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Last updated: Version 2.3 (Updated May 15, 2018).

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Thursday, May 17 • 16:00 - 17:00
Naming, Shaming & Litigating: Access to Human Rights Information Online

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There is no LexisNexis, no Westlaw, no Quora for information on international human rights standards or their application to particular rights violations. And, human rights bodies themselves have not adopted consistent or comprehensive approaches to sharing information or interacting with stakeholders online. It used to be that victims of human rights abuses submitted their complaints to regional or universal human rights bodies – their last, best hope for accountability – and then… waited. The vagaries of postal mail, address changes, staff changes, and paper filing systems meant that some people never heard back and that others lost interest or hope. For their part, advocates have become accustomed to taking a hodge-podge approach to obtaining and sharing information, including using general search engines to conduct legal research.

These days, human rights oversight bodies are taking steps to make it easier for victims and their advocates to interact with them online, and to adopt technological solutions to some of these problems. And, civil society is working to make human rights bodies' decisions and other information available, and searchable, online. These developments illustrate the importance of information management in the human rights space, and underscore the work that remains to be done.

Human rights defenders (and oversight bodies) around the world need this information to frame and support their arguments, guide their strategic decisions, understand realities on the ground, and be successful in protecting human rights. When victims, advocates, or human rights courts rely on search engines to find legal documents and reports, they invariably get incomplete information, which can have serious consequences for justice and accountability. But, civil society organizations and human rights bodies generally lack the resources and expertise to build and maintain free, publicly accessible databases of their work for others’ reference. So how are practitioners addressing these challenges and what solutions are being explored?

Through a moderated discussion, panelists will identify the existing tools for human rights research online, new systems for managing and sharing document collections, the ways in which human rights defenders rely on these tools – and the difference access to information makes in their work, and the institutional challenges involved. We will also explore recent advances in human rights oversight bodies’ use of technology to receive, manage, and impart information, which include allowing human rights defenders to participate in public sessions via livestream and social media, online portals enabling victims to get status updates on their complaints, and online forms for sending or requesting information. Panelists will discuss the impact of these changes on victims and advocates, the expectations they raise, the security concerns and resources involved, and what remains to be done in order to ensure that human rights bodies are transparent, accessible, and responsive, while maintaining confidentiality and minimizing risks to human rights defenders and victims of abuses.

avatar for Lisa Reinsberg

Lisa Reinsberg

Executive Director, International Justice Resource Center
I founded the International Justice Resource Center, a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to improving advocates' access to information and practical guidance on using international human rights protections to bring about change. IJRC is building an online resource hub... Read More →

avatar for Kristin Antin

Kristin Antin

Director of Programmes, HURIDOCS
avatar for David Kaye

David Kaye

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and clinical professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law. 

Thursday May 17, 2018 16:00 - 17:00 EDT