Oppressed People Provided Justice

25 01 2009

“Prayers help….Prayers and a lawyer help more.” – Gary Haugen, President, International Justice Mission

The International Justice Mission (IJM) is an organization founded by Gary Haugen, a former US Department of Justice attorney who was the UN Investigator in Charge after the Rwandan genocide. It was in response to that assignment that he founded the company in 1997. I heard about them in the context of a recent Nicholas Kristof column about the human slave trade in SE Asia, where IJM is active in casework, and from a recent New Yorker article by Samantha Power.  The core objective/mission of the IJM is to help sustain rule of law as the foundation of society.

On their Web site, IJM lists active casework in several areas:

  • Sexual Violence
  • Slavery
  • Illegal Detention
  • Police Brutality
  • Illegal Property Seizure
  • Sex Trafficking

The statistics are pretty sobering:

(From Samantha Power’s New Yorker article)

  • 79% of people in Cameroon and 72% of people in Cambodia surveyed by Transparency International in 2007 reported paying a bribe in exchange for basic services in the prior year
  • Only 53% of people surveyed by Afrobarometer in sub-Saharan Africa believe that senior government officials would be brought to justice if they were to commit a serious crime

(From IJM’s fact sheet on slavery

  • According to the United Nations Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, an estimated 20 million people were held in bonded slavery as of 1999
  • In 2004 there are more slaves than were seized from Africa during four centuries of trans-Atlantic slave trade. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)
  • In 1850 a slave in the Southern United States cost the equivalent of $40,000 today. According to Free the Slaves, slave today costs an average of $90.
  • Approximately two-thirds of today’s slaves are in South Asia. Human Rights Watch estimates that in India alone there are as many as 15 million children in bonded slavery.

(From IJM’s fact sheet on sex trafficking) 

  • Human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminal enterprise, after drugs and weapons. (U.S. Department of State)
  • Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade. (UNICEF)
  • There are an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 children, women and men trafficked across international borders annually. (U.S. Department of State)
  • Approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors. (U.S. Department of State)
  • The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion. (U.N.)
  • Sex trafficking is an engine of the global AIDS epidemic. (U.S. Department of State)

Clearly this is an opportunity to apply time and talent to ensuring these fundamental violations of human rights don’t persist. Once more, while the casework is done at the individual level, the stated goal is to influence the system. As rule of law is enforced in a given society, it becomes self-reinforcing. Said differently, as one person is provided justice today, it increases the likelihood that the benefit of that example is compounded in the future.

You can follow IJM’s progress on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IJMHQ.

To get involved…

http://www.ijm.org/takeaction

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