The Human Rights Center seeks to bridge the worlds of academia, policy, and activism by conducting empirical research on emerging issues in international justice and humanitarian law.
By engaging with vulnerable people worldwide and tapping the academic and human resources of UC Berkeley, the Human Rights Center turns targeted research on war crimes and other serious violations of international law into effective action to further justice.
Whether working with refugees on the Thai-Burma border, people with disabilities in Nicaragua, survivors of the drug war in Mexico, or detained immigrants in Arizona, the Human Rights Center’s student fellows contribute their energy and expertise across many disciplines. In turn, they receive the best kind of real-world education—one that transforms them into lifelong advocates for human rights.
War and political violence often separate families for years and, in some cases, decades. The Human Rights Center partners with the Salvadoran human rights organization Pro-Búsqueda to use cutting-edge forensic science to reunite families that were torn apart during El Salvador’s civil war. Together we are helping mothers and fathers find their sons and daughters, many of whom were forcibly taken from them as infants, and creating models for other communities similarly ravaged by war.
Promoting accountability for sexual violence
Political unrest and armed conflicts expose thousands of men, women and children to sexual and gender-based violence each year. Many survivors have no access to justice or fear pursuing it out of fear for themselves and their families. When survivors do go to police stations and hospitals they often encounter demeaning procedures and inadequate care. Our hands-on research and advocacy are helping courts, local human rights groups, and governments respond more effectively and compassionately to survivors. Our work may take place in Uganda, Thailand, or Haiti, but the lessons learned are universal.
Developing responses to atrocities
Witnesses are the lifeblood of war crimes trials. Yet testifying requires great courage, especially when witnesses are well aware that perpetrators still walk the streets of their villages and towns. Our Atrocity Response Program is helping the International Criminal Court and local courts better protect and address the diverse needs of victims and witnesses. We are also facilitating the use of innovative technologies to improve war crimes investigations to increase the likelihood that war criminals and other human rights violators will be held accountable for their crimes.
Telling untold stories
The Human Rights Center has worked at the heart of some of the world’s most troubling conflicts—from Bosnia to eastern Congo. HRC researchers have approached these conflicts with the rigorous methodologies of social scientists and the fact-finding sensibilities of journalists, writing books and articles that tell untold stories and spark action. From The Guantanámo Effect: Exposing the Consequences of U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices to the forthcoming Hiding in Plain Sight: The Politics of Pursuing War Criminals in the 21st Century, the HRC brings abuses to light and promotes global accountability.