Posts Tagged ‘violations’

Messages of positive behavior instead of accounts of abuse could have better long term impact

September 16, 2019

Brain research suggests emphasizing human rights abuses may perpetuate them

Laura Ligouri in Open Global Rights of 18 June 2019 writes about an aspect of campaiging that few human rights defenders and NGOs will be familiar with: “Capitalizing on the brain’s capacity to simulate events, messages of positive behavior – instead of repeated exposure to accounts of abuse – could better lead to the changes we wish to see in the world“. Laura Ligouri is the founder and director of Mindbridge, a not-for-profit organization connecting psychological and neurobiological insight to non-profit and government-sponsored humanitarian efforts. Here the piece in full:

Throughout the last few decades, much human rights work has necessarily sought to bring human rights abuses to light. But focusing only on abusive behaviour—without paying attention to its opposite—comes with a cost.

According to psychological and neurobiological research, repeated exposure to accounts of human rights abuses may inadvertently prime individuals to engage in the very acts we hope to eliminate; for example, repeated negative actions by some in a particular group come to be seen as normal behaviour for the group as a whole. As a result, activists must strike a balance between exposing abuses and demonstrating positive human rights-oriented behavior. By capitalizing on the brain’s capacity to mentalize and simulate events, messages of positive behavior could lead to the changes we wish to see in the world.

Some of the darkest moments in human history have their roots in the dehumanization of groups and people. If human rights activists can see what lies behind these trends, they can work to tackle the root causes and not just the symptoms of dehumanization. Research shows that many processes involved in dehumanization aren’t necessarily grounded in a lack of empathy for the victimized group. Instead, they are based in neurobiological mechanisms oriented around maintaining one’s own group at all costs. In fact, failures to promote positive, pro-social behavior might not rest in our ability to empathize with the “Other” but in the degree to which we identify and align with our own group.

Extreme human rights abuses often have their roots in powerful neurobiological mechanisms that lead humans to mirror or simulate what they see others in their group doing. Very recent research  shows how repeated exposure to hate speech, such as repeatedly reading it on local media, could prime your brain to engage in hateful speech or even hateful actions.

For human rights defenders, this can become dangerous: every time an organization, news source or media outlet emphasizes and repeatedly highlights a form of human rights abuse, even to condemn it, we are simultaneously engaging a very specific component of the social brain that emphasises compliance with the norms of our own group. Over time, the social brain will justify these acts and will find ways to divest our group of responsibility.

Moreover, a landmark study in 2012 showed that feeling connected to a group not only creates disconnection from more distant “others”, but could directly lead to dehumanization of those communities. The experiments indicated that the more people feel socially connected to closely-knit groups, the less likely they are to attribute human mental states to distant others. They are also more likely to recommend harsh treatment for those distant others.

But is empathy the whole story? A great multitude of non-profit organizations worldwide have worked tirelessly to increase empathy between groups, albeit largely by raising awareness about the suffering of marginalized groups or asking people to walk in other people’s shoes. Yet failures to empathize with others happens all the time.

Research has shown that when presented with images of people in pain, activation of the parts of the brain where empathy resides was significantly less for strangers than for loved ones or people of the same race. Other tests show that it is easier to promote aggressive behavior in interactions between groups than between individuals. When social relations shift from “me versus you” to “us versus them”, human interactions tend to become substantially more aggressive.

For example, in one experiment researchers examined whether acting as a member of a competitive group, versus acting alone, would ultimately lead to increases in one’s willingness to harm competitors. Using functional magnetic resonant imaging, or fMRI, participants were asked to perform a competitive task, once alone and once within a group. These same participants were later asked to engage in an activity where they had an option to harm competitors from another group. Results showed reduced brain activation related to empathy and moral decision-making among participants acting within the group, compared to participants acting alone. This reduced activation was later linked to their willingness to harm a person in another group.

The warning for human rights activists is that suspending our sense of individualized morality in favor of group-based norms is among a series of influential factors leading to dehumanization. But how do we reverse concepts of dehumanization once they have already occurred? And if these processes are deeply embedded within unconscious, psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, is it even possible to defuse and/or rewire them?

