The Virtual Human Rights Lab
15 nov 2018


Marieke de Hoon

Application KnowVU Award 2018 – fall

By: Marieke de Hoon (RCH)

The Virtual Human Rights Lab is a joint project of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Netherlands Office of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) that allows students to take part in helping victims of serious human rights violations obtain access to justice and redress. At the Virtual Human Rights Lab, students are able to participate in an exciting project that aims to address a critical societal problem: the human rights redress gap. We want to bring together students with relevant and diverse backgrounds such as law, computer science, artificial intelligence, and communications, and in doing so create a sustainable environment where we can develop a concrete solution to this problem. To help, we also will bring in experts and real-life representatives from all fields, such as data protection, law, marketing, computer science and programming to talk with students and stimulate their own thinking on the subject. These experts will teach modules to facilitate student’s understanding of these difficult concepts. For the 2019-2020 academic year, we want to launch the Virtual Human Rights Lab and give students the innovative and rare opportunity to take part in addressing the human rights redress gap. We will select 12-16 students with various backgrounds to participate in the Virtual Human Rights Lab, who can this first year be enrolled in the International Law Clinic before we explore a separate course, and participate with the existing Clinic’s professional development course and activities of this group of students that are doing closely related projects in the field of (post-)conflict justice. This project uses sustainable teaching methods that not only help students learn, but also encourage them to produce their own ways of solving problems that are useful in any field.

The Virtual Human Rights Lab is a form of community service learning at the VU that brings together a diverse group of students in a manner that does not exist yet, to develop new technology for a new application of technology to the human rights field. The human rights redress gap, is one that has existed since the international human rights regime came into place. By taking students from different faculties into that problem-solving process and reflective educational environment, we are offering the chance for students to be at the negotiating table when determining what will and won’t work.

With new and diverse students comes different and exciting ways of making a societal impact. In that vein, we are aiming to draw from the students and use our combined set of skills and knowledge to formulate fresh ways of looking at old problems and do so in a sustainable fashion. Furthermore, creating a stimulating environment that brings together law, communications, artificial intelligence, and computer science will create exciting innovative challenges, critical questions and answers to many of the problems that those facing human rights violations face today.

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