International Justice Mission
|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit global organization|
|Endowment||US$ 51.56 million (FY 2015)|
|CEO and Founder: Gary Haugen; President: Sean Litton; Senior Vice President of Justice System Transformation: Sharon Cohn Wu; SVP Justice Operations: Blair Burns; SVP Global Advancement: Melissa Russell|
International Justice Mission is an international, Christian non-governmental 501(c)(3) organization focused on human rights, law and law enforcement. Founded by lawyer Gary Haugen in 1997, it is the world's largest international anti-slavery organization. It works to combat sex trafficking, child sexual assault, cybersex trafficking, forced labor slavery, property grabbing, police abuse of power and addresses citizenship rights of minorities. The bulk of IJM's work focuses on slavery and sex trafficking, and the organization's participation in high-profile raids of brothels and close coordination with third world police agencies have engendered criticism from human rights and sex worker organizations over its mission and tactics. Based out of Washington, D.C., International Justice Mission has 17 Field Offices in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and five Partner Offices. More than 94 percent of its 750-plus employees are local nationals.
International Justice Mission was founded as a faith-based non-profit in 1997 by lawyer Gary Haugen. For its first case, the organization helped lead to the arrest of a rape suspect in Manila, Philippines. In 1998, IJM claimed to help rescue more than 700 people; In addition to helping clients with legal representation, Haugen decided his organization could make a bigger impact by collaborating with governments to help improve legal systems in developing countries. IJM cites the Bible verse Isaiah 1:17 as one of their core commitments.
Since its founding, IJM has sought to assist law enforcement conduct "rescue" operations for girls and women trapped in sex trafficking and sexual violence in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Rescue operations with local law enforcement officials in Cambodia in the early 2000s are among IJM's most well known. International Justice Mission investigators went into brothels in the village of Svay Pak in May 2002 with hidden cameras and took four underage girls to a hotel, where the group's lawyers told the girls they would be taken somewhere safe. The organization handed its evidence over to Cambodian authorities, who rescued 14 more girls a week later. About a week after that, Cambodian police arrested those girls for immigration violations. The next year, IJM went undercover with Dateline NBC. The group's investigation helped lead police to arrest pimps and rescue 37 girls from local brothels. While IJM considered these early rescue missions successes, critics questioned the organization's tactics, saying raids on brothels do not focus on the root causes of child prostitution, have led to the arrests of people not in the sex trade and hindered HIV prevention initiatives.
International Justice Mission expanded its work beyond prevention of sex trafficking and by 2009 its lawyers, social workers and advocates also helped victims whose land had been seized, bonded laborers, and the falsely imprisoned. U.S. News & World Report named International Justice Mission on its 10 Service Groups That Are Making a Difference list in 2010. Under President Barack Obama's administration, the United States Department of State honored Haugen, International Justice Mission's founder and CEO, as a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery in 2012. The State Department said IJM helped nearly 4,000 victims and assisted in the prosecution of 220 offenders between 2006 and 2012.
In December 2011, Google awarded US$11.5 million in grants to combat modern-day slavery. Google donated US$9.8 million for International Justice Mission to lead a coalition focusing on fighting slavery in India, in addition to running advocacy and education programs in the country, and mobilizing Americans. IJM CEO Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros authored The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence in 2014, for which the authors won the 2016 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Haugen followed up the book with a 19-minute TED talk in Vancouver, Canada, in 2015.
Within 20 years of its founding, International Justice Mission had grown into an organization with a US$51.6 million budget comprising more than 750 employees in 17 field offices in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and five partner offices in Canada, UK, Netherlands, Germany and Australia.
In 2016, Willie Kimani, a Kenyan International Justice Mission lawyer, and two others, including an IJM client, were murdered. Four members of the Kenyan Administrative Police were charged with murder on July 18, 2016; they pleaded not guilty. Haugen denounced the killings as "an intolerable outrage and should serve as an abrupt wake-up call to the blatant injustices committed daily and incessantly against the poor and vulnerable around the world".
International Justice Mission operates 17 Field Offices in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and has five Partner Offices in Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and Australia. International Justice Mission focuses on combatting sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic, India and the Philippines; sexual violence in Bolivia, Guatemala, Kenya and Thailand; forced labor slavery in Ghana, India and Cambodia; property grabbing in Uganda; police abuse of power in Kenya; and citizenship rights in Thailand. IJM claims to have rescued more than 28,000 victims of abuse across the globe as of 2016.
IJM hires only practicing Christians; its job listings include "Mature orthodox Christian faith as defined by the Apostles’ Creed" among stated requirements. Workdays at all offices begin with a half-hour of stillness and a half-hour of corporate prayer later in the day as part of their spiritual formation practices.
Through Project Lantern, International Justice Mission worked to develop a model for combatting sex slavery and human trafficking that other organizations and agencies could use. In 2010, IJM reported the project documented a 79 percent decrease in the number of minors sold for sex in Cebu, Philippines. Project Lantern was funded by a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006.
In addition to its aforementioned work, International Justice Mission runs programs to train criminal justice departments and governments and provides legal aid. The organization runs programs to help victims recover from their time in forced labor. Additionally, IJM has endorsed proposed legislation in Washington, D.C., to enhance anti-trafficking efforts, including the End Modern Slavery Initiative.
Investigations from some third-party sources have presented some negative outcomes of IJM's work. A United States Agency for International Development-funded census of sex workers in Cambodia in 2003 found the underage prostitution increased in the area the months following a series of brothel rescue missions organized by IJM. A researcher said that's because the girls have debt contracts and families are pressured to pay back those debts after the girls are rescued. The Nation reported that under Thai law at the time of specific raids in Thailand, voluntary sex workers faced deportation after raids. In the Philippines, The Nation reported, "a number of the women and girls" housed in a government-run facility following rescue missions escaped. In 2016, Holly Burkhalter, IJM's senior advisor for Justice System Transformation, said that within 10 years of working with the government in Cambodia, less than 1 percent of victims of sex trafficking were minors.
Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both commended IJM for its work. During International Women's Day on 12 March 2004, Bush extolled the work of an IJM official in charge of anti-trafficking operations. Bush went on to state that the U.S. government would stand by IJM's mission to end sex slavery. In 2012, Obama said International Justice Mission was "truly doing the Lord's work" during the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Governance and financials
International Justice Mission's global headquarters is located in Washington, D.C. It is governed by a 13-member international board of directors, which includes founder and CEO Gary Haugen. As of 2016, Nicole Bibbins Sedaca chairs the board.
On June 1, 2016, the independent charity watchdog Charity Navigator gave International Justice Mission four stars with an overall score of 92.15 out of 100. The organization scored 88.91 for its finances, and 100 for accountability and transparency.
According to a 2015 independent auditor's report by RSM US, International Justice Mission generated $51.56 million in total support and revenue in 2015. The organization's expenses totaled $52.25 million. Year-end net assets were $20.03 million.
International Justice Mission's 2015 funding came primarily from individuals (71%), in addition to foundations and businesses (12%), IJM partner offices (6%), churches (4%), gifts-in-kind (4%), government grants (1%) and other sources (2%). Programs accounted for 75% of expenses, general and administrative costs for 12%, and expenditures for fundraising for 13%.
Among its grants, the United States Department of Labor awarded International Justice Mission a three-year cooperative agreement on September 30, 2002. The nearly $703,000 grant helped implement the Thailand Sex Trafficking Task Force: Prevention and Placement program. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell provided the organization with a $1 million grant to combat sex trafficking in Southeast Asia in 2004. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $5 million grant in 2006. On December 14, 2011, the Google Foundation awarded $11.5 million to organizations fighting modern slavery. Among the groups to receive those funds were International Justice Mission, BBC World Service Trust, ActionAid India and Aide et Action.
IJM has aroused intense criticism over its tactics and mission. Much of the criticism stems from IJM's role in organizing brothel raids and subsequent arrests or deportations of sex workers. Others have criticized IJM for hindering HIV prevention efforts and for maligning local organizations which have questioned its tactics. Still others have questioned IJM's focus on law enforcement tactics and close coordination with police agencies to carry out a human rights mission.
Thailand brothel raids
In the year 2000, and again in 2003, IJM instigated a raid on a Chiang Mai karaoke restaurant. Thai police twice raided the establishment, arresting and subsequently deporting the women inside. IJM characterized the operations as successful "rescues". In another raid in 2