Celebrating 10 Years of Improving Legal Rights Worldwide
In the spring of 2000, Karen Tse, then a student at Harvard Divinity School who had formerly worked as a legal advisor with the United Nations in Cambodia and as a defense attorney in San Diego, submitted an outlandish research paper to Professor David Little. It outlined a project for improving legal rights in developing countries by partnering with the local legal community: not only defense lawyers, but also police, prosecutors and judges — the very people usually blamed for problems.
Professor Little’s four-word comment scrawled atop the paper — “It can be done!” — set in motion an extraordinary journey for Ms. Tse and the organization she founded, International Bridges to Justice. From its cramped, threadbare office in Geneva, IBJ started legal-rights awareness campaigns in China, against the odds and in disregard of the naysayers. As the Chinese program grew and gained notoriety, defenders from elsewhere petitioned IBJ to set up activities in their countries.
Cautious not to become overstretched, IBJ rose to the challenge. Programs in Vietnam and Cambodia were followed by ones in India, Burundi, Rwanda and even Zimbabwe. Today, IBJ assists defenders in over a dozen countries. IBJ’s unique approach of partnering with governments, supporting the local legal community and applying lessons learned in different countries, was decisive. In each country, an infrastructure of legal rights is being established, and a strong network of defenders is improving the plight of many people every day.
A decade after she put forward her bold plan, Ms. Tse articulates her vision even more potently: “To end torture in this century.” Just as the 19th century abolished slavery and the 20th century put a rest to colonialism, the first century of the new millennium can be the one that eradicates torture as a state-sanctioned police and judicial tool. It is as seemingly outlandish, yet achievable, as IBJ’s initial goal. In the words of Professor Little (who today serves on IBJ’s board of directors), “It can be done!”
We invite you to celebrate IBJ’s first decade of accomplishment with us, our local partners, and the thousands of people that our activities have helped. And we welcome you to be a part of our work, by supporting IBJ with whatever resources you can, be it personal or financial. Information on how to get involved is online, as is a method to make a tax-deductible donation.