Free Software to Securely Track Human Rights Violations

Hans G. Ehrbar ehrbar at
Sun Mar 9 07:59:31 MST 2003

This is from

Martus has the potential to dramatically improve global
human rights by bringing efficiency and security to the
storage and retrieval of human rights abuse information.

The Martus Project -- Martus is the Greek word for witness
-- is a new concept that will introduce technology tools
with the potential to dramatically improve global human
rights by bringing efficiency and security to the storage
and retrieval of human rights abuse information.

The problem is this: Human rights groups throughout the
world gather and collect massive amounts of violation
data. Much of it never reaches its full potential or
intended audience. Instead, a large part of this information
is lost due to confiscation or destruction, neglect, passage
of time or because the grassroots organizations which
collect the data lack the resources or infrastructure to
document and communicate violations systematically and

Lost information is a problem with far-reaching
implications. Workers in this sector agree that timely,
accurate delivery of this information is -- quite simply --
one of the most powerful weapons in the battle against human
rights violations.

The Martus response is logical -- and achievable. Benetech
built an information storage and retrieval system based on
client software and Internet-based infrastructure. These
tools will ensure that the documentation of human rights
violations is safeguarded and disseminated. This, in turn,
will speed up the response to violations, and in some cases,
prevent additional abuses.

Martus is not an activist organization or an urgent action
network. It offers a system and infrastructure that
addresses the specific technological needs of the human
rights community to increase its effectiveness.

The Martus system will:

1.  Use built-in encryption to safeguard data;

2.  Enable text-based bulletins about violations to be
created quickly;

3.  Securely back up this information and replicate it in
multiple locations to protect against loss;

4.  Provide consumers of human rights information with
access to the non-confidential portions of bulletins; and

5.  Provide software in an Open Source format, encouraging
easy code review to foster an atmosphere of trust and

Following the development phase, Martus is being introduced
to the human rights community over a three-year period. By
employing a 'train the trainers' training method, the
community of Martus users will grow exponentially each year
and the reliance on professional outreach by Martus staff
will decrease.

Martus has the potential to play a critical role in the
increased effectiveness of the human rights community over
the next decade. By providing much needed IT infrastructure,
Martus will significantly leverage the limited resources
available and assist in the reduction of violations and the
eventual accountability of violators. What makes Martus

o Martus is bringing technology tools to an information
processing field -- human rights -- based on the actual
needs and skills of its member groups and practitioners.  o
Martus is a prototype for developing shared technology
infrastructure for the nonprofit community, created by
technology-savvy members of the nonprofit community.

o Martus can be easily adapted to the needs of related
social justice advocates on issues from domestic violence
and gay and lesbian rights to asylum, religious persecution,
and environmental monitoring.

o A modest technology investment can be leveraged across
hundreds of nonprofit groups.

o Benetech has a proven track record of building projects
that reach between technology capabilities and social needs,
bridging the gap between possibilities and results.

Martus is a trademark of Beneficent Technology, Inc.
(Benetech). Copyright 2002-2003 Beneficent Technology,

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