered five years later and after whom the center is named today. After his death, Fartuun Adan immigrated to Canada with her daughters. In spite of ongoing conflicts, she returned to Mogadishu in 2007 to continue her work for peace and reconciliation. The Elman Peace and Human Rights Center advocates for women’s and children’s rights under difficult political circumstances. It was the first non-governmental organization providing survivors of gender-based violence and vulnerable women with legal and psychological support, health care and shelter. Furthermore, it advocates for long-term reconciliation and development, and cooperates with OXFAM, ILO and others to support the social reintegration of former child soldiers.]

The award ceremony will take place on 4 December, 2014, 15:00 h, at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastr. 28, 10785 Berlin. The laudation will be held by Christoph Strässer, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid.

For more information on the Ebert award, see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/friedrich-ebert-foundation-human-rights-award.

Human Rights Award of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.