The Martus Project Celebrates Ten Years of Secure Human Rights Documentation

By Benetech, posted on

Benetech, Human Rights Watch and WITNESS Jointly Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Martus Project by Imagining the Future of Human Rights Technological Innovation

Benetech, Human Rights Watch and WITNESS celebrate today ten years of Benetech’s tool for secure human rights information management. Martus (Greek for “witness”) is an open source, free software application that allows users anywhere in the world to securely gather and organize information about human rights violations.

“Ten years ago we realized that activists and human rights practitioners urgently needed a software tool to securely gather, comprehend and securely share sensitive accounts of human rights violations. Benetech founded its Human Rights Program and launched the Martus project to address this pressing need,” says Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO of Benetech. “Today, the technology and training that our Human Rights Program provides keep human rights defenders safe and have become critically important in large scale efforts to pursue reform, seek justice, and begin the process of reconciliation.”

In celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Martus project, Benetech, Human Rights Watch and WITNESS are hosting today in Palo Alto—home of Benetech—a joint panel discussion on the future of human rights technology. The panel features Enrique Piracés, Vice President of Benetech Human Rights Program, Iain Levine, Human Rights Watch Deputy Executive Director, and Sam Gregory, WITNESS Program Director. The moderator is Stephen Sonnenberg, Clinical Supervising Attorney and Lecturer in Law at the Stanford Law School.

“We are celebrating today Martus’ contribution to the global human rights movement,” says Piracés. Martus makes strong digital security accessible to human rights practitioners and since its deployment in 2003 the global human rights community has stored hundreds of thousands of records secured by properly implemented strong encryption. This secure database enables users to turn these first-hand accounts into evidence of abuse in order to advance their causes. “At Benetech, we’re expanding our efforts in support of the growing community involved in human rights advocacy, documentation, and fact-finding,” adds Piracés. “Our team is busy ensuring that the next generation of Martus is an ecosystem that harnesses the latest technologies, enhanced scalability and security, and an advanced training and outreach platform.”

“Technology offers great opportunities for the human rights movement,” notes Iain Levine, “but also creates enormous challenges, particularly for the security of our collaborators and information. Martus’ 10th anniversary provides an important occasion to take stock and think forward.”

As more and more people participate in human rights documentation, it’s critical to get the tools and skills in their hands to do it safely, ethically and effectively,” adds Sam Gregory. “At WITNESS we’re proud to see Martus incorporating InformaCam, a tool we have developed with the Guardian Project for human rights defenders to securely share visual media that is more trustworthy and easy to utilize for justice and accountability.”

About Benetech

Benetech was founded to be a different kind of tech company—a nonprofit—with a pure focus on developing technology for social good. Benetech has four main program areas—Human Rights, Global Literacy, Environment and Benetech Labs—and focuses on projects that offer the greatest social return on the funds invested. Jim Fruchterman, social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow, founded Benetech in 1989 and leads the organization as its President & CEO. Benetech has over 70 employees, the majority of whom work out of its headquarters in Silicon Valley. For more information, please visit

About Benetech Human Rights Program and Martus

Benetech Human Rights Program was founded to meet the pressing need of human rights practitioners to securely gather and protect sensitive information about human rights violations. The Program is anchored by Martus, a free, open source software tool developed by Benetech, which allows users anywhere in the world to securely gather and organize information about human rights violations. Martus automatically encrypts the information and copies it to a network of secure public servers. Available in eleven languages, Martus has been downloaded in over 100 countries. The Martus Field Team has provided in-person human rights documentation, capacity building, and Martus trainings to hundreds of groups and individuals in over 40 of those countries. For more information about Martus, please visit

About Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, Human Rights Watch gives voice to the oppressed and holds oppressors accountable for their crimes. Its rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For more than 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world. For more information, please visit


WITNESS is an international nonprofit organization that has been using the power of video and storytelling for 20 years to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video to fight injustice, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools that can pressure those in power or with power to act. By bringing often unseen images and seldom heard stories to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the public WITNESS catalyzes grassroots activism, political engagement, and lasting change. It was co-founded in 1992 by musician and human rights advocate Peter Gabriel, Human Rights First and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation. For more information, please visit