Secretive human rights group fights abuses with military-style precision

Fri Apr 15, 2016 12:52pm EDT
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By Astrid Zweynert

OXFORD, England (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - "We will kill you!" a militiaman shouts as people run away in fear in the shaky footage from an African country, one of the many videos recorded by human rights defenders on the ground and distributed to media by Oren Yakobovich and his team.

Videre Est Credere, founded by Yakobovich, equips them with cameras - some of them almost as small as a shirt button - and training to expose violence and human rights abuses around the world.

"Our vision is that no human rights violation anywhere should go unnoticed, no matter how remote and dangerous a place is," Yakobovich, a former Israeli army officer, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation before being awarded the $1.25 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship at a conference in Oxford this week.

Videre's mission is to reveal abuses of armies, security forces, militia groups or officials through a network of activists who film and record abuses and violations of human rights, often at enormous personal risk.

Since Videre was founded in 2008 it has distributed more than 500 videos to more than 140 media outlets, including major broadcasters such as the BBC and CNN.

"It's great to get something broadcast by a big TV channel but it's most effective when it goes out on local stations - it makes it very clear to the perpetrators that they are being watched - and that's powerful," Yakobovich said.

Footage has also been used in court cases to prosecute corruption and incitement to political violence.

Yakobovich said his own journey to becoming a human rights activist started after he joined the Israeli Defense Forces at the age of 18.   Continued...