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Biography

Karen Tse, an international human rights lawyer, Unitarian Universalist minister and former San Francisco public defender, founded International Bridges to Justice in 2000. Karen first developed her interest in the cross section of criminal law and human rights in 1986, after observing Southeast Asian refugees detained in a local prison without trial. 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. Karen formed IBJ after witnessing hundreds of prisoners of all ages being held without trials, usually after being tortured into making 'confessions’, in order to promote systemic global change in the administration of criminal justice. In the initial stages, she negotiated groundbreaking measures in judicial reform in China, Vietnam and Cambodia using a careful and collaborative model with each of the governments in order to achieve results without causing political disturbance. Using the same model she expanded IBJ’s programming to include Rwanda, Burundi and India. IBJ has created a Global Defense Support Program to bring IBJ assistance to public defenders worldwide. Currently, IBJ has a presence in over 40 countries. Karen is a graduate of UCLA Law School and Harvard Divinity School. Karen is a recipient of the Skoll Award for Social Innovation, the Gleitsman International Award, the Harvard Kennedy School Award, the American Bar Association Human Rights Award and named as one of America’s best leaders by the US News and World Report.

To learn more about Karen’s work and International Bridges to Justice, please watch her TEDTalk https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_tse_how_to_stop_torture