Bertha Foundation at Sundance Film Festival

Bertha Foundation was honored to be in Park City, UT for the 2017 Sundance Film Festival where nine Bertha-supported films screened in the festival’s world and U.S. documentary competitions. These included Strong Island, which took home the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling, Last Men in Aleppo, which won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for a documentary, and Winnie and Machines, which won World Documentary Grand Jury prizes in directing and cinematography, respectively. Bertha-supported Sundance films also included Whose Streets; Plastic China; Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and Trials of a Free Press; 500 Years; and Trophy.

Additionally, Bertha Foundation hosted a panel for Sundance attendees, discussing resistance in the U.S. today and highlighting the Bertha Foundation Theory of Change, which is founded on the belief that when activists, storytellers and lawyers work together on an issue, big change can happen.  While powerful on their own, if given the resources to connect and collaborate, their combined power is much great than the sum of its parts. The panel, titled “Resistance is Fertile: Storytelling, Law & Activism,” was moderated by BRITDOC’s Jess Search and included storyteller (and lawyer) Dawn Porter, director of Trapped and Bertha BRITDOC Connect Fund grantee Gideon’s Army, Native American activist Winona LaDuke, founder of Bertha grantee Honor the Earth, and lawyer Vince Warren, Executive Director of Bertha Justice Initiative partner organization, Center for Constitutional Rights. We’ve compiled some highlights from the panel for you here, in the hopes that we can continue a dialogue about not only what it means to resist, but also, as Winona LaDuke said, to “keep going where you’re going, and [not] get caught into this notion that you are a resistor. Because we have vision, you know? They don’t have vision.”

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Rebecca Lichtenfeld, Director of Social Impact Media for Bertha Foundation, welcomes guests and introduces the panel

On the importance of recognizing the structures and systems at play:

Vince Warren: “What we’re really talking about is structural racism. So, if you’re thinking about structures that you are dismantling, rather than thinking about policies that you’re passing, you’ll realize that you’re actually in a resistance fight that has a very, very, long arc, and that you’re never really making change, what you’re doing is impeding the worst parts of your humanity that are being degraded, and you are inserting the best parts of your humanity as a pathway forwards.”

Dawn Porter: “It was very informed by the work I did on the abortion film and seeing how the structures literally worked to close clinics… And that those same tactics, gerrymandering, the same voter suppression rules, are being passed around from state to state. They are not reinventing the wheel: they are seeing what works and then passing it around. So I felt like, I now have training in understanding those patterns, and I wonder what it will look like to apply that lens to this particular issue.”

Winona LaDuke: “My theory is pretty much that you have a predator economy. You have people who have the remaining water, who have the remaining whatever it is: natural gas or oil or uranium, and all that the predator, that the extractive economy wants, is that, and we’re in their way. And nothing has changed the system. No one has changed the system. And that’s what we have to do here – systemic change, and [change] your levels of consumption and where it’s coming from, and the choices that are made because of it. And without that, you’re gonna continue to face one insane process after another. Or one insane director after another.”

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Winona LaDuke contextualizes Standing Rock within the larger landscape of North Dakota

On working locally:

Winona LaDuke: “I have long subscribed to the strategy that you have to build your base. You have to be strong in your communities, and then you have to work with allies everywhere else who will deal with Washington, who will deal with those federal pieces, but if your base is not strong, you will go nowhere. That’s how I was raised and that’s my experience: my community.”

Vince Warren: “Everybody thought that the house was on fire on November 9th and it wasn’t. The house is going to be on fire, and it is going to be on fire this year, but the difference is that if your house is on fire now, you think tactically.  Get out, where’s the fire extinguisher, where’s the water?  But, if you know that your house is going to be on fire six months from now, or a year from now, or that it’s going to be under siege over the next four years, you have to think strategically, and I completely agree with Winona that building that base is important… The idea is that lawyers are not the first ones out of the gate, we’re not the ons leading the strategy… When it comes to pipelines, when it comes to Ferguson, when it comes to some of these other issues, you can’t be the first people in the room.  You have to be able to show up, and you have to ask the one question that’s important: ‘How can I help?’ And don’t expect to get that answer immediately… You have to keep coming back and keep having that conversation.”

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The panelists discuss strengths and challenges of collaboration

On intersections of law, organizing, and storytelling:

Winona LaDuke: “Corporations are considered persons of the law. Mother nature has no rights, you know what I’m saying? Like to me that’s a really big problem in the legal paradigm. Is that corporations are considered persons under the law, and we do a lot to defend their rights. And nothing, you know, to defend the right to water.”

Dawn Porter: “I’ve seen people who are incredibly powerful activists say, ‘Nope! The lawyer said no.’ Because why? You know, because why? So one thing I’ve been able to do is push back on the lawyers and say, tell me why? Tell me how this violates the privilege. And then once you actually start to have people articulate their issue, then you can have a conversation, but if you stop at the blanket ‘no,’ you’re not gonna get anywhere, unless you do what a lot of filmmakers do, which is unfortunate, and they go around the lawyers. And that’s not good either, because you can then violate. You can expose clients and things that are against their interest.”

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Dawn Porter addresses funding community, reminds funders to take risks

Vince Warren: “Filmmakers will work with activists and will work with lawyers, and will say, ‘that stuff that you’re doing is great, that’s not the story that I want to tell.’ Activists will work with filmmakers and say ‘that is a fantastic story, but that is not helping me with my people and my advocacy.’ Lawyers will work with organizers and say, ‘that is really, really great but we are gonna lose the case if you go in and say that.’ That just happens, right? But, rather than just sort of throwing our hands up and saying, okay lets not collaborate, the real magic for the next four years is about investing in that collaboration… The idea of, what does this partnership look like? …I think it’s also cutting edge in terms of how we think about our visions, our collective and individual visions and where they merge, cause that’s the thing that keeps us apart. Our visions are so strong and so clear on what we want to happen, that sometimes, when other folks cant buy into it immediately, then we say we don’t want to work with them.”

Winona LaDuke: “An essential part of the strategy though, is that we need the national people to see what we’re doing. Because we have been struggling in places where nobody has been looking, because it’s not convenient. It’s far out. Nobody knows where the hell that reservation is… So be there, be present, and then there are a lot in all of our communities that are facing this and they are very strong people and those people need to see the light of day and they need your protection. That’s what they need.”

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Sundance’s Cinetransformer is packed!

On what is to come:

Dawn Porter: “The dream is to live where you’re working and to really be immersed and we don’t always have that luxury. But we need more voices than ever. I can’t do everything I want to do. I shouldn’t tell every story, obviously! There should be so many people of different backgrounds and perspectives so that we are flooding the information ecosystem with good information. With stories about real people told from a curious and empathetic point of view.”

Vince Warren: “I think over the next four years it is clear to me that we are gonna be taking leadership from queer folks, black and brown folks, women folks, poor folks… Because, when we think about structures as opposed to issues, the people that experience those structures in intergenerational ways are the people that are the most marginalized. And the new generations of folks that are coming up are so powerful. I grew up and we had separate identities. The young folks that are coming really are living multiple identities and refusing to shed any one of them for any particular political reason and it’s one of the most powerful wonderful things that I have seen.”

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Vince Warren looks ahead to future leaders of the movement

Winona LaDuke, Founder and Executive Director, Honor the Earth

Support Honor the Earth, follow @WinonaLaduke and @HonorTheEarth on Twitter, follow @WinonaLaDukeHonorTheEarth on Facebook, and learn more at


vince_vignetteVince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

Support CCR, follow @VinceWarren and @theCCR on Twitter, follow @CenterforConstitutionalRights on Facebook, and learn more at


DAWNDawn Porter, Director/Producer, Trilogy Films

Support Trilogy Films, follow @dawnporterm and @Trilogy_Films on Twitter, @trilogyfilms on Facebook, and learn more at


Baltimore’s Housing Leadership School

Based in Baltimore, Maryland, the United Workers Association is a statewide organization of low-wage workers who are organizing for better wages and working conditions. In 2008 they launched the Fair Development Campaign, which focuses on housing and recognizes that development must address all economic, social, cultural, and environmental aspects of people’s lives in a way that increases communities’ ability to meet their fundamental needs. Through this campaign, they joined forces with other local organizations to coordinate the Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s Leadership School, which works to train and consolidate a group of leaders to understand the systemic issues underlying the current housing system, and then prepare these leaders to build the campaign for change. A grant from the Bertha Foundation enabled the United Workers Association and the Baltimore Housing Roundtable to expand their course offerings to include entry level and more advanced options.

United Workers and the Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s Leadership School recently wrapped up our Fall semester of courses, where for the first time, our Fair Development Leadership School included linking together issues of work, housing, and environmental sustainability, and we were also able to begin a higher level course on community land trust collaboration. We ended the year with the first in a series of “train the trainers” sessions on our 20/20 campaign, which works to secure public investment in permanently affordable housing, jobs, and urban agriculture.

Bringing together human rights organizing at the Fair Development Leadership School meant creating a multi-issue curriculum that reflected Baltimore’s history and political economy, and challenged notions of power and powerlessness. Students came from all walks of life, from homelessness to being a student at Johns Hopkins University, and included residents from all corners of Baltimore.


The first workshops of the ten-week school examined how Baltimore and the United States haven’t lived up to their promises, and instead often succumbed to private economic interests, and systemic racism that has increased inequality. We studied how Baltimore ‘s practices of whites-only restrictive housing covenants and “block-busting” precipitated white flight to newly built suburbs and a decline in restricted black neighborhoods. We reflected on how as the economy shifted from a manufacturing base to a service base, city policy subsidized that shift by spending over $1 billion on low wage services jobs at the Inner Harbor waterfront. This shift and its inability to expand equity particularly to Black and Brown communities has catalyzed our call for a new Fair Development model meant to first meet people’s basic needs. Here is an interactive timeline of Baltimore political, economic and environmental history we developed for the course.

To this end we studied power and powerlessness and particularly invisible power (the power of ideas and beliefs). We reflected on the need to combat stereotypes about the poor and decades of “welfare queen” mythologies and even today’s era of fake news perpetuated on social media, and on the need to tap into core human rights values that life has dignity, and that all should have the right to breath clean air or live healthy lives despite the zip code they happen to come from.

“My name is Destiny Watford. I live in Curtis Bay, a tight knit community in South Baltimore. It is my home and I love it but Curtis Bay is pollution central. Anyone who has been to Curtis Bay knows that. Largely due to the industrial area surrounding it, Curtis Bay is not the healthiest place around. In fact, we discovered that Curtis Bay, although it is a rather small community, is one of the most polluted areas in the state. We also know that people die in Curtis Bay of lung cancer, heart disease and lower respiratory disease at some of the highest levels in the city of Baltimore. All of this is enough to make it feel like the community’s fate is to be dirty and polluted. But when we learned about a plan to build the nations’ largest trash burning incinerator less than a mile away from our school – we were still shocked.

We know that our lives matter just as much as anyone else’s. We know that we have a right to a safe and clean environment and that our lives should not be limited by asthma or cancer just because of where we were born. We have a right to Fair Development that puts the health of all communities first.”

– Destiny Watford, United Workers youth leader, and student in most recent Fair Development Leadership School, and last spring, recipient of the international Goldman Environmental Prize.


At the end of the 10-week course we launched a series of “train the trainers” sessions on the 20/20 campaign with our graduating class. These sessions focused on building capacity for our campaign that calls on Baltimore city to invest annually $40 million in community-driven development for permanently affordable housing, jobs and environmental sustainability. Leaders are going to be organizing a public campaign in their neighborhoods, and faith communities and union halls are building support for this initiative. We are also forming a team to document systemic displacement and create a series of tribunals to raise up the voices of those most impacted by this economic crisis. Our end goal is major public investment by Baltimore’s Mayor and City Council in 2018.

While we build leadership capacity we are also growing capacity among our network of community land trusts. To ensure we are able to scale up and sustain community land trusts in Baltimore, we are facilitating a leadership school that focuses land trust leaders on the question of building an infrastructure to share capacities where possible and retain autonomy where necessary. This is called a “central server model” that looks to increase sustainability by centralizing certain core functions all land trusts must do (ex. accounting, tax filing, fundraising, housing counseling, standardizing ground leases); and recognizing what tasks should be left at the neighborhood or individual land trust level (community planning, development priorities). We held our first all day session this past August which was co-facilitated by the national community land trust organization, Grounded Solutions. 18 representatives from several land trusts in operation and several in a start-up phase attended this school. After sharing their vision for community development specific to their land trust, there was widespread agreement to initiate establishing an information “hub” to share technical assistance documents such as business plans, bylaws, fundraising research and so on. This has since been established and there is now work being done to establish a common ground lease and collectively develop relationships with financial partners, including local banks.


More sessions at this level are being planned for 2017, and a Spring Semester Fair Development Leadership school is also being developed.


img_0389Todd Cherkis, Leadership Organizer, United Workers

Follow United Workers on Twitter @unitedworkers, on Facebook @unitedworkers, and learn more at



Malaya Lolas’ Long Road to Justice

Malaya Lolas event in Geneva by Right Livelihood Award Foundation, ECCHR and CenterLaw

Malaya Lolas event in Geneva by Right Livelihood Award Foundation, ECCHR and CenterLaw

In November 2016, with support from Bertha’s Impact Opportunity Fund, delegations from two Bertha Justice Initiative Network partners, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Center for International Law, Manila (CenterLaw), travelled to Geneva to seek UN support on behalf of Filipina survivors of rape and sexual slavery committed during the Second World War.

At a public evening event on the 10th of November, kindly hosted by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, ECCHR and CenterLaw presented the submission of an individual complaint to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Violence Against Women and on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. The complaint describes the ongoing denial of justice faced by a group of Filipina survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery system established in the Philippines during the Second World War. The survivors call themselves the Malaya Lolas (“Free Grandmothers”) and have been seeking reparations from the Japanese government since the 1990s for the atrocities they suffered.


Isabelita Vinuya tells the ordeal of the Malaya Lolas (Photo: Esther Dingemans)

Isabelita Vinuya tells the ordeal of the Malaya Lolas (Photo: Esther Dingemans)

Their president, 84-year old Isabelita Vinuya (Lola Isabelita), delivered a powerful and emotional sung testimony describing what happened to her and the other Lolas when Japanese troops invaded the village of Mapanique, Candaba on 23 November 1944. After torturing and killing many inhabitants, the soldiers forced the women and girls of the village, some of whom were only eight or nine years old at the time, to march towards the “Bahay Na Pula” (Red House), the Japanese headquarters. Upon arrival, they were detained and beaten, raped, and abused by Japanese soldiers over a period of weeks. Sexual slavery facilities like the Bahay Na Pula were established all over the Philippines as well as in other countries occupied by Japan during the Second World War, a systematic practice often euphemistically referred to as the “comfort women” system. Thousands of women in Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, East Timor, and other Japanese-occupied territories were subjected to this brutal ordeal.

Inspired by their Korean fellow survivors who found the courage to speak out about what happened to them, the Malaya Lolas started voicing their demands for justice. They first sought reparations from the Japanese government directly. The Japanese courts, however, ruled that individuals do not have the legal personality to sue under international law, and that any claim for compensation should be espoused by the Philippines. The Malaya Lolas then turned to their own government for support to bring a claim against Japan. In 2004, CenterLaw filed a petition on their behalf to the Philippine Supreme Court. More than five years later, the Court dismissed the petition, arguing that survivors’ individual claims for compensation had been fully waived under the San Francisco Peace Agreement, a peace treaty signed by Japan in 1951 with the Allied powers and states of the Asia Pacific, including the Philippines. The Court further noted that, in any case, the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) – a fund created by the Japanese government consisting of money from Japanese corporations and private individuals – already provided for sufficient compensation. The Supreme Court decision sparked massive controversy after it emerged that the Court’s reasoning was full of plagiarized passages. Subsequent requests for reconsideration filed by CenterLaw and a petitioner-in-intervention by ECCHR, stressing the Malaya Lolas’ right to compensation under international law, were similarly denied by the Supreme Court.


The Bahay Na Pula (Red House) in which the Malaya Lolas were held. Instead of preserving it as a memorial site, it has been put up for sale. (Photo: Ramon F Velasquez

To this date, Philippine officials refuse to file a claim against Japan, in spite of findings from the symbolic Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal and several UN Special Rapporteurs that the agreement reached under the San Francisco Peace Treaty had no power to waive individual claims, and that money from private funds cannot be accepted as an adequate mechanism of compensation for harms inflicted by the state.

The complaint submitted by ECCHR and CenterLaw to the UN Special Rapporteurs describes how the crimes suffered by the Malaya Lolas as well as their ongoing denial of justice have been marked by an underlying gender discrimination. While concerning crimes that happened many decades ago, the struggle of the Malaya Lolas has been emblematic for so many other cases of violence against women in wartime where high levels of impunity continue to persist.

More than 70 years after the atrocities, many of the Malaya Lolas have passed away without having had the opportunity to see justice in their lifetimes. The few who remain, however, continue to fight to have their claims heard. With the support of the Bertha Foundation, their president and lead petitioner before the Supreme Court was able to travel to Geneva and speak on behalf of her fellow survivors. She explained how the compensation sought may arrive too late to improve the living situation of the Malaya Lolas themselves – who are among the poorest in Philippine society, partly resulting from the disruptive impact of the harm they suffered – but could offer their children and other family members a better life. Through the complaint, the Malaya Lolas therefore request the Special Rapporteurs to urge the Philippine government to stand by its citizens and espouse their claims for compensation against Japan.
Alejandra MunozAlejandra Muñoz, Be Just Fellow at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin.

Follow ECCHR on Twitter @ECCHRBerlin

Follow CenterLaw on Twitter @CenterLawManila





In Defense of Tokens

True/False Film Fest patrons pass donation buckets at a True Life Fund Screening. Through several fundraisers, including the True/False screenings, the True Life Fund raised $35,000 for Adi Rukun of The Look of Silence in 2015 and $43,514 for Sonita Alizadeh of Sonita in 2016.

Too often the word “token” gets a bad rap. It can be used to belittle or demean. When made an ism, we rightfully scorn tokenism for its insincere efforts. But a token? It’s small and humble. There’s power in this humility. A token, by definition, is a physical object that stands in for something less tangible, like a quality or a fact.  People don’t expect a token to be a rendering of a whole; it only represents one aspect.  Besides, tokens get you into carnivals rides, advance you to the next level of a game, or guarantee you a free scoop of a True/False favorite: Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream.

So, too, is the True Life Fund a token gift from the True/False Film Fest and our community of Columbia, Missouri. Each year, the festival selects one film to be the True Life Fund recipient and raises money for that film’s subject.  We work with all four of our local public high schools (including an assembly with the filmmakers), partner with a local church, and raise money at the festival screenings. The grant is our way of thanking the people in front of the camera for sharing their story with us. It’s our way of honoring people on whose stories documentary film relies and who do not always benefit from having their lives on the big screen or broadcasted on major media platforms. At it’s core, the True Life Fund is a token—we can’t stand in for all of documentary film (nor do we want to) and we can’t begin to fully thank the recipient for the gift of their story, but we can give them some cash and let them put it toward their future however they see fit.

True/ False’s True Life Fund filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer leads an assembly at Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri. Students watched clips of The Look of Silence and discussed the film with the director. Oppenheimer attended screenings at all four Columbia Public High Schools.

Most recently, True/False’s True Life Fund selections have marked turning points for the Fund, and in the past two years, have been awarded to the subjects of two Bertha-supported films. In 2015 we honored Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence, supported by the Bertha BRITDOC Journalism Fund and the Bertha Film Fund, and in 2016, for our tenth year of the Fund, we selected Sonita, a film by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, and supported by the IDFA Bertha Fund and the Bertha Film Fund.  The Bertha Foundation also supports the True Life Fund, and the True/False Film Festival team leverages Bertha’s annual gift by inspiring our community to match their contribution. For the past two years, we’ve significantly surpassed our goal: our community raised a grand total of $35,000 for Adi Rukun of The Look of Silence and $43,514 for Sonita Alizadeh.  It’s money, we say as we stand with the filmmakers and subjects in our post-film Q&As, that is a token of our gratitude.

Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, True/False Co-Conspirator David Wilson, and Adi Rukun (via Skype) host a Q&A after The Look of Silence at True/False Film Fest 2015.

These tokens –as small or big as they might be— matter.  While it can hard to measure the overall impact of a documentary or one story, it’s easy to ask our True Life Fund recipients how they’ve spent their grants.  In the case of Adi Rukun, the True Life Fund meant a newly secured life for his family.  After filming The Look of Silence while a getaway car idled within reach, after having bags packed and a “fixer on standby at the airport,” reports Cara Buckley in The New York Times, Adi and his family had to relocate to a different part of Indonesia to keep safe after the film’s release.  When we screened The Look of Silence at True/False, Adi told us he wanted to use the funds to open a brick-and-mortar optometry shop in his new community. It was a shop that, he said, he hoped to pass along to his children.  We recently heard from Adi and were delighted to learn that he had indeed opened the shop and, to our utter surprise, decided to name it Optik Columbia— as a token of his gratitude for our True/False community.

Sonita Alizadeh shares her Dream Journal from the film Sonita with high school students in Columbia, Missouri.  The event was part of True/False Film Fest’s Bertha-supported DIY Day, an afternoon of artist workshops for local high school students. At this workshop, Sonita lead a group of students in making their own dream journals. Photo Credit: True/False Photography

Sonita Alizadeh shares her Dream Journal from the film Sonita with high school students in Columbia, Missouri. The event was part of True/False Film Fest’s Bertha-supported DIY Day, an afternoon of artist workshops for local high school students. At this workshop, Sonita lead a group of students in making their own dream journals.

Sonita Alizadeh used her True Life Fund toward her campaign against child marriage and to support her family as she saw fit.  “This money,” she wrote to T/F, shortly after our fundraising campaign came to a close, “secures a future education for me and a voice for so many girls who are not heard, as I work toward my goal of ending child marriage.” Since the film premiered this past winter, Sonita performed and spoken at the World Bank, was featured at the opening of the Women in the World New York Summit, spoke at International Women’s Day, was featured at the Clinton Global Initiative, and more–while continuing her studies (long-distance when necessary) and excelling in her classes at school.

Sonita Alizadeh, David Wilson, & Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami on stage for the True Life Fund at True/False 2016 Photo Credit: True/False Photography

Sonita Alizadeh, David Wilson, & Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami on stage for the True Life Fund at True/False 2016

These are remarkable individuals and beautiful, powerful films.  True/False and the True Life Fund, with the support of the Bertha Foundation, draw attention to their work and offer something tangible as an honor and recognition.  The funds do not capture the whole picture; they do not heal a community or stop the practice of selling brides.  They are simply a thank you. They’re a token of gratitude, a gesture made measurable–and that matters.

Photo credits: True/False Photography


Allison headshotAllison Coffelt, Education and Outreach Director, True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Missouri

Follow Allison on Twitter @allisoncoffelt and read more of her writing here

Follow True/False on Twitter @truefalse, Facebook @True/False Film Fest, and learn more at

Corporate accountability of pesticide producers: experiences of a young lawyer

In this blog, legal intern Geeta Koska reflects on her experiences researching the use of pesticides and resulting human rights violations in India. She worked as part of an international team of lawyers and researchers seeking to hold European companies to account for major health problems caused by their products, led by the Bertha Justice Initiative Network partner, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

A discarded Luphos bottle is used as water carrier - Luphos contains Monocrotophosl and is banned in the EU.

A discarded Luphos bottle is used as water carrier – Luphos contains Monocrotophosl and is banned in the EU.


Pesticide use in Punjab, India

Most pesticides used in India find their way onto the fields of the northern state of Punjab, the country’s bread basket. Their current indiscriminate use has been linked to rising cancer rates, reproductive disorders, as well as huge debts and increased numbers of farmer suicides across the state.

One of the reasons for this adverse impact is that there is no proper training for farmers, pesticides are not properly labelled and their use is not suitably monitored. As highlighted in a report submitted by a coalition of NGOs in 2015, the German and Swiss companies Bayer and Syngenta fail to adhere to international standards on pesticide management. Moreover, double standards in the pesticide industry mean that while Bayer warns European users that the hazardous pesticide Nativo 75 WG is “suspected of damaging the unborn child”, no such warning is given in India.

To hold European pesticide companies to account for their double standards, it’s necessary to understand the impact of their operations abroad and so I spent three months in India researching this issue and exploring potential legal challenges to stop this practice.

Conducting inquiries in Punjab

During my research, I was very aware that international inquiries often happen within a context of global inequality and there is a danger of reinforcing imbalances of power. Focusing almost exclusively on countries in the Global South, Obiora Chinedu Okafor argues that human rights fact-finding by people from the Global North can reproduce the association of North/South as Good/Bad. Others have criticised international fact-finding for being an elite activity, typically carried out by privileged western “experts” who exploit people to promote their own agenda.  Coming from London to India to research how pesticides are used and distributed, I unavoidably carried some of the baggage associated with international inquiries with me.

As a young researcher, I had much to learn – from what to wear to how to communicate via interpreters and overcome this North/South divide. The apparent differences between those I interviewed and myself complicated this; my gender, educational background, and the fact that I grew up in a city were potential barriers to understanding people’s issues and concerns when conducting interviews. Language and literacy further complicated the research, as the instructions on pesticide bottles could not be understood by some of the pesticide users I interviewed. As a result, conducting the inquiry and engaging with interviewees without strengthening a negative narrative was a real challenge.

Related to this was the difficulty in obtaining information that was sufficiently rigorous to be used in legal proceedings without leaving participants feeling exploited. For instance, some pesticide users found it hard to explain exactly when a symptom started or which brand of paraquat they used. This was often because symptoms reoccur and people have learned to deal with the acute side effects of pesticide exposure without access to proper medical help. Others did not necessarily know the name or brand of the pesticide they have been exposed to because they relied on distributors for information on which pesticide to use on crops. In the course of the inquiry, I found that it was important to be aware of the specific context and of the potential risk of disempowering participants in the course of the interviews.

 Two farmers interviewed had improvised “protective” clothing due to the absence of suitable equipment in local shops - Faridkot, Punjab, India.

Two farmers interviewed had improvised “protective” clothing due to the absence of suitable equipment in local shops – Faridkot, Punjab, India.

Lessons learned

Although I do not have all of the answers to the complex issues that surround the conduct of international inquiries, my experience provided insight into ways of overcoming some of the issues raised.

First, to overcome the potential of reinforcing hierarchies between those interviewed and myself, it was important to look at the broader social and economic context. For example, though obstacles to access to education in rural parts of Punjab exist, illiteracy was not always the reason why users could not understand instructions. In fact, closer scrutiny revealed that in some cases instructions were printed too small for users to read, and lack of training meant that users were unaware of the meaning of the hazard symbols on bottles.

Second, I had to look back to the North to understand human rights violations that occur in the South. This is particularly relevant when investigating corporate-related human rights violations, as it is necessary to follow the supply chain back. Therefore, during the interviews, it was important to shift the focus from local conditions to the responsibilities of the companies that produce the pesticides that are sold in India.

Because of the international element of the issue – the companies that produce the pesticides are mainly based in Western Europe – international researchers have to work in partnership with national lawyers, researchers and NGOs to gather evidence. As a legal intern on the team I encountered some of these risks and learned to remain vigilant to the challenges that can arise during international inquiries. My time in India introduced me to new ways of understanding global issues as well as different methods of working, which I will be able to put into practice through the rest of my career.


geetaGeeta Koska worked on Business and Human Rights at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin via their Education Program.

Follow Geeta on Twitter: @koskageeta

Follow-up Appeal for CCAJAR Protection

Out of its ongoing concern for the security of Be Just Fellow alumna Yessika Hoyos and the other lawyers of the Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR), Bertha Foundation supported an attorney, through the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP), to be in Colombia from 14-19 November 2016. In addition to meeting Colombian authorities about the intensifying threats and security risks faced by lawyers at CCAJAR, the ISLP representative also acted as an independent trial observer for the 18 November hearing for the murder of trade unionist Jorge Dario Hoyos Morales.
Ahead of these recent activities, and as follow-up to the appeal for protection that the Bertha Justice Network issued in July 2016, the Bertha Justice Initiative sent this letter to President Santos:

London, November 15th, 2016


Juan Manuel Santos

President of the Republic of Colombia.

Bogotá D.C.


Mr. President

Cordial greetings from the Bertha Foundation.

In July, member organizations of the Bertha Justice Initiative network communicated with your Office in relation to the protection of the lawyers from the José Alvear Resterpo Lawyer’s Collective – CCAJAR, especially in relation to the risk faced by Bertha Justice Fellow alumni Yessika Hoyos. We appreciate the response from the National Protection Unit of Colombia, dated 20 September. CCAJAR is in the process of collecting the documents requested to ensure Yessika’s security within the framework of the collective protection route, and within the framework of the Program of Protection and Prevention.

As you know, the trial is currently underway against one of the parties responsible for the murder of Yessika’s father and trade union leader, Jorge Dario Hoyos.  The trial will continue this 18 of November when the human rights defender will appear as witness.

Given this context, we want to inform you that a partner of the Bertha Justice Initiative – the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) of London – will carry out an Observation Mission between the 16 and 19 of November, in Bogotá, to observe the trial and meet with state authorities such as the National Protection Unit, Ministry of Defense, Presidential Advisor for Human Rights, Prosecutor General of the Nation and the Human Right’s Ombudseman’s Office, in relation to intimidating actions that have taken place against several of CCAJAR’s lawyers.

Therefore, and taking into account the background, we ask that you intervene, within the framework of your mandate, to provide all necessary guarantees for this mission.




Peter Noorlander

Director, Bertha Justice Initiative

Bertha Foundation


Peter NoorlanderPeter Noorlander

Director, Bertha Justice Initiative

Follow Bertha Justice Initiative at @Be_Just_

Follow Peter Noorlander at @PeterNoorlander

Defining the Role of the Social Justice Lawyer in 2016 – South Africa Bertha Convening 2016

Mbekezeli Benjamin is currently a Legal Advisor at Be Just partner organization Equal Education Law Centre. He completed a Be Just Fellowship at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) from 2014 to 2016.

Bertha South African Be Just Fellows and alumni gather at the South Africa Bertha Convening

“How do we as public interest lawyers use the law to break down structures of power, and how do we use the same law to reinforce these structures of power?” was the question asked by Equal Education Law Centre‘s Nurina Ally to open the second annual South Africa Bertha Convening. Held August 24-26 in Muldersdrift, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, this year’s convening had the theme of defining the role and function of a social justice lawyer in 2016.

Supported by a Bertha Justice Initiative Educational Exchange grant, the event hosted 25 emerging lawyers from across South Africa, including both current Bertha Justice (“Be Just”) Fellows and alumni representing the four South Africa-based Be Just partner organisations: the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI).

The theme of the Convening was to interrogate what it means to be a young lawyer working for the cause of social justice in South Africa in 2016, and how that role and function is played out in a loud and robust democracy – particularly in the present political moment. Young people in South Africa are beginning to question some of the key agreements struck in the negotiated settlement that facilitated the country’s transition to democracy: questions about land ownership and economic participation that still excludes the majority of the population; questions about the meaning of human rights in the face of grinding poverty and the highest level of inequality in the world; and questions about professional identity in a legal culture that is elitist and exclusionary. Young people are hard at work seeking the answers to these questions, and the new generation of social justice lawyers that form the network of Be Just Fellows in South Africa are no exception. It is in this context that the Convening brought together an eclectic mix of lawyers, young and old, all engaged in their own way in a new culture of activism that further blurs the distinction between the legal and the political.

Lessons from then and now: lawyers in conversation

Justice Zak Yacoob addresses Fellows and alumni

The Convening welcomed two retired Constitutional Court justices, Justice Zak Yacoob and Justice Yohann Kriegler, who each spoke about their own experiences of social justice lawyering under apartheid, and what it meant to be a lawyer then and now. Speaking on the same panel, LRC National Director, Janet Love, drew comparisons between trade unions versus capital and trade unions versus the unemployed to illustrate the difficulties in drawing inflexible battle lines. SERI’s Director of Litigation, Nomzamo Zondo, added that we should always work hard to create spaces where ordinary people can articulate their issues in the face of powerful forces such as the state or business.

Building activist lawyers

A recurrent theme throughout the discussions at the Convening was an acknowledgment of the limitations of the law, and that modern social justice lawyers have to rely on multiple skills and approaches in the struggle for social change. Today’s challenges demand political savvy drawn from political activism, as well as creative storytelling skills drawn from media activism.

Relying on the experiences of three esteemed activists who have successfully employed an interdisciplinary approach to their legal work, the next discussion panel challenged fellows to think of themselves as more than lawyers. S’bu Zikode, a renowned activist and the president of shackdwellers movement Abahlali Basemjondolo, spoke about the power of organizing. Lwazi Mtshiyo, a current Be Just Fellow at SERI, spoke of how he has brought the skills acquired from working in community activism and research to his legal practice. Mandisa Shandu, the Director of Ndifuna Ukwazi’s Law Centre, spoke about the function of a lawyer, the law and cases in a broader political struggle led by ordinary people.

Transformation and building an identity

Be Just Fellows are emerging lawyers starting their careers in public interest law, working in communities and in support of social movements. At this early stage most Fellows (in South Africa, at least) are still grappling with a professional identity that strives to live the values Justice Yacoob highlighted but in a dominant legal culture that is elitist, exclusionary and that often reinforces oppressive power structures of racism, sexism and other bigotry. There is therefore a movement afoot to transform the legal profession inherited from apartheid – that is mainly comprised of white men – to a profession of the future that is reflective of the demographics of the rainbow nation and represents its founding values. It is in this context that a panel discussion on transformation of the legal profession took place.

The Convening welcomed three distinguished speakers who each started off their careers engaged in commercial practice, later moving on to a public interest practice, but who now stand at different points within the broader definition of a ‘lawyer’. The first, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, an advocate practising at the Johannesburg Bar, spoke about how the current environment is exciting for public interest lawyering as the state is grappling with having to convert the constitutional promises of the fulfillment of socio-economic rights into reality.  Charmika Samaradiwakera-Wijesundara, a young legal academic from Wits University, was next to speak and questioned the very idea of transformation and our understanding of it. Last to speak was CALS Deputy Director Lisa Chamberlain, who explained that for CALS, transformation means taking positive steps to redress the past and build a diverse future.

Be Just Fellow alumni share their experiences

A frank and open discussion about transformation within the public interest legal sector in South Africa ensued among the Fellows. The conversation touched on a number of issues such as organizational culture, the paucity of black and women leadership in the sector and how these impact on Fellows’ confidence to lead these organisations in the future.

These discussions reverberated across the sector and provided inspiration for positive action for social change. In the following week, at the sixth annual Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) a memorandum of demands from young black lawyers – including many Be Just Fellows and alumni – was presented to all directors of social justice organisations present, together with a call for a consultative meeting to discuss these and other lingering issues of transformation within the public interest legal sector in South Africa.

mbekezeli-benjamin-picMbekezeli Benjamin, Legal Advisor at Equal Education Law Centre and fellow alumni at Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa.

Follow Mbekezeli at @MbekezeliMB


Follow Be Just Partner Organisations in South Africa:






Shadow World in South Africa

In 2011, Andrew Feinstein wrote Shadow World, a book about the global arms trade. His book inspired a documentary of the same title, which was supported by the Bertha Film Fund and the Bertha BRITDOC Connect Fund.  Featuring arms dealers, ex-military leaders, whistle-blowers, political leaders, investigators … and poets, the film delves into the shadowy recesses of the global trade in weapons, a business that counts its profits in billions and its costs in human lives.  Shadow World premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2016 before winning Best Feature Documentary at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. 


The arms trade is a unique confluence of government, intelligence agencies, the military, large weapons-making corporations, arms dealers and myriad intermediaries including major banks and lawyers. Deals, often worth tens of billions of dollars, are concluded behind a national-security-imposed veil of secrecy. These are some of the reasons why the trade accounts for around forty percent of all corruption in all world trade.

After showing the film on the east and west coasts of America, we took it to South Africa where my explorations of the arms trade had begun over 15 years before. As an African National Congress (ANC) Member of Parliament, and the ruling party’s ranking member on the main financial oversight committee, I had tried to investigate a ten billion dollar arms deal that South Africa had entered into with five European countries and their weapons companies.

Our investigations revealed that most of the equipment bought was not needed. A significant amount of it has gone unused until today. And we concluded that around three hundred million dollars of bribes had been paid on the deals to senior politicians involved in the decision-making, high-ranking military and state officials and numerous intermediaries.

The investigation was stymied by the most senior leadership of the ANC, and I was forced off the committee and then out of Parliament. In order to stop details of the corruption emerging, ANC leaders were prepared to undermine the very institutions of the country’s democracy that they had fought so hard to bring about. The country’s current President faced 783 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering in relation to the deal. The charges were controversially dropped just before he was elected President, in a decision recently described by the South African High Court as ‘irrational’.

Crucially, the weapons were purchased at a time when the ANC government claimed that the state could not afford to provide anti-retroviral medication to the almost 6 million South Africans living with HIV or AIDS. This decision, according to a Harvard University study, resulted in the avoidable deaths of over 365,000 people.

So the arms deal remains a live, if somewhat dated, political issue in the country. As we prepared to take the film to South Africa, we were unsure how it would be received. The first screening, to a packed audience at the Encounters Film Festival in Cape Town, allayed our fears. The audience seemed stunned. During the Q&A people were visibly moved, often angry, about the way in which the arms trade not only intensifies and perpetuates conflict but also undermines democracy and the rule of law.



In order to ensure that people who cannot afford to frequent mainstream cinemas had access to the film, we screened it in a number of township venues. The first of these community screenings took place in Langa, Cape Town. This is where I had first encountered township life during the apartheid years, as a student teaching at an Adult Education Centre and playing cricket against the local club. We were anxious about whether the film, an unconventional documentary with, for instance, the poetry of Eduardo Galeano threaded through it, would be accessible to an audience whose first language is not English.

The Langa screening was organized by Bertha grantee, Encounters Festival, and Sunshine Cinema, which utilises solar powered mobile equipment to take films to communities that have little access. An important South African campaigning organisation and another Bertha grantee, Right to Know, and the University of Cape Town, partnered the event.  The Alexandra screening in Johannesburg was again supported by the Right to Know Campaign and fellow Bertha grantee, Equal Education joined us as partners to support the Khayelitsha screening further outside Cape Town as well.


These organisations outdid themselves, ensuring that the venue was jam-packed with kids from as young as three all the way up to grandmothers who had come early to guarantee a good seat. While we were waiting to start, the audience, led by these women, sang what I recognized as songs from the liberation struggle, but altered to attack the former heroes who were now sitting in Parliament.

The reaction to the film was profound: Rapt attention despite some people having literally to sit on top of each other, punctuated by shrieks of laughter, shouting at various ‘villains’ from the eponymous arms dealer to the country’s President. The Q&A was a reflection of the politicized nature of the community: dozens of questions, comments about the current state of the nation and demands that the film be taken to every township in the country.

When we eventually started packing up, well over four hours after we had started, I found myself chatting to two young men who clean Langa residents’ refuse bins in order to accumulate money to be able to show documentaries in townships around the country.


For me, as an activist, investigative writer and anti-corruption campaigner, the primary purpose in making this film was to engage with marginalised communities most affected by the arms trade and the political-economy that underpins it, and to ignite a conversation that could lead to political action against the tawdry governance they endure.

That night in Langa, where I had cut my political teeth under apartheid, I saw this become reality, at the first attempt of what I hope will be a long and intense journey of screenings in places that don’t usually have access to cinema but that are deeply affected by the trade in weapons.

So inspiring were the community screenings that we are now in the process of planning a massive roll-out of the film to townships around South Africa, which we will use to try and build a community-based coalition to oppose a trillion rand nuclear power deal that South Africa is signing with Russia, a deal that will make the arms deal look like chicken feed.



Andrew Feinstein, Executive Director, Corruption Watch UK & author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade and After the Party: Corruption, the ANC and South Africa’s Uncertain Future

Follow Corruption Watch on Twitter @corruptnwatchuk

Follow Shadow World film on Twitter @shadowworldfilm

Follow Andrew Feinstein on Twitter @andrewfeinstein


Guardian Bertha Documentary Partnership

We are proud to announce the launch of a partnership between Bertha Foundation and the Guardian Media Group.  Demonstrating Bertha and the Guardian’s continuing commitment to producing quality documentary content, the series will consist of 12 specially commissioned short-form films, with a new documentary released each month on Covering global stories, the series will focus on films that address contemporary issues and raise awareness of both people and movements making a difference in the world.

Led by Rebecca Lichtenfeld, Director of Social Impact Media at Bertha Foundation, and Charlie Phillips, Guardian’s head of documentaries, the standalone section will feature a high quality video player which spans the full width of the screen on mobile, tablet and desktop. The films are an eclectic mix, covering a diverse range of themes such as nationalism, migration and protest.

Director Zed Nelson revisits gun owners he photographed 18 years ago

Director Zed Nelson revisits the gun owners he photographed for his book 18 years ago

The first film launched, Gun Nation, follows photojournalist Zed Nelson as he as he revisits the gun owners and people affected by guns he photographed for his book of the same name 18 years ago. Since then, over 500,000 people have been killed by firearms in the USA, and many more injured.  Nelson returns to the people he met, photographs them again, and asks why America is still a nation with an insatiable appetite for firearms.

Avoiding stereotypical images of gang members or extremists, Nelson focuses instead on another side of America’s gun culture: the mainly white middle class who sell and purchase guns in vast numbers.

Sarah 18 years ago and Sarah today

Sarah 18 years ago and Sarah today

Nelson’s two-decade-long rapport with his photographic subjects gives unique and intimate access to the minds of gun owners. As they cling to the notion of a centuries-old ‘right to bear arms’, Nelson seeks to understand why – despite the enormous death toll – there is such fierce resistance to gun control laws, particularly the debate about ownership of assault weapons.

The release of this documentary comes at a particularly critical moment for the United States.  Focusing on the increasingly heated debate around gun violence and gun control in the country, the film explores why America’s most potent symbol of freedom is also one of its greatest killers.

Award-winning photographer and filmmaker, Zed Nelson

Award-winning photographer and filmmaker, Zed Nelson

Zed Nelson is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker. Gun Nation was awarded first prize in the World Press Photo Contest, the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award and the Visa d’or.

– Director: Zed Nelson
– Producer: Zed Nelson
– Editor: Noah Payne Frank
– Commissioned by the Guardian and Bertha Foundation

Gun Nation is available to view on now.


Allie headshotAlexandra Baer Chan, Program Assistant, Bertha Foundation

Follow Bertha on Twitter @BerthaFN


The Struggle of the Residents of Islamabad’s Katchi Abadis

A view of Islamabad (Photo: Hasan Basri)

A view of Islamabad (Photo: Hasan Basri)

Umer Gilani was a Bertha Justice “Be Just” Fellow at the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR), in Pakistan. Among the cases he led during his fellowship at FFR, and with the support of his colleague Shahzad Akbar, was the defense of the residents of an informal settlement, Afghan Basti. This is his personal account of the case and the residents’ struggle.

Perched at the foot of the majestic Margalla Hills, built on a grid pattern, leafy and impeccably clean, Islamabad is indisputably South Asia’s prettiest city. Pakistanis with money love the city and desperately want to own a parcel of it, thus the astronomic real estate prices. But Islamabad the Beautiful has a completely different relationship with a fairly sizeable segment of its populace – the street cleaners, domestic servants, fruit-sellers, gardeners, construction workers, tailors and taxi drivers who cannot afford the city’s spacious villas. The city is planned in a way that these people are condemned to living in katchi abadis. To them, Islamabad can be quite cruel, like in July 2015, when the bulldozers came for the people of the katchi abadi known as Afghan Basti, I-11.

Katchi abadis are urban slums built on state land where the residents have no title to the terrain beneath their dwellings. Afghan Basti, located in the city’s south-eastern corner, was one of them – a cluster of mud huts that was home to around 10,000 people. Afghan Basti was far from unique; roughly a third of Pakistan’s urban citizens live in such places.

In the run up to the demolition, the residents of Afghan Basti staged numerous street protests with the support of the Awami Workers Party. They also pleaded their case before the High Court, contending that the planned demolition would violate various policies and laws which protect the right to shelter. The National Housing Policy 2001, in particular, places a moratorium on katchi abadi demolitions without prior resettlement. But neither the High Court nor the Capital Development Authority (CDA) would listen. At the last hearing, when the katchi abadi residents showed up at the Court in good numbers, they were thrown out of the courtroom without a stated reason.

On July 30, 2015, the CDA and Islamabad Capital Territory Administration razed the entire Afghan Basti settlement. The whole community became homeless in a single day. Although some residents, especially women, symbolically resisted the evictions by climbing to the roofs of their mud huts in front of the heavily armed state forces, the bulldozers ultimately prevailed.

The bulldozers arrived to demolish the area. Photo by Hassan Turi.

The bulldozers arrived to demolish the area. Photo by Hassan Turi.

Police arrived at the site. Some residents climb to roof tops. Photo by Hassan Turi.

Police arrived at the site. Some residents climb to roof tops. Photo by Hassan Turi.

The travails of the katchi abadi’s residents did not end with the demolition. The police alleged that the residents had pelted stones at the evictors, had held police officers hostage and had beaten them. In connection with these charges, sixty-six of the residents were arrested the day of the demolition and charged with terrorism, attempted murder and numerous other serious charges.

Pakistan does not have a public defender system, so the residents approached the Foundation for Fundamental Rights for pro bono legal representation.

The first step in our defense strategy was to get the case transferred out of the anti-terrorism courts to the somewhat less draconian ordinary criminal courts. To this end, we relied heavily on a particular strand of jurisprudence, developed by some fair-minded jurists like Justice Asif Khosa, which defines terrorism narrowly. We argued that even if the allegations leveled were deemed correct, a mob of unarmed slum-dwellers allegedly hurling pebbles at heavily armed policemen does not constitute terrorism, whatever else it might be. Only after the prosecution’s repeated absence from eleven consecutive hearings spanning four and a half months between October 2015 and February 2016, were we able to get the application decided. On February 15, 2016, the terrorism charges were removed and the case transferred for trial to the Magistrate’s courts.

"Client Conference" outside the Anti-terrorism Court. Defence counsel Umer Gilani (center) and political activist Ammar Rashid (left) stand with Afghan Basti residents as they protest their innocence before the Anti-Terrorist Court in Islamabad. Photo: Ammar Qalandar Mawaz.

“Client Conference” outside the Anti-terrorism Court. Defence counsel Umer Gilani (center) and political activist Ammar Rashid (left) stand with Afghan Basti residents as they protest their innocence before the Anti-Terrorist Court in Islamabad. Photo: Ammar Qalandar Mawaz.

In the Magistrate’s court, we faced a similar series of adjournments. Just when we were beginning to lose hope, the tide turned. Due to the persistence of the residents who kept showing up to proclaim their innocence, day in and day out, the Magistrate finally granted their application. On May 17, 2016, they were acquitted on the grounds that the evidence against them was not independent and seemed fabricated by the police.

Afghan Basti residents and lawyers celebrating acquittal outside the Court of Magistrate Humayun Dilawar, F-8, Islamabad. Photo: Umer Gilani.

Afghan Basti residents and lawyers celebrating acquittal outside the Court of Magistrate Humayun Dilawar, F-8, Islamabad. Photo: Umer Gilani.

After having reclaimed their innocence in court, the accused can file all sorts of claims to right the wrongs done to them – claims against wrongful eviction, loss of property, false and malicious prosecution, and violation of the fundamental right to liberty. However, the reality is that they do not have time to fight more legal battles. Now, they are busy rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, selling fruit in various parts of the city and seeking rented shelter wherever they can afford it.

The I-11 tragedy was not without its silver lining. After the demolition, the Supreme Court of Pakistan granted a temporary injunction against further katchi abadi demolitions in Islamabad. On numerous hearings, well-attended by katchi abadi residents, the Court has publically recognized the need for an inclusive housing and zoning policy in the country. The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan is, with the assistance of stakeholders and activists, in the process of developing a legal and policy framework for protecting the constitutional right to shelter. All over the country, there is at least some recognition that the right to equality which Pakistan’s Constitution promises to all citizens has yet to be reflected in the geography of our beautiful cities. And so, the struggle continues…

Umer Gilani

Umer Gilani, former Bertha Justice “Be Just” Fellow at Foundation for Fundamental Rights, Pakistan

Follow Umer at Twitter @umergilani_lums

Follow FFR at Twitter @ffr_pk

Bertha Foundation Justice Initiative Blog