'Natalia Project' Bracelet Aims To Protect Human Rights Defenders

A Bracelet That Protects Activists From Murder

On the morning of July 15, 2009, human-rights defender Natalia Estemirova was abducted in Chechnya. That evening, she was found dead in the woods; she had been riddled with bullets, murdered. Now, a group of human-rights defenders are trying to make sure other activists don't suffer the same fate.

This month, the Swedish organization Civil Rights Defenders introduced the Natalia Project bracelet. The chunky plastic gizmo is said to contain a set of GPS and cell-enabled alarms that will allow aid workers and other at-risk humanitarians to send out distress signals if they're in danger. The distress signal also goes off if the bracelet's lock is tampered with or if the bracelet is forcibly removed.

Seems like a logical step for the tech-savvy Civil Rights Defenders, which also made "Empathy CAPTCHAs" that check to see if a computer user is a human or robot by asking questions that involve compassion (thereby raising awareness of human-rights abuses). But given that mobile coverage is spotty in certain countries where aid workers work, like the Congo, and that GPS can only transmit, not receive, signals, potential kidnappers might be able to rely on downed infrastructure and hidden bases to shield themselves from police. Moreover, Civil Rights Defenders only plans to equip 55 humanitarians by the end of 2014, although interested netizens can raise that number by donating money for bracelets. Despite these limitations, such bracelets are positive steps.

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