Posts Tagged ‘Bert Verstappen’

Annual Reports 2019: HURIDOCS harnessing the power of human rights information

December 28, 2019

The second annual report [for yesterday’s, see:] comes from HURIDOCS which – before turning the page on 2019 – wants to share some highlights from the last several months:

Towards an ecosystem of interoperable human rights tools

Social media posts can contain critical evidence of abuses that will one day help deliver justice. That’s why legal advocacy group Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and their partners are saving copies of online content that show attacks targeting civilians in Yemen. How? They’re using a new integration between Digital Evidence Vault and our Uwazi platform. Read more >>>

Using machine learning to help defenders find what they need

Machine learning could have an enormous impact on the accessibility of human rights information. How? By automating parts of the time-intensive process of adding documents to a collection. In collaboration with some of our partners and Fellows, we’re working on doing just that. Check it out >>>

How to research human rights law for advocacy

International law can be a powerful tool for local changemakers to advance protections for human rights. But there’s no central place for finding relevant legislation, commitments and precedents. So together with Advocacy Assembly, we created a free 30-minute course to help human rights defenders navigate the information landscape. Learn more >>>

A database to magnify personal stories and identify trends

Pakistan has one of the world’s largest death rows. At the same time, 85% of death sentences are overturned on appeal. Who are the people convicted? Juveniles, people with disabilities or mental illness, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. We partnered with Justice Project Pakistan to launch a database to shine a light on the situation. Take a look >>>

Improvements to our info management platform Uwazi

We rolled out several new features to Uwazi. CSV import allows for the quick creation of collections without the need to manually input large amounts of data. The activity log gives a comprehensive overview of all additions, edits and deletions (or lack thereof). And two-factor verification offers an extra layer of protection. Speaking of security, we also had Uwazi audited by a third party and made improvements based on their findings. Explore the Uwazi portfolio >>>

growing, moving team and a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Bert

We welcomed several new members to our team: two project managers, a UX designer, two software developers, and a communications coordinator. And we’re currently seeking an info management intern (deadline: 20 December 2019). We gave a warm farewell to Project Manager Hyeong-sik Yoo and Software Developer Clément Habinshuti, and said “thank you” to Senior Documentalist Bert Verstappen, who retired after 32 incredible years.

(see also:

Executive Director Friedhelm Weinberg  goes on parental leave. For the first three months of 2020 while he’s off, Director of Programmes Kristin Antin will be stepping in.


‘Bertxit’: ..Bert Verstappen leaves HURIDOCS after 32 years

September 27, 2019

The SIM team in 1984, Bert Verstappen on the right

It is usually not a compliment when somebody is described as ‘furniture’. But Bert Verstappen, senior documentalist at HURIDOCS, is the exception. And the furniture in mind is an expensive, solid oak Dutch cupboard where all valuables are kept. Bert Verstappen – an historian by education – started working as a conscientious objector doing alternative service in the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (SIM) in approximately 1983, soon after I became the founding director.

He proved his value immediately by working on themes such as documenting human rights violations and together we started a long term research project on the practice of fact finding by NGOs, which resulted in the first-of-its-kind publication of Human Rights Missions, a  Study of the Fact‑Finding Practice of Non‑governmental Organizations, published in 1986 by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (ISBN: 90 247 3355 3). Morever, as SIM had become the initial ‘secretariat’ of the new HURIDOCS network created in 1982, Bert gave a lot of support to the fledgling unit. In 1987 HURIDOCS moved to Oslo and Bert moved with it, learned Norwegian very quickly and kept the flame burning for many years. He moved to Geneva with HURIDOCS after the big Crete conference in 1992.









Bert (l.) 1993 in Geneva with Theo van Boven and Oldrich Andrysek

There he continued to coordinate the work of different task forces and co-authored essential HURIDOCS publications. He was involved in many capacity building projects, providing expertise mainly from the documentation angle.  As from 1 October 2019 he goes into retirement but will remain involved in some HURIDOCS projects on a part-time basis until the end of the year, ensuring a “soft bertxit”.

The development of new tools deeply changed HURIDOCS’ work throughout the years. We renew ourselves constantly. I have committed my career to this exciting challenge because I want to feel useful to human right defenders. Their courage is a source of inspiration for all of us” says Bert Verstappen on the HURIDOCS website

If you want to know more about the history of HURIDOCS in which Bert has played such an important role, see:

“We were breaking new ground”

and about the organnisation today:

WEBINAR: the “events” method for documenting human rights violations on 7 March

February 26, 2019

Are you an organisation, human rights group, or activist registering, documenting, analysing human rights cases? HURIDOCS invites you to join this webinar and discussion of the events method for documenting human rights violations!

  • What: Presentation and discussion on the events method for documenting human rights violations
  • Who: Bert Verstappen, Senior Documentalist at HURIDOCS
  • When: Thursday, 7 March 2019 from 14:00 to 15:30 UTC/GMT
  • Where:

Data is like water – it needs a container to make it useful. The beginning of a human rights documentation projects often starts with containers like lists and spreadsheets. But at some point, the information will outgrow these containers – both in terms of quantity and complexity.

The way you design these containers will have an impact on what information you will gather, how you organise the information, and the kind of analysis you can carry out. HURIDOCS and its network developed the Events Standard Formats methodology (we now call the events method) – to provide a container specifically for organisations documenting human rights violations.

The purpose of the events method is to capture essential information with regard to individual cases of human rights violations in order to better understand patterns of violence, including “who did what to whom”. It involves gathering information about:

  • facts: what happened, where, and when
  • the possible human rights violations that were committed
  • the persons involved: which alleged perpetrator did what to which victim, what are the sources of information and which interventions were made.

For some of my earlier posts on HURIDOCS, see: