Benetech’s Human Rights Program
Around the world there are people whose fundamental human rights are being violated on a daily basis. Whether the victims are harmed, disappeared or killed, this abuse can shatter lives, families and even entire communities. And sadly, the perpetrators are too often not held accountable, either because people are afraid to come forward to tell their stories or the records of their stories have been confiscated, stolen or lost.
To change this outcome, advocates and human rights fieldworkers urgently needed a way to securely gather and store sensitive data—one that could also help them review and share their information as needed. Unfortunately, businesses weren’t pursuing a solution to this issue because the technical work would require significant capital without generating significant profit. Benetech founded the Human Rights Program to harness the power of technology to meet this pressing need. Today, the technology and training Benetech provides keep human rights defenders safe and have become critically important in larger efforts to pursue reform, seek justice and begin the process of reconciliation.
At Benetech, we believe that every abuse of human rights should be accounted for so that the victims—or the family and community of the victims—can eventually find peace. To us, every story matters because every story is a tool for justice.
What We Do
Martus is an open source software application that allows users anywhere in the world to securely gather and organize information about human rights violations. The application was developed by Benetech and is made available at no cost for human rights defenders.
Martus automatically encrypts the information and copies it to a network of secure servers around the world. The system is designed so that only the user who created it—not even Benetech—is given access to the encrypted data. In threatening situations, users can delete all Martus data on their computer (along with the Martus program itself). Since the data is backed up, users can retrieve their information when and where it is safe to do so. Martus helps those who collect this valuable human rights information stay safe, and it protects the identities of those who would face violence and repression for telling their stories.
Want to learn more about Martus?
- The Martus Concept, Our Theory of Change and the Future of Martus
– Blog posts and media coverage of Martus
– Visit the Martus website and download Martus
Global Trainings on Martus
An essential and unique aspect of our program’s work is the network of staff and partners we have available to meet with human rights groups as needed. Our Field Team has trained hundreds of human rights groups and individuals, in over 40 countries, on Martus configuration and use. Often, those who need Martus the most are also those who distrust technology because it’s being used to spy on them or help cover up abuse. These face-to-face trainings are critical opportunities—they not only provide the necessary technical skills, but also allow us to build trust with our users and field questions that they will only ask in person.
Human Rights Documentation and Capacity-Building Trainings
It’s important to recognize that while human rights defenders need a tool to securely document abuse, many also need training on how to structure and manage a documentation project—and to keep themselves safe while doing so. That’s why our Field Team developed in-person training modules for our users that cover digital information management, safety and documentation best practices and more. These train-the-trainer sessions help set our users up for success and empower them to increase their capacity without jeopardizing security.