The answer is: we don’t have to. What would happen if we used our brain’s ability to mentally simulate an event where, instead of picturing or simulating hurting an individual, we imagined helping them? Researchers examined whether the same mechanisms that underlie processes related to empathy might also work to support the way in which our brain envisions the world, called episodic simulation. Their results showed that not only did the act of imagining helping increase participants’ actual intentions to help others, but also that the more vividly people could imagine a scenario, the more likely they were to help another.

These results have been replicated within the Mindbridge Implicit Bias Project, a series of trainings that capitalizes on the brain’s neuroplasticity in order change an individual’s relationship to bias and discrimination towards social groups over time.

Other research showed concretely the way in which positive episodic simulation coupled with capitalizing on the social brain can result in re-humanization of another group. Held in Israel, the researchers through a series of experiments asked Israeli-Jews to read about members of their group helping Palestinians. They found that Israeli-Jews who became aware about their group helping Palestinians showed greater humanization towards Palestinians.

The challenge for the human rights movement is to counter dehumanization that is seeded by group influence and images of human rights abuses with something different. By modelling the sort of behavior we want to see—kindness, caring and empathy—we can begin to re-humanize vulnerable groups.

If inhumanity can be learned, so can greater humanity. Understanding the brain may help us do just that.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/brain-research-suggests-emphasizing-human-rights-abuses-may-perpetuate-them/

 

 

 

Annual Report of the Syrian Network for Human Rights in 2018

January 13, 2019

The Annual Report of the Most Prominent Work of the Syrian Network for Human Rights in 2018

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) is a non-profit non-governmental human rights organization that was founded in June 2011 in light of the systematic rise of violations of human rights in Syria. SNHR aims to support the preserving and defending of victims’ right and consequently accounting process, achieve justice and peace, raise the awareness of the Syrian people in regard to their civil and political rights, and amass efforts and capacities in the context of stopping violations of human rights in Syria. The Syrian Human Rights Network works primarily on monitoring and documenting violations in Syria, and publishes research and reports related to such violations, as well as visual evidence from its investigations, such as photos, maps, graphs and infographics, in addition to working on advocacy and mobilization to defend the rights of victims, for justice and accountability in Syria. It also contributes to progress towards achieving justice and accountability in Syria.

SNHR is a member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICR2P), a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, a founding member and a member of the executive committee of the Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG), and a partner with the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. Additionally, SNHR collaborates closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI), which was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, and with a number of international human rights organization such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Al Karama organization, and The Syrian Campaign, In addition to a number of local Syrian organizations.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/16/the-silenced-voices-of-syria-special-campaign-aimed-at-human-rights-defenders/]

View full Report

Documenting human rights: standards and practice – side event

September 27, 2017

This side event is announced too late, but still good to know and find out more from the organizing NGOs:

 

Side event on the Ukraine on 17 March

March 14, 2015

  • HRHFlogoThe Human Rights House Foundation, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ukraine), the Center for Civil Liberties, the Human Rights House Kyiv, the “Almenda” Civic Education Center and the Head of Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar People (Ukraine), organizes the side event: “The Human Rights Situation in Ukraine“.  On Tuesday 17 March 2015, from 14 to16h, at Palais des Nations, room XII.Panelists:
    Valeriya Lutkovska, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ukraine),
    Refat Chubarov, Head of Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar People (Ukraine),
    Olga Skrypnyk, “Almenda”, Civic Education Center (Ukraine),
    Oleksandra Matviichuk, Center for Civil Liberties, Human Rights House Kyiv (Ukraine).

Florian Irminger, Human Rights House Foundation, moderator.

