April 25, 2011, 9:14 am
By The Carter Center
Listen to Sophie Borel talk about why the alert system was established.
Click image below to watch video.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, human rights activists often face intimidation and threats of violence, a situation expected to worsen as November 2011 national elections approach.
“I often get calls in the evening or at night from human rights defenders who have been threatened and who are scared,” said Sophie Borel, field office director for The Carter Center in DR Congo. “Last month, we had to hide one person in a safe location as he was too scared to go back to his house.”
The problem caught the world’s attention last June, when prominent Congolese activist Floribert Chebeya was murdered.
In the aftermath of that event, The Carter Center partnered with local Congolese NGOs to create an alert system for human rights defenders. If someone feels threatened, they send a message by phone, text, or e-mail to four of the 12 partner organizations, including the Center, and the groups convene to decide next steps.
“We will go to the defender’s house as a group and stay with them until the threat dies down,” said Borel. “The idea is that if we are more than one or two people around them, the threat will not be taken further. Not only do we provide support in terms of physical security, but the system also boosts the defenders’ morale; they know that both local groups and the international community are engaged and looking out for them.”
Center staff meet regularly with local partners to exchange information, analyze threats to defenders and journalists, and decide how best to minimize dangers faced.