New Software Provides Secure Worldwide Tracking and Documentation of Human Rights Abuses
The Benetech Initiative and The Asia Foundation team up to deliver The Martus™ Human Rights Bulletin System
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Palo Alto, CA, January 15, 2003: The Benetech® Initiative, a Silicon Valley nonprofit, today announced the release of The Martus Human Rights Bulletin System, an open source technology tool designed to assist human rights organizations in collecting, safeguarding, organizing and disseminating information about human rights abuses. Through a partnership with The Asia Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit working on the ground in Asia, Martus will first be implemented in the Philippines to provide better resources to groups combating hundreds of human rights violations per year.
Currently, much of the violation and abuse information gathered by grassroots human rights groups is lost to confiscation, destruction, or neglect, making it difficult or impossible for prosecutors, truth commissions and others to use the information as evidence to hold the perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable for many of their crimes. The Martus software enables grassroots NGOs to securely store their records on off-site servers with easy-to-use software, preserving crucial evidence for research, investigation and prosecutions.
"Grassroots NGOs told us it was essential that the software be easy to use, so we modeled it after the simple interface of email," said Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech.
In the Philippines, The Asia Foundation is sponsoring and facilitating the first implementation and training of the Martus software in the 22 offices of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, and a network of domestic human rights organizations. In February, the software will be installed on Internet-connected workstations, allowing these organizations to securely document and disseminate information on human rights cases for the first time, which in turn will facilitate and improve the process of investigation, prosecution, assistance, and advocacy for victims of human rights violations.
"Information technology has the potential to dramatically improve the ability of human rights groups to manage information, giving them evidence to prosecute perpetrators,” said Dr. Steven Rood, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation in the Philippines. “The Martus software provides a platform for nongovernmental human rights advocates to communicate with the Commission on Human Rights in a secure manner, and will provide detailed information to help press for broader reforms.”
The software was designed in consultation with human rights groups and experts worldwide, including Dr. Patrick Ball of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the world’s leading human rights statisticians and Senior Advisor to the project. Beta testing took place in Guatemala, Russia, Sri Lanka and the US.
Aspiration, an organization specializing in nonprofit technology implementation, has supported the development and introduction of the Martus system. Jonathan Peizer, Aspiration's President, says, "The Martus software is essential for human rights groups working to document abuses. We are now working actively to help support its deployment."
Future applications of the Martus software for social justice groups include monitoring other issues like violence against women, human trafficking, environmental destruction and hate crimes. The software and its source code are available for download at www.martus.org.
The Benetech Initiative is a Silicon Valley nonprofit that develops sustainable, technology-based solutions to address pressing social challenges in areas such as disability, human rights, education and literacy. Many beneficial technologies have compelling social applications that are not developed because such efforts do not meet for-profit investors’ financial expectations. Benetech specifically pursues endeavors with a strong social, rather than financial, rate of return on investment, bringing commercial technology and private sector management techniques to bear in creating innovative, non-traditional solutions to challenging social issues. More information on Benetech and its projects can be found at www.benetech.org or by calling (650) 644-3400.
About The Asia Foundation
The Asia Foundation (www.asiafoundation.org) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, and open Asia-Pacific region. The Foundation supports programs in Asia that help improve governance and law, economic reform and development, women's participation, and international relations. Drawing on nearly 50 years of experience in Asia, the Foundation collaborates with private and public partners to support leadership and institutional development, technical assistance, exchanges, policy research, and educational materials.
With a network of 17 offices throughout Asia, an office in Washington, D.C., headquarters in San Francisco, the Foundation addresses these issues on both a country and regional level. The Asia Foundation has a proven track record of success. In just the past fiscal year of 2002, the Foundation provided grants, educational materials, and other resources of more than $50 million to 21 countries in Asia and through its Books for Asia program has distributed over 750,000 books to over 4,000 schools and other regional educational institutions. During the past five years, the Foundation has supported more than 800 public interest NGOs.
The Asia Foundation has been working in the Philippines since 1954 and has a trusted network of partners. With funding from the U.S. State Department, The Asia Foundation is supporting this first implementation of the Martus system in the Philippines.
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