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Karen Tse: Expanding the rule of law worldwide, seeking an end to torture

Karen Tse, founder and director of the Geneva-based organization International Bridges to Justice, in Kolkata, India. Credit:

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we’re talking with Karen Tse, founder and executive director of the Geneva-based organization International Bridges to Justice. Tse, an attorney who originally hailed from the San Francisco area, started IBJ in 2000 to fight the stunningly common use of torture or other abuses by law enforcement agencies, governments and others in power around the world.

Cambodian man reads about his legal rights.

Cambodian man reads about his legal rights.

Tse got started, in the mid-1990s before IBJ was launched, seeking to ensure legal representation for the poor in Cambodia while working for the United Nations as a ‘judicial mentor.’ She helped Cambodia create its first public defenders network and also worked with prosecutors, judges and law enforcement to encourage appreciation of the benefit, to everyone, for consistency in operating by the rule of law. IBJ has since expanded worldwide, working in Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and India. Tse has received many honors for her work, including from Ashoka and the Skoll Foundation.

Humanosphere’s executive editor Tom Paulson interviewed Tse at the Skoll World Forum, an annual gathering of ‘social entrepreneurs’ who focus on finding new, creative ways to address some of the planet’s most pressing social problems. The interview with Tse is an excellent follow-up to last week’s podcast with another humanitarian Vivek Maru and his ‘barefoot lawyers brigade’ who also works on enhancing legal protections for the world’s most disenfranchised people.

As always for our podcast, before we get into the interview with Tse, Paulson and I review some of the big stories currently bouncing around in the Humanosphere, beginning with the idiocy of the US government denying entry to a heroic Syrian aid worker who was invited to come here to receive an award for his wonderful and life-saving work assisting refugees. We also note Lisa Nikolau’s story about the high rate of suicides among indigenous people in Canada and Charlie Ensor’s story on the disturbing lack of access to anti-HIV treatment in West and Central Africa.

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About Author

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan is Humanosphere's social media manager and podcast producer. A University of Washington graduate in journalism and dance, Imana's interests include underrepresented communities, the intersection between politics and culture, global-local issues and the arts. She can be reached at @imanafg on Twitter or