Fighting for human rights is a noble undertaking, but it’s also extremely dangerous in places where that fight isn't about simply arguing over abstractions. Aware of the very real possibility of campaigners being beaten, kidnapped or murdered, Civil Rights Defenders in Stockholm has launched the Natalia Project. Named after Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist who was abducted and murdered in Chechnya in 2009, it’s based on an electronic bracelet that sends a pre-programmed text alarm if activated or forcibly removed.
The bracelet is a wireless assault alarm system intended to immediately draw attention to any assaults on human rights activists. The idea is that in the event of an assault, the wearer can send an alert or the alert is automatically sent if the bracelet is removed by force.
Civil Rights Defenders is bit hazy on the technology, which is understandable. However, it did reveal that it uses GPS and GSM technology and that the bracelet is programmed with "individual protocols for security." In addition to the bracelets, the Natalia Project also encourages people to sign up using Twitter or Facebook to receive weekly updates on the project as well as becoming part of a global alert network.
According to the organization, if a distress signal is activated, it sends a pre-written alert to tell nearby volunteers to respond, as well as to Civil Rights Defenders HQ in Stockholm. This message includes a timestamp and the location based on mobile phone triangulation. Messages about the assault and recommended courses of action are sent via email, SMS, Facebook and Twitter to those who sign on to the project. The hope is that immediate, widespread publicity about an assault will allow the public to bring pressure to bear on behalf of the victim.
Civil Rights Defenders hopes to deploy 30 of the bracelets this year and have 55 in use by 2014. However, only one has been funded so far.
The video below outlines the Natalia Project.