Meet the investigators whose job it is to hold human rights abusers to account.
Amnesty International’s reports make headlines all over the world. And behind every one? Months, sometimes years, of painstaking sleuthing by our researchers. It’s difficult - often dangerous - detective work in some of the most challenging and volatile places on earth.
‘Witness from Amnesty International’ takes you behind the scenes. Each episode follows the twists and turns of a different high-stakes human-rights investigation. Discover what it takes to uncover the truth – when there are people who would prefer the truth to stay buried.
For more information, visit amnesty.org/witness.
This show includes references to death and violence which some listeners may find distressing.
Your phone rings. Within seconds, it’s infected with secret spyware that's tracking everything you do. From Mexico to Morocco, some of the most insidious attacks on human rights activists, including the targeting of one of Amnesty’s own team, have been waged using spyware manufactured by NSO Group, a major player in the secretive surveillance industry. NSO’s Pegasus malware can turn on your phone’s microphone and camera without your knowledge, access your emails and texts, track your keystrokes, and collect data about you. Amnesty’s Danna Ingleton and a team of Amnesty Tech Investigators race against the clock to expose this spyware and stop it being used against activists.
‘.. imagine the fear of thinking that actually at any moment you could be being recorded. This is a purchased big brother and nobody's batting an eyelash that this is going on.’
2008. Amnesty researcher, Audrey Gaughran gets a call from a contact in the Niger Delta saying there’s been a massive oil spill in the village of Bodo. The white sandy beaches are covered with crude; local livelihoods are destroyed. Shell – keen to downplay the damage – have offered token recompense. How can the inhabitants fight back?
Hear the extraordinary David and Goliath story of how one village took on a giant of the oil industry… and won.
“It was the sense that a company was able to dismiss a community so totally that the oil could keep spilling and lines be spun and no one seemed to care. There was something very disturbing about how all those people’s lives could just be so completely dismissed.”
My Heart Is Burnt
Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera has an extraordinary job – she walks the bombed-out streets of the Syrian city of Raqqa, talking to witnesses and searching the rubble. Her aim? To piece together evidence of the lives lost during its bombardment by the US-led coalition in 2017. Case by case, she collects tiny scraps of information, hoping to get justice for the bereaved. In this episode, she describes the day-to-day difficulties and occasional victories that come with working in a place described as ‘the most destroyed city in modern times’.
“I go to places during the acute phase… in the middle of conflict… just after the conflict… places that are difficult to get to. Places where other people don’t want to go.”
Summer 2017. News reports show the Rohingya, a population in north west Myanmar, fleeing across the border to Bangladesh with nothing but the clothes on their backs. What’s happened? The Myanmar military say one thing, witnesses tell a very different story.
Amnesty’s Tirana Hassan gets on a plane to Bangladesh to find out. Can she and the team gather the evidence they need to hold the Myanmar military and authorities to account?
“There was a part of me that said this can’t be true, this is just so dark and violent. You had to keep asking questions because as an investigator that’s your job but also as a human I couldn’t understand what drives other humans to do this.”
Nauru was known as ‘Pleasant Island’ - until its neighbour, Australia, began to use it for a nefarious purpose: detaining humans. In this episode, Amnesty researchers, Anna Shea and Anya Neistat, take on the near impossible task of getting onto the island to record testimonies – before the authorities can catch them.
“I had a week and that was it and I knew that in any case if I could stay longer I could get arrested and deported. It was very clear the clock was ticking.”
2015. There are whispers about what life is like inside ‘Saydnaya’ - the most feared of Syrian military prisons – but very few witnesses. Amnesty researcher, Nicolette Waldman, starts to wonder: what’s going on inside this blackest of black sites?
"We would just drive, from city to city... we would basically follow any lead we could get - it was that difficult. It felt absolutely like detective work".
This was incredible!
Wow, this podcast was incredibly well done, loved learning about the investigation. I will be listening to the next episode.👍👍