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No Safe Space study just released: Severe physical and mental health effects of widespread use of tear gas in refugee camps

As the use of tear gas by Israeli Security Forces (ISF) in Aida camp in Bethlehem increases to an almost daily occurrence following Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on 6 December 2017, University of California researchers report on the negative physical and mental health effects of chemical crowd control weapons on daily life among Palestine refugees. The No Safe Space: Health Consequences of Tear Gas Exposure Among Palestine Refugees study is the first to analyze the effects of the use of tear gas in Aida and Dheisheh camps.

The study—conducted by Dr. Rohini Haar from the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and Dr. Jess Ghannam from the University of California, San Francisco—found widespread and indiscriminate use of tear gas in Aida camp.

“We found that the constant and unpredictable use of tear gas in Palestine refugee camps has a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of residents—especially the most vulnerable, including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people already in ill health,” said Haar, a researcher at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and a doctor with Physicians for Human Rights. Read more and download the report.

Freccero writes about sexual violence perpetrated against boys and men 

In an article in Reproductive Health Matters, HRC’s Julie Freccero—with co-authors Sarah Chynoweth and Heleen Touquet—writes about the exploitation of and sexual violence perpetrated against  men and boys in conflict and emergency settings. “For unaccompanied boys, the issue has reached new urgency as the number of registered unaccompanied children—the majority of whom are male—has risen five-fold globally since 2010,” writes Freccero.  “The refugee and migrant crisis in Europe in particular has drawn global attention to the sexual exploitation and abuse of unaccompanied adolescent boys, who comprised 89 percent of the 63,300 unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in the European Union in 2016.” Read the story:

Sexual violence against men and boys in conflict and forced displacement implications for the health sector

Human Trafficking, Exploitation, and Health: a new PLOS Collection

How do we help prevent the sexual exploitation of migrant and refugee boys in Greece? HRC’s Julie Freccero and colleagues Kim Thuy Seelinger, Audrey Whiting and Khaled Alrabe tackle this question in PLOS Medicine. Read it here!

UC Berkeley researchers issue first study of novel anti-trafficking efforts in LA that could be model for the nation

UC Berkeley researchers have released the first study of Los Angeles County’s novel anti-trafficking efforts—evaluating a model that could be replicated nationwide to improve investigations of human trafficking and provide support for victims.

Researchers from the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law, in partnership with the International Human Rights Law Clinic, studied the first year of the Human Trafficking Bureau of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, a member of the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, which brings together investigators, service providers, and prosecutors to investigate–and stop—human trafficking. The study is the first comprehensive look at the Bureau, which was established in 2015.

Researchers interviewed 45 federal, state, and county investigators, service providers, and prosecutors for Building Trust: Perspectives on a Victim-Centered Approach to Human Trafficking Investigations in Los Angeles County.

“The Los Angeles County’s anti-trafficking model is laying the groundwork for improving care for victims and prosecuting traffickers,” said Eric Stover, faculty director of the Human Rights Center and an author of the study. “But more resources are needed to ensure the success of this effort.”

Read more! 

Just released: Digital Verification Corps Student Summit report 

The Human Rights Center and Amnesty International hosted the first Digital Verification Corps student summit in June 2017. Participants included students from Essex, Toronto, Pretoria, Cambridge, and Berkeley as well as leading open source experts from around the world. We evaluated the first year of university-based open source labs, conducted training, discussed next steps, and built community. Read the Summit Report.

Was the poet Pablo Neruda murdered?

HRC Senior Research Fellow Cristián Orrego Benavente (our former Forensic Program Director) coordinated the Genomics/Proteomics Panel of Experts that analyzed the remains of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and determined that he did not die from cancer, as officially stated. The forensic experts found a potentially deadly bacteria in Neruda’s remains, but could not yet confirm its origins. The panel also included HRC Senior Research Fellow Charles Brenner and Berkeley Public Health’s George Sensabaugh and John Swartzberg. Read more in the New York Times.

UN High Commissioner and Microsoft President talk free speech in event moderated by HRC’s Alexa Koenig

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Microsoft President Brad Smith discussed technology, human rights, and freedom of expression at UC Berkeley’s International House on September 28 as part of the Haas School of Business Dean’s Speaker Series. The Human Rights Center’s Executive Director Alexa Koenig moderated. 

Human Rights Center hires Vitorte as first Deputy Director

The Human Rights Center has hired Molly Vitorte as its first Deputy Director to provide leadership and expertise at a pivotal moment in its history. Vitorte was most recently UC Berkeley’s Director of Development for Undergraduate Education.

“This is full circle for the Human Rights Center,” said Faculty Director Eric Stover. “Molly was our first graduate student researcher more than two decades ago. She helped lay the groundwork for many of our current projects. We’re excited that she will help us lead this next phase of our work.”

Missing Peace Young Scholars tackle research gaps on sexual violence and exploitation

The Missing Peace Initiative’s Young Scholars met in San Francisco in July to discuss sexual violence and exploitation. The Missing Peace Initiative was established in 2012 by the United States Institute of Peace, Women in International Security, Human Rights Center , and the Peace Research Institute Oslo. The Young Scholars are Ph.D. candidates or new professors.

Read Maddie Boyd and Dylan Saba’s piece about this year’s workshop. 

Global summit on open source human rights investigations convened at UC Berkeley

Amnesty International’s Scott Edwards joins the Human Rights Center’s Alexa Koenig in opening the summit on Monday evening. Photo by Monica Haulman.

The Human Rights Center and Amnesty International co-hosted a summit on open source human rights investigations June 26-29, bringing together students from Pretoria, Essex, Toronto, and Berkeley and global experts. More about the summit: 

World’s next generation of human rights investigators meets at Berkeley (Gretchen Kell, UC Berkeley, Public Affairs) 

As ‘fake news’ flies, UC Berkeley students verify and document (Emily Deruy, The Mercury News)

Global student summit on open source human rights investigations convened at UC Berkeley (Andrea Lampros, Human Rights Center Medium)

Watch a brief video about the summit!