This past July, Berkeley Law Human Rights Center, or HRC, partnered with the International Center for Transitional Justice, or ICTJ, to train Yemeni field monitors and investigators seeking to address human rights violations in Yemen’s civil war.
Forty-nine Yemeni investigators learned how to utilize open-source methods to analyze digital information over a five-day program held in Amman, Jordan, according to Nour El Bejjani Noureddine, head of ICTJ’s Yemen Program.
“Throughout years of brutal civil war and until today the people of Yemen continue to experience widespread violations to human rights committed by all parties to the conflict,” El Bejjani Noureddine said in an email.
The war in Yemen began in 2014 and has resulted in more than 350,000 deaths and four million people displaced, El Bejjani Noureddine said.
She noted that the war has weakened Yemen’s government and judicial system, compelling the ICTJ to support reform efforts and the National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights, or NCIAVHR, “the only local accountability mechanism in Yemen,” El Bejjani Noureddine said.
According to Brian Nguyen, research manager for HRC, Yemen is split up into areas of control by the internationally recognized government, Houthi rebels, and the Jihadists. As a result, Yemeni investigators limited access to the different regions and to critical information concerning human rights violations.
“I fear that after all this suffering that the Yemeni people have passed through and all this huge number of violations, that the victims whose rights were violated will not be repaired or compensated, as well as that those who committed these violations will not be held accountable,” said Amro Thabet, field monitor of the NCIAVHR, in an email translated from Arabic to English.
To combat issues accessing information, the program taught the investigators representing the 22 governorates of Yemen how to use open-source investigation methods to take advantage of digitally available information, Nguyen said.
Nguyen, who taught the program, noted that open source investigations are becoming an “increasingly powerful technique” as the era of the internet and digital information progresses.
“The use of digital tools in transitional justice is becoming increasingly important and one of ICTJ’s current priorities is to adapt transitional justice to this ongoing digital transformation,” El Bejjani Noureddine said in the email.
Investigators were taught how to look for visual documentation of human rights abuses using social media, as well as how to access satellite imagery and databases for evidence in the form of writing, photos or videos, according to Nguyen.
Thabet, who noted his fear that neglecting human rights violations would exacerbate the problem, said he will use his training to obtain evidence and demand reparations for victims.
“What prompted me to seek justice is the human impulse within us, the culture of human rights and the principles of justice and equality that we learned and worked on in the National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights,” Thabet said in the email. “We can all be exposed to these violations, and if we fail to oppose and reject them, we may one day become victims of these violations.”