Justice Watch Archive: A new era of monitoring human rights violations in Egypt
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In the launch webinar for the Justice Watch Archive on Monday, the Committee for Justice (CFJ) said that since its establishment, those concerned with the human rights situation in Egypt have faced many obstacles related to accessing information and data on human rights violations in the country, and the evidence and documents they support, which necessitated finding a solution to effectively deal with this problem that plagues the human rights community in Egypt as a whole.
To find a solution, CFJ held workshops and dialogue sessions with its local and international partners and consultants in the field of human rights, technology and digital security, which concluded in the summer of 2018 that there was a need to unify statistics and data between those partners and make them available through a digital platform. Indeed, several tools have been tried, and the Uwazi platform, provided by HURIDOCS, was preferred.
This came during the speech of CFJ’s Executive Director, Ahmed Mefreh, at the inauguration ceremony of the Justice Watch Archive platform on Monday, March 29, 2021, in which he indicated that the current version of the platform is the beta version to test the Uwazi tool.
“The platform is an innovative and secure tool, designed for organizing, analyzing, and processing data and information; to produce statistics and patterns on human rights violations in Egypt, foremost of which are the data on deaths in prisons and detention centres and violations of due process,” said Mefreh.
CFJ explained that, through the launch of the first version of the Justice Watch Archive, it seeks to move away from the culture of indiscriminate accusations by instead presenting analysis, documented evaluation, and scrutiny of the practices of the Egyptian authorities, issuing recommendations to Egyptian authorities related to legislation, practices and policies; to deal more appropriately with human rights issues.
Amr Magdi, Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, and one of the speakers at the event said: “We are working without any official data on human rights violations by the Egyptian government, which is working to conceal them. Therefore, this project needs to continue and include more cases and victims, as it encourages Egyptian civil society organizations to provide more of this information.”
The information available on the first version of the Justice Watch Archive platform includes information of detainees in 99 cases of military trials for civilians, with a total of 1,282 detainees, and monitoring of 7 military courts (where civilians are being tried).
The platform also includes information on deaths in Egyptian detention centres from June 30 2013, until the end of 2020, with a total of 1063 cases, and information about 281 detention centres (where political detainees are held), and about 15 cases of human rights defenders.
CFJ said that the information that will be made available through the platform upon its launch is the first stage of the information that it will provide, pointing out that by the end of 2021, it seeks to provide about 5,000 cases, as well as information on more than 500 detention centers at the level of Egypt (official or unofficial).
In her speech at the launch ceremony, Anastasia, HURIDOCS Program Officer, indicated that her company’s role was merely a host for the platform, and that it was the CFJ’s technical team that had done a lot of work, saying: “They have put tremendous effort into using UWAZI together this important and sensitive information in one place, in a way that is organized, systematized and easily accessible to the public and relevant stakeholders.”
Anastasia added: “We believe that this project is very unique, we’re not aware, as of now for any other effort that is doing the same type of work, and we believe that this tremendous effort by CFJ to gather this data is a great contribution to the human rights community.”
CFJ stated that the launch of the first version of the archive comes within the framework of the organization’s policy of fighting impunity, as one of the tools of transitional justice and dealing with the past.
“We are launching the first version of the Justice Watch Archive platform to start a new phase of work related to monitoring human rights violations in Egypt, especially those related to the status of justice, making the information related to this available to the public and to specialists, which we think will greatly help in communicating information in a timely fashion, which will help get acquainted with the victims and their stories closely, as well as shedding more light on the perpetrators and the places where their crimes were committed,” Mefreh added.
The platform allows searching the name of the victim, the place of detention or the number of the case and the court, in both Arabic and English, while providing quick statistics on the information in each form, and displaying those forms on an interactive map, with the possibility of using objective filters to classify data and search results.
The CFJ aims from the Justice Watch Archive to expand the scope of joint action to preserve a documented archive for human rights organizations and other sources of documentation. It also aims to enhance learning, exchange, and participation in the implementation of memory and archive preservation projects, methods of verification, recording, documentation, and addressing human rights violations, to strengthen the community of those interacting with transitional justice issues, and to facilitate the performance of their mission.