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Center for Human Rights - Celebrating 15 Years! Students • Partners • Research

Education for Change: Meet UWCHR’s Student FOIA Researchers

Noah Schramm, Emily Willard, and Sarah Kwan discuss FOIA strategy in the Quad.
Noah Schramm, Emily Willard, and Sarah Kwan discuss FOIA strategy in the Quad.

April 3, 2018

At the UW Center for Human Rights, student researchers use the Freedom of Information Act (also known as FOIA) and state public records laws to investigate local and international human rights issues, in partnership with human rights organizations working for justice and accountability.

Meet recent members of our research team in our new video:

Gathering evidence for justice and healing in El Salvador

The work that UWCHR student research interns do has real-world impacts. Through the Unfinished Sentences project supporting human rights groups in El Salvador, declassified CIA documents obtained by UW researchers have been accepted as evidence in a court case seeking two young girls who were forcibly disappeared during a military operation in 1982. UW student researchers are also piloting an innovative program to use declassified U.S. government documents as a tool in the healing process of war survivors, as way to allow them access to information about wartime operations and to speak back against official narratives of the war. All of the declassified documents obtained by UW researchers regarding the conflict in El Salvador are freely accessible via the UW Libraries.

Shedding light on Human Rights at Home

Student researchers are also turning their freedom of information expertise to local issues through the UWCHR’s Human Rights at Home initiative. The first report from this initiative, “Don’t Ask, Do Tell,” used public records requests to analyze Washington State law enforcement agencies’ policies regarding collaboration with federal immigration enforcement activity. The report’s findings were cited by the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in a letter to police and sheriff’s departments across the state, urging them to revise policies which could result in civil rights violations. The UWCHR’s student research interns continue to file FOIA and public records requests regarding ICE and CBP activities in Washington State.

Interested in becoming a research intern?

UWCHR requires multi-quarter commitments from interested students, and usually conducts interviews over the summer for the following academic year. Follow our Facebook page for announcements of position openings.