JOINT NGO RECOMMENDATIONS ON ENSURING PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN CENTRAL ASIA

May 21, 2014


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From 20-21 May 2014 there was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a Regional Workshop on Implementing the Human Dimension Commitments and Enhancing the role of Civil Society. An important contribution was the joint statement by six NGOs containing recommendations to protect human rights defenders in Central Asia.  The text in its totality follows below:  Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Asia Weekly Television Roundup: Episode 28

May 21, 2014

Today the AHRC released the 28th Episode of the Human Rights Asia Weekly Roundup. In this week’s programme:

  • encouraging new legislation in Sindh Province in Pakistan, banning child marriage under 18-years of age.
  • disturbing footage of police torture in Jammu and Kashmir with a report of India’s “gangsters in uniform”.
  • talk with prominent Indian social activist Harsh Mander about the serious violence that rocked western Assam earlier this month including some shocking footage shot by a survivor in one of the worst affected villages.
  • Back in Pakistan’s Punjab province, fake police encounter killings continue. This time, however, one of the victims was still alive and desperately crying for help when he was dumped at the morgue.
  • Trigger-happy security personnel in Papua, Indonesia, have injured several civilians when police opened fire on protesters.
  • Rule of Law in Bangladesh, as the notorious Rapid Action Battalion is accused of further abductions and murders.
  • Finally, in Voices of Survivors this week, courageous journalist Tongam Rina from Arunachal Pradesh, India. Tongam Rina was shot and critically injured in 2012.

The AHCR welcomes both human rights feeds to be considered for weekly news bulletin and your suggestions to improve the news channel. Please write to news[at]ahrc.asia.

UN Mission in Central African Republic Concerned About Reported Human Rights Violations By Rebel Groups

August 1, 2013

The United Nations political mission in the Central African Republic [CAR] is concerned about purported human rights violations in the country. A spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told journalists in New York on the 24th of July that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the CAR, Babacar Gaye, met yesterday with local human rights defenders and NGOs, who informed him of systematic killings of civilians, rape and other violations by soldiers from the Séléka coalition. Violence erupted in December 2012 when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks.  A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized Bangui in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee. Meanwhile, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, known by the acronym BINUCA, condemned last week of reports of multiple extrajudicial executions accompanied by torture and mutilation. Among the identified victims is Ngombet Jerome, an accountant at the Association of Women Lawyers of Central AFJC, a local NGO. “These executions were carried on, in all likelihood, at routine checks in the open countryside and in the city of Bangui,” BINUCA said in a statement. BINUCA also called on authorities to immediately open an investigation to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and to continue the process of securing Bangui, the statement added. Speaking publicly earlier this month, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos urged national authorities to urgently re-establish the rule of law so that assistance and access can continue unimpeded, warning that the political crisis gripping CAR has affected its entire population of 4.6 million.

via allAfrica.com: Central African Republic: UN Mission Concerned About Reported Human Rights Violations By Rebel Groups.

 

A balanced post on how the US should balance its human rights record

March 23, 2012

Under the title “A Diminished Force for Good” Tom Parker of USA AI posted on 21 March 2012 a piece that – in a frank way – argues that the US should act with regard to its own human rights problems in order to regain international influence. It takes the lead role of the US in getting a resolution on Sri Lanka (successfully) passed in the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week and contrasts it with how the US has dealt with human rights abuses in its own ambit.

As Amnesty’s recent report Locked Away: Sri Lanka’s security detainees makes clear, human rights abuses still continue to this day in Sri Lanka. Instances of arbitrary and illegal detention have been widely reported, as have acts of torture and extrajudicial execution. Tom Parker says “I know from my own personal experience of working with Sri Lankan human rights defenders that the climate of fear in which opponents of the Rajapaksa regime operate is all-pervasive. The situation in Sri Lanka is grave and the intervention of the United Nations is much needed. .However, welcome though the US-sponsored resolution is, it is greatly undermined by the embarrassing gap that exists between US rhetoric and US behavior. Critics have not been slow in pointing this out.”…”The complete failure of the United States to address the deliberate use of torture as an integral part of the War on Terror hugely diminishes its ability to put pressure on other states to adhere to human rights standards that it itself has ignored. And we are all the poorer for it.”

The alacrity with which the US Army has responded to the tragic deaths of sixteen Afghan villagers in Zangabad, Afghanistan, earlier this month demonstrates that accountability is nothing to be afraid of. Indeed it can be a powerful force for good….. The US is one of the [governments that actively promote human rights] but its influence has been greatly diminished over the past decade because of its reluctance to meaningfully address its own, very public, failings in this regard….We need a strong US voice speaking out for human rights in the world, but that can’t happen without real accountability at home.”

for the full text see: A Diminished Force for Good.