Bridge to Justice

Posted: November 16, 2012

The Straits Times of Singapore recently revealed Karen Tse ’86 as one of their Change Makers in an interview published October 12. Tse, an activist, humanitarian, and founder of International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), talked to journalist Susan Long about the non-profit organization, which works toward the end of torture and increased awareness of criminal rights and justice.

While attending Scripps College, Tse’s courses on human rights inspired her to go beyond the theoretical to look for solutions; she worked at refugee camps in Hong Kong and Thailand before traveling to Cambodia as a lawyer to help strengthen the justice system. She arrived in a nation with 13 million people and only 10 lawyers, and worked to train the country’s first 25 public defenders.

Tse founded IBJ to train lawyers in order to make sure courthouses and police officers perform their necessary and proper duties.  “In India,” she said, “an average of four people a day are tortured to death in custody. Elsewhere too, we have tales of people being locked up for years before getting a trial.”

Headquartered in Geneva, IBJ has grown its operations into Burundi, Cambodia, China, India, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and 25 other countries around the world. It’s trained 55 lawyers and law enforcement officers from Asian countries, established defender resource centers which have themselves trained thousands of lawyers and police officers, and increased public awareness about rights of the detained.  Tse hopes the organization will “help Singapore lawyers reflect on their own laws, as well as think through how to better support legal aid in this country.”

As an ordained Unitarian minister, Tse believes even the most corrupt individuals are capable of change, and she hopes to continue to see this change develop where it is most needed. “I do believe in this lifetime we can end torture through mechanical, administrative efficiency,” she said.

— Elizabeth Pfeiffer ’15 and Ann Mayhew ’13

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