Category Archives: Karen Tse

Gathering of Religious Leaders with Hilde Schwab and Karen Tse

Davos 2014 Interfaith Peace Vigil


Rev. Karen Tse and Hilde Schwab brought together religious leaders from around the world in Davos during the World Economic Forum. Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, Anglican, Jewish and many more faith groups were represented and spoke of the high need to end torture, now.


The leaders know it is possible to end torture now by empowering people at every level to work together. They believe in this mission of IBJ.


This recognition is universal across all religions; religious differences are easily overcome in the face of something like torture. It’s a clear call from our most sacred sources to act now to end suffering and bring peace to the world; an imperative found in every holy tradition.

Gathering of Religious Leaders with Hilde Schwab and Karen Tse

Hilde Schwab

Karen Tse praying for justice


Cardinal John O. Onaiyekan, Cardinal and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Catholic Archiocese of Abuja


John O. Onaiyekan, Cardinal and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cathloic Archidocese of Abuja

On the right is Kimihiro Kitakawara, Vice-President, Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF)

Kimihiro Kitakawara, Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF)

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO, Islamic Relief Worldwide

Roland Jenni

John Jameson

Ambassador Arif Nayed

Ramnia singing to Ganesha

Dr. Armand D’Angour, Fellow and Tutor in Classics, Editor of the Jesus Record


Global Shaper

Davos Church

Panellists and moderator for the Security and Law Enforcement Panel

Karen Talks at the World Justice Forum’s Security and Law Enforcement Panel

Panellists and moderator for the Security and Law Enforcement Panel

Last week, Karen Tse, CEO and founder of International Bridges to Justice, made an important contribution to the discussion on how law enforcement and human rights can effectively coexist, at the World Justice Forum in The Hague. The World Justice Forum, organized by the World Justice Project, took place between the 8th and 11th of July 2013. This dynamic and innovative forum brought together diverse professionals and academics from across the world to discuss issues concerning the implementation of justice and the rule of law. Karen spoke on the panel on Security and Law Enforcement, contributing insight on IBJ’s successful global work on fighting the use of torture as an investigative tool.

Karen was joined by a diverse and stimulating group of panellists; Kiran Bedi, former Director General of the Indian Police Service; and Innocent Chukwuma, Regional Representative of the Ford Foundation from Nigeria. The session was opened by Alejandro Hope, Security Policy Analyst from IMCO & México Evalúa, who acted as a moderator for the panellists.

Karen, drawing on IBJ’s experience of working with the police to break the narrative which presents human rights defenders and police officers as each others’ enemies,  recounted her experience training law enforcers in Cambodia which inspired her to found IBJ 12 years ago. At this time, torture was routinely used in Cambodian police stations as an investigative tool. By discovering the genuine will of law enforcers to move forward from the brutal Khmer Rouge regime where torture was used systematically, Karen was able to train hundreds of police officers in lawful methods of investigation. This experience formed a precedent for IBJ’s global work in ending torture.

The success of working together with police officers to stop torture has been evident in the positive changes in the countries where IBJ operates. “The journey of IBJ has been remarkable”, Karen explained, “IBJ has been embraced in all the countries where we’ve worked”. Recently, in Myanmar in June 2013, Karen met with the Chief of Police who overtly requested to find out how IBJ can help stop torture taking place in police stations across the country. Karen concluded that IBJ’s global achievements have shown that as long as people and communities have the will to move forward, we have the power to create, transform and reform.

The other panellists also embraced the topic with thought-provoking speeches. Innocent Chukwuma from the Ford Foundation presented a stimulating argument on the indispensible importance of informal justice and policing systems in security and law enforcement. These speeches inspired many interesting questions amongst the audience.

Ultimately, Karen’s contribution at the World Justice Forum proved that not only does IBJ’s practical model for bridging law enforcement and human rights continue to actively contribute to realizing justice worldwide, but IBJ also plays a leading role in the theoretical dialogue which frames current debates on strengthening the rule of law around the world.

Karen Tse inpires the audience at the World Justice Forum

Contributed by Eva Steketee

An Inspirational Visit Kandal Prison with Karen and Vandeth

During Karen’s recent trip to Cambodia we spent an afternoon in Kandal prison with the purpose of meeting all the female and juvenile prisoners. It was a privilege to visit Kandal prison with both Karen and Vandeth, a place Karen first worked back in 1994.

