WITNESS has team members based in Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Senegal, Turkey, and the United States. We create local impact in collaboration with grassroots activists, journalists, lawyers, NGOs, and media makers then, we apply what we learn at a local level to the wider landscape of human rights video. AFRICA – SUB SAHARAN REGION
We’re supporting groups across Africa using video for evidence to prosecute war crimes, election monitoring, combating gender-based violence and discrimination against LGBTQ communities, and documenting abuse by extractive industries.
Working with an international network, WITNESS has translated our free resources, including those on archiving video, documenting forced evictions, filming acts of hate, and filming with a mobile phone into Khmer, Burmese, Thai, Hindi and Vietnamese, with more translations in development.
Mobilizing the public in documenting elections + protests
We currently have regional teams based in Mexico City, Mexico and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil supporting local activists in their fight against extractive industries, police violence, and for indigenous rights.
Projects and partners include:
Exposing police violence in Rio’s favelas
We are working closely with communities to use video and demand accountability for police violence in Rio’s favelas. Recently, we helped the public prosecutor use social media video as evidence in court against a staged murder of a young boy and are amplifying the call to stop the killings of black youth in the favelas.
WITNESS is working on All Eyes on the Amazonwith an international coalition that includes HIVOS and Greenpeace; our support and training enables communities to hold parties responsible by collecting evidence for advocacy and evidence at national and international venues and courts. This coalition will use drones, phones and satellite imagery to collect evidence of environmental and human rights crimes. In turn, this evidence will be used for advocacy and accountability in front of international venues and courts.
The 2011 Arab Spring created an online, interconnected revolution that heavily utilized mobile filming. WITNESS builds on this evolving network by training activists on filming, advocacy, and security in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region.
Projects and partners include:
Building a database of war crimes
We have been supporting the independent organization, Syrian Archive, to create a database of verified, contextualized videos from Syria’s ongoing war. Their database and reports have become critical resources for lawyers, journalists, and researchers investigating human rights crimes committed during the conflict.
Investigating perpetrator video
News reports from the last 5+ years have shown increasing amount of perpetrator-shot video of human rights abuses. The videos serve as propaganda and intimidation tactics, but are also shaping the practice of extraterritorial jurisdiction. We are reviewing hundreds of hours of perpetrator video—filmed mostly in Syria—in order to study patterns of use and sharing, build case studies on verification, and enhance our ethical guidelines. Drawing upon our knowledge and guidance on perpetrator-sourced media, we aim to share our learnings for use by the wider activist, legal and media communities.
Documenting abuse in closed societies
Western Saharais one of the world’s last remaining colonies—human rights violations are routinely committed by the occupying country, Morocco, against its indigenous Sahrawi population. Yet very rarely do reports, footage, testimony or other evidence of abuse emerge and come to the attention of the international community due to severe restrictions on media.Watching Western Sahara provides curated and contextualized eyewitness videos so that reporters and human rights monitors can better understand and document the human rights issues that Sahrawis face today. Learnings from this and other innovative documentation projects are featured in our Curate For Justice blog series.
Establishing networks and distributing resources
Our team builds online tools, supports independent journalists, and develops media literacy training resources that aim to improve citizen journalism and limit the spread of rumors and misinformation.
Our Brooklyn-based U.S. team focuses on the nationwide issues of police accountability, immigrant rights, indigenous rights, and LGBTQ rights.
Projects and partners include:
Caught on Camera: Police Violence in the U.S.
Our review of police violence cases explores the role of video in attaining accountability and points to ways that filmers, advocates, journalists, and the justice system can use video effectively.
Profiling the Police
WITNESS partnered with the community-based organization El Grito de Sunset Park to study over 300 videos from their collection of eyewitness videos depicting police misconduct and abuse spanning a dozen years. Going beyond headline-grabbing instances of police violence, our project “Profiling the Police” aims to expose the day-to-day pressure, surveillance and harassment that residents in heavily-policed neighborhoods—most often people of color—like Sunset Park face on a regular basis.
The project produced initial analysis from the videos we reviewed, a model database structure, a framework for reporting on officers repeatedly involved in misconduct, and toolkit to share our learnings and recommended tools with other communities, activist groups, lawyers and journalists working with collections of police violence videos.
Documenting Abuses Against Immigrants
We are responding to recent spikes in arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants with new resources like our Filming ICE tip sheet and a webinar series with the Immigrant Defense Project. The webinars address the specific legal issues faced by undocumented immigrants and the rights of activists fighting for immigrant rights.
Our Eyes on ICE project offers an extensive selection of resources, articles and case studies around the use of video documentation of abuses against immigrants.
Video as Evidence: Documenting Standing Rock
We worked with groups defending Sioux lands from the Dakota Access pipeline construction, tailoring our Video as Evidence field guide to support the documentation of environmental destruction and of police abuse at Standing Rock. The WITNESS Media Lab also released a groundbreaking report, “Eyes in the Sky: Drones at Standing Rock and the Next Frontier of Human Rights Video.”
A WITNESS Media Lab report that explores how eyewitness videos provide new sources of data on the prevalence of transphobic violence.
Check out all of the resources we’ve tailored for activists in the U.S.