MINELRES: Human Rights Tools newsletter: Good things come in threes!

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Feb 10 10:26:33 2007

Original sender: Human Rights Tools <editors@humanrightstools.org>

This newsletter covers three tools:
1. HuriSearch, the human rights search engine
2. The Universal Human Rights Index
3. What Convention?
4. Varia (some really good stuff in this section too!)

Dear readers,

First of all, we wish you the best of health and luck for 2007!

Good things come in threes. In this issue would like to introduce three
information and useful resources for human rights professionals:
"HuriSearch", the "Universal Human Rights Index", and also "What

1. HuriSearch, the human rights search engine

This search engine allows you to search over 3000 human rights websites:
in total over three million pages.

This content is always fresh, because HuriSearch indexes the content of
these 3000 websites every eight days for most websites, and every day
for the larger ones. You can test the "freshness" by doing a search for
a recent case that you are following: does it give good results?

As we know, the source of information is crucially important in human
rights work. HuriSearch makes it possible to focus searches on
information published in a particular country, by a particular type of
organization, by a specific organisation, or in a specific language.
Just to a first search, then look at the options in the right column of
the results page - you will be impressed!

HuriSearch also used articifial intelligence to analyse your search
results for keywords. It recognises terms which may be significant, such
as "police" or "refugees". You then click on a keyword, to access all
the results which mention it. You will also find these features on the
right column of the search results.

We contacted James Lawson, who is a HURIDOCS board member and the
initiator of HuriSearch:

Editors: James, why was it necessary to create HuriSearch? Doesn't
Google do the job?

James: "No I don't think google, or any of the major search engines do
the job well enough. The major commercial search engines tend to rank,
well known, northern based organisations at the top of their results
lists, with the more grassroots organisation's pages lost in the depths
never to be seen. I have the greatest admiration for the work carried
out by major NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to
name just two of the sites that frequently top results lists for human
rights searches, but there are literally thousands of human rights ngo?s
in the world, many working in extremely difficult conditions, who
produce valuable first hand information on events. Without the work of
these smaller NGOs, the major international NGOs would be much less
effective, as they rely on these partners in the field for much of their
information. HuriSearch allows journalists, activists and researchers to
discover documents and organisations that would otherwise go

Hurisearch was launched last December. HuriSearch is a HURIDOCS tool
(see http://www.huridocs.org). It comes in seven language interfaces
(including Arabic and Russian). And it can handle documents in 77
languages, and all kinds of alphabets.

2. The Universal Human Rights Index

The name is very long, and the interface could be more cheerful. But
make no mistake: this tool is simply fantastic, so make sure you
bookmark it in your favorites.

What does it do? It provides you with instant access to the observations
and recommendations of the expert bodies:
- the new Human Rights Council (since 2006)
- the seven Treaty Bodies which monitor the implementation of the core
international human rights treaties, including the work of all the
special rapporteurs, working groups and international experts (since

Better still, you can search all of these recommendations and
observations combining the following fields:
- both by region and by country
- by right: right to life, right to work, etc
- by cluster or rights: administration of justice, cultural rights, etc.
- by body: CAT, CRC, CEDAW. etc.
- by type of affected persons: internally displaced, rural women, street
children, etc.

So.... this means you do all kinds of useful searches:
- a very simple search, for example retrieve all the recommendations
which concern your country, and view them on the same page 
- a more complex search: all the recommendations concerning street
children in Asia, made by the CRC.

And if you want more than just the recommendations or observations, the
full text it comes from is just a click away!

Of course, on of the major advantages of this tool is that is makes it
very easy to see what the expert bodies have been saying to a particular
country, making it easier for civil society to monitor what exactly this
country is doing to improve its respect for human rights of its

We contacted Andrea Aebi, the project director, for her views on who
should be using this tool, and why.

Andrea replies: "The Universal Human Rights Index was primarily
conceived for diplomats negotiating at the Human Rights Council, human
rights experts in governments and national human rights institutions,
NGOs and universities. 
One of the main added values is to considerably accelerate access to
official UN documents. No need to read through hundreds of pages
anymore; with a few clicks, you will see what international experts
said, or did not say, about the implementation of each right in a
specific country or region. All countries are covered and all rights as
well as cross-cutting issues such as human rights and counter-terrorism
or human rights and structural adjustment.

Moreover, we believe the Index compiles objective and reliable
information. It comes from independent international bodies and experts
that are independent, and it is classified by rights, strictly following
the legal approach of the experts. We did not interpret this
information, we compiled it. Thus the Index can serve as a basis for
discussion on the human rights situation in the world, for instance in
the debates of the Human Rights Council. "

UHRI was developed by the University of Bern, Switzerland (Institute of
Public Law) and  the University of Montreal (LexUM).

3. What Convention?

This database also provides access to the text of treaties and
conventions, and information on ratifications. Its not exactly as new as
the other two, but is also rather good.

We must admit we really like this little database, because it can do
some really nice things:
- you can can get a list of all the treaties signed by a particular
country, on about a particular domain or topic
- if a country has signed some reservations in a treaty, it will tell
you in bold and you can click to see those reservations
- it also gives you the list of countries which have ratified each

And best of all: you can actually search for individual articles from
treaties, also by domain and by treaty. For example:
- all the articles concerning disabled persons, or education, or fair
trials (topic/issue)

- all the article about indigenous peoples (domain), from treaties
signed by Russia (country)

"What Convention" comes in English, French, and Spanish versions, which
is very nice. But if you want Russian, Arabic, or Chinese, then the best
is to visit the good old Minnesota human rights library:

This resource was launched by Mandat International last year
(http://www.mandint.org/). We have spoken with them, and they have some
really exciting features to add to it! We will not kill the surprise,
but promise let you know when the time comes.

4. Varia

- Our blogger community now has over 50 blogs, and its great! Have a
look, we are sure you will discover something new here. And a particular
tribute to blogger Sarah Meyer, who has put together some useful
research on a possible  war between the US, Israel, and Iran, on her
blog "Index Research:

- Some more jobs available, and interesting ones too. United States,
Ukraine, Sri Lanka:

- If you are planning to take a sabbatical to study for a Masters this
year, then beware
of approaching deadlines - send in your application as soon as you can.
Apply several
schools to be safe - and not only the famous ones!

- OHCHR has at last updated their database on human rights education and
training - its very good. Check it out here and bookmark it while you're

- We came across this excellent really fascinating presentation by
Swedish professor Hans Rosling. He uses freely available statistical
data to debunk some myths we have about developing countries.... We
guarantee you will be amazed!
bigger version here:

- A nice way to end a newsletter is with some humor. Our friends who
work at the UN will have a chuckle about this Dilbert comic strip:

OK, hope you enjoyed the tools we describe above and that they will help
you be even more effective in your work. As usual, please share this
newsletter with friends and colleagues, and feel free to post it to your
blog or translate it into another language. 

And if you have received this from a friend, then you can sign up for
coming editions of the newsletter here:

Best regards, 
Daniel D'Esposito, editor 

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