There were some shocking tales as well as some stories of hope. The youngest juvenile prisoner we met was a 14-year-old boy, Sophea. He had been in prison for over one month without the knowledge of his legal rights, or his right to a lawyer. What is most disturbing is the fact that, given his age, Sophea was likely sacrificed to the justice system to resolve a dispute between two families – a frighteningly common practice in Cambodia. Furthermore, under Cambodia law a trial cannot proceed for juvenile cases without a lawyer. Without IBJ’s intervention Sophea would have remained unrepresented and in detention for months, unable to attend school. It is likely that he would have only been appointed a lawyer at the final stage of the legal process, leaving very little opportunity to investigate the facts of the case or establish innocence. Without a lawyer Sophea’s case would be delayed, making him particularly vulnerable to excessive pre-trial detention. After our visit to the prison, Sophea now has been assigned a lawyer, a voice to advocate on his behalf and more importantly provide him with hope.

What was really special about the day was Karen’s energy that resulted in the most beautiful smiles and a room full of laughter. It was great to see the young boys return to their youthful playfulness and the women laughing and clapping. These moments of joy were a stark contrast to our surroundings. Vandeth’s hard work and Karen’s tenacity is an example of how IBJ provides hope. Their humbling but inspirational belief that we can and will succeed was shown in every smile and heard through every laugh. The impact and hope that IBJ brings to people lost in the darkest parts of the prison system was truly moving.

* Kate Flower is a volunteer with the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) Program. The AYAD Program is part of Australian Volunteers for International Development, an Australian Government, AusAID initiative.


Blessings, Cross-Examination Techniques and a Vision for the Future at IBJ’s Lawyer Training Workshop in Phnom Penh

and Nastasia Bach

Karen Tse, IBJ’s founder and CEO, and Daniel R. Fung, Chair of the Board of Directors, travelled to Cambodia to meet with the IBJ staff to collaborate and improve skills.  On April 7, 2012 eight lawyers and five investigators met at the IBJ office in Phnom Penh.  The day was divided into three parts: blessing by the monks, defender skills training, and visioning for IBJ’s future in Cambodia.  Throughout the day there was a common theme – how can IBJ provide competent and comprehensive legal aid to all Cambodian citizens?

The first stop was Sonsam Kosal Pagoda where 16 Khmer staff, two volunteers, Karen and Daniel gathered to participate in a blessing by the monks.  The monks blessed the staff for prosperity, luck and to strengthen IBJ in Cambodia to help all its citizens.  The blessing marked a sense of unity that was evident for the remainder of the day.

Back at the office Karen opened the session with a lively and encouraging speech that recognized all of the lawyers’ dedication and hard work. She said that the IBJ program in Cambodia can be a model for the world, “like the seed and the root which is strengthening the whole world.” Karen urged the defenders to continue to work together, strategize, multiply their resources, strengthen their skills and most importantly, to commit their hearts and minds to find a vision for the future of Cambodia.

Before moving on to the defender training, IBJ’s staff introduced themselves and described the values that drive their work. Mr Chheang Makara, Mondulkiri’s provincial lawyer, who often defends ethnic minorities, noted that the Street Law Training Sessions have raised awareness about IBJ’s work among institutions throughout the province. He further expressed his pride and commitment in being an IBJ lawyer.

Mr Kin Vibol, Takeo’s provincial lawyer said:

I have many reasons that motivate me to work for IBJ. The first is to provide pro bono defense to the poor. Without my defense, my clients would be given the maximum sentence, which in most cases is unfair. If my clients are innocent, I aim to prove this and have them acquitted. IBJ has been increasingly recognized by competent authorities throughout Takeo and Kampot as well as by the local people. This awareness is due to our Street Law Trainings and by word-of-mouth. I have direct contact with the police who can contact me by phone at any time. Having direct access to our clients held in police custody provides a real opportunity to prevent them from being tortured and guarantees their right to a fair trial. This is IBJ’s mission and purpose.”

Daniel then met the group for the first time and voiced his happiness to be back in Cambodia.  He marvelled at the huge amount of progress the country has made since his last visit twelve years ago. Daniel stressed the importance of the rule of law and an effective judicial system as an essential key to a functioning society.  In order to strengthen the defenders, Daniel then demonstrated his impressive legal skills to improve the trial skills of the IBJ lawyers.  He focused on the importance of cross-examination with the prosecution’s witness and the art of establishing the truth and eliminating prejudices by introducing a different perspective of the facts to arrive at this truth.

After lunch the lawyers were asked to look at two case studies: murder and assault.  They were asked to raise the line of defense that they thought would assist the accused and establish the truth.  Daniel provided them with many thought-provoking questions that prompted strong answers. In both cases the lawyers provided a number of convincing arguments that would help prove their client’s innocence. Daniel was very impressed by the responses. The defenders were then put through an interactive role-play to demonstrate the lessons learnt from Daniel’s lesson.

The final session was a vision exercise that took the lawyers 12 years into the future.  Karen asked the question: what do you want legal aid in Cambodia to look like in 12 years?  The staff split into three groups of four, and each group drew their vision for IBJ in 2024. The responses were amazing.  The first group drew a dove as a symbol of peace and dignity through recognition of the rights of the accused and a right to a fair trial.  The second group described IBJ’s work as the rising sun as they aspired to have quality legal aid available to all, end torture, eliminate poverty and eliminate all forms of corruption and have Cambodian known as a “state of law.”  The third group focused on legal empowerment of all Cambodians, so that they know their rights and the law.  They also want Cambodia’s judicial system to strengthen, and specifically the relationships between defense lawyer and justice stakeholders.  All groups wished for legal aid to be present in all 24 Cambodian provinces to ensure that there was early systematic legal aid representation for all Cambodian citizens.

Daniel, Karen and Vandeth closed the day with thanks and words of encouragement. Karen said that she was so inspired to hear all their dreams for the future.

“Listening to you I realize one thing, I realize that you are writing history, not only with each case—case by case—that you stand for, but you are writing history because your vision is more grand than only your individual cases. Your vision is how to institute systematic early access to a lawyer in Cambodia. And we realize that you are taking steps and you may not reach your dream today or tomorrow, not even next month, maybe not even next year , but I promise you that if we all work together in this room, by the year 2024 this will not be a dream. You, we, I, all of us together will have participated in and created this historic effort. Bring your light to the darkest corners of the provinces and prisons. I want to thank you for bringing the light, not only in Cambodia but throughout the whole world.”

After a long, successful and fulfilling day, a group picture was taken and the defenders went home to start preparing themselves for the Khmer New Year.

Ibj cambodia staff

* Kate Flower is a volunteer with the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) Program. The AYAD Program is part of Australian Volunteers for International Development, an Australian Government, AusAID initiative.

Karen Tse to Deliver IBJ’s Message at TED Global

IBJ Founder and CEO Karen Tse will deliver IBJ’s message to Stop Torture in the 21st Century at TED Global on Wednesday, July 13, 2011, 2:15pm-4:00pm (Edinburgh, BST/GMT+1).

In too many countries, it’s still normal to torture prisoners for confessions and information. Karen Tse works to end that.

A former public defender, Karen Tse developed an interest in the intersection of criminal law and human rights after observing Southeast Asian refugees held in a local prison without trial, often tortured to obtain “confessions.” In 1994, she moved to Cambodia to train the country’s first core group of public defenders. Under the auspices of the UN, she trained judges and prosecutors, and established the first arraignment court in Cambodia.

In 2000, Tse founded International Bridges to Justice to help create systemic change in criminal justice and promote basic rights of legal representation for defendants on the ground. Her foundation complements the work of witness groups, who do the equally vital work of advocacy, reports, photographs. Tse’s group helps governments build new systems that respect individual rights. In IBJ’s first years, she negotiated groundbreaking measures  in judicial reform with the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian governments. It now works in sixteen countries, including Burundi, Cambodia, China, Rwanda, India and Zimbabwe.

She says: “I believe it is possible to end torture in my lifetime.”

For more information, visit Ted Global.

IBJ Completes Mission to Egypt

In May, IBJ conducted a mission to Egypt to speak with government officials and local NGOs about the status of criminal defense and legal aid after the revolution.

IBJ witnessed the spirit of optimism and hope that the revolution has sparked. Yet, it also became clear that Egypt is still at the very beginning of its journey to a democratic and stable country where human rights are respected. The decades of political oppression and the systematic use of torture have left their marks.

IBJ CEO and Founder Karen Tse meeting the Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed El-Guindi and Dr. Taissir Hanafy Hosam El-Din

IBJ was received warmly by the government and local NGOs.  IBJ met the Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed El-Guindi. He expressed his strong support of IBJ’s work and his wish to cooperate, laying the groundwork for future operations in Egypt.

IBJ and the Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRCAP)

Also, IBJ met with the Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRCAP), an NGO doing great work in providing legal assistance to prisoners and advocating for the reform of prisons. Together with Mohamed Zarea, founder and director of HRCAP, IBJ discussed launching a joint program that would promote early access to counsel for the accussed.

Furthermore, IBJ held a meeting with various lawyers from Cairo and the surroundings. Together they brainstormed on how to make legal aid more effective and what needs to happen so that human rights are respected everywhere in Egypt. In the end the lawyers shared their dreams for the future of Egypt and all wished IBJ success for their future operations in their country.

IBJ meets young lawyers in Cairo, Egypt

Transformation and Liberation: Rising Up From Fear to Hope

On March 22nd, IBJ Founder and CEO Karen Tse delivered a speech, “Transformation and Liberation: Rising Up From Fear to Hope”, as part of the Syracuse University Lecture Series in Syracuse, New York.

The speech focused on IBJ’s successful model that dramatically reduces torture and other human rights abuses in criminal justice systems around the world.

“The biggest obstacle that I see today is our own inability to believe in the possibility and the hope for a future where there is a torture free world,” Tse said. “We can do this by putting building blocks together and creating infrastructure in these countries.”

After the lecture, Hanna Richardson, Associate Deputy Director of the Honors Program, taught the full-house crowd  a song in support of torture victims around the world. “We are going, heaven knows where we are going, we’ll know we’re there. We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there, we know we will.”

“The only thing we need to do to save this world is to allow ourselves to hear the cries of the world to save these people,” Tse said. “If we can see the seas of hope, if we can see it and we can believe it, then we can create another tomorrow.”

IBJ Hosts Panel Event And Discussion At Davos 2011

On 29 January 2011, International Bridges to Justice brought together thought leaders from around the globe for an interactive gathering and discussion at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. For the 4th consecutive year, IBJ sparked a vibrant discussion amongst attendees and invited the Davos community to join its struggle to ensure the basic legal rights of ordinary citizens throughout the world.

This year’s event, Building Bridges and Inspiring Hope: Innovations from Davos, focused on the theme that realizing IBJ’s mission was “doable” and challenged participants to utilize their expertise and background to help create real and immediate change. Following an introduction from Hilde Schwab, Co-founder and Chairperson of Schwab Social Entrepreneurship, IBJ Founder and CEO Karen Tse kicked off the interactive panel discussion, moderated by David Kirkpatrick of The Daily Beast, with some words of hope and a bit of background on IBJ’s past accomplishments. The all-star panel included Matthew Bishop, American Editor of The Economist, Sandy Climan, Managing Director of Entertainment Media Venture, Olivier Schwab, Director and Head of Technology Pioneers for the World Economic Forum, and J. Gregory Dees, Professor of the Practice of Social Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Karen Tse and the IBJ Davos 2011 Event Panel

Drawing on their unique viewpoints, the panelists each delivered insightful remarks to a packed room on topics ranging from technology’s role in social justice to the changing face of social entrepreneurship. The panelists had nothing but praise for IBJ’s mission and accomplishments; Matthew Bishop even tweeted that IBJ was “one of his favourite NGOs” and that IBJ’s “strategy of supporting public defense lawyers around the world is high return on investment giving.” Jack Vincent of the marketing firm focus360 facilitated break-out discussions, turning the focus to the audience to work with their fellow Davos community members in answering the question, “What headline would you ideally want to see written about IBJ five years from now?” The thought exercise put attendees in the driver’s seat and gave everyone a chance to help shape IBJ’s goals for the future. Summed up by amazing headlines like Facebook ‘Friends’ IBJ With $100M Donation From Zuckerberg Foundation; Former Chinese President Hu Jintao Joins Board As Chairman, the entire room opened their minds and hearts to what the future might hold for IBJ.

Capping off the exciting event was a special video message from singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel, including both his personal wishes for IBJ and a rendition of Wallflower, his touching song about the terrible treatment of political prisoners in Latina America. All in all, IBJ is extremely happy with the event and would like to thank all of the panelists, participants, and supporters who helped make it possible.

Christian Angermayer, founder and partner of the Angermayer, Brumm & Lange group of financial companies, sponsored the event.