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Karen Tse          

Human Rights Defender & Social Entrepreneur; Founder of International Bridges of Justice

Karen founded International Bridges of Justice (IBJ) in 2000 to promote systemic global change in the administration of criminal justice. A former public defender, Karen first developed her interest in the cross section of criminal law and human rights as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow in 1986, after observing Southeast Asian refugees detained in a local prison without trial and thousands of prisoners of all ages being held without trial, often having been tortured into making so -alled confessions.

In 1994, she moved to Cambodia to train the country’s first core group of public defenders and subsequently served as a United Nations Judicial Mentor. Under the auspices of the U.N., she trained judges and prosecutors, and established the first arraignment court in Cambodia.

In the initial stages, she negotiated groundbreaking measures in judicial reform with the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian governments. Under her leadership, IBJ has expanded its programming to include Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and India. In addition to the Defenders Resource Centers in those countries, under Karen's stewardship, IBJ also sponsored independent Justice Makers in 25 countries and created a Global Defense Support Program to bring IBJ assistance to public defenders worldwide.

A graduate of UCLA Law School and Harvard Divinity School, Karen was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders in 2007. She has been recognized by the Skoll Foundation, Ashoka and Echoing Green as a leading social entrepreneur. Karen was the recipient of the 2008 Harvard Divinity School’s First Decade Award, and the 2008 American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Award. She also received the 2009 Gleitsman International Award at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


Minister cursades for justice in foreign lands
Every day at the International Bridges toJustice office in Geneva, Switzerland, the staff stops their work to ring a bell, and light a candle. The bell reminds them of the interconnectedness of the universe, IBJ founder, president and CEO Karen Tse, said.
Karen Tse: Expanding the rule of law worldwide, seeking an end to torture
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.
Karen Tse’s Fight for Prisoners’ Rights
When Karen Tse, a San Francisco public defender, arrived in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia to train defense lawyers in 1994, one of the first things she wanted to know was how criminal cases were investigated. When she asked her trainees, “there was silence,” Ms. Tse recalls. Suspects always came with confessions, the lawyers explained, making investigations unnecessary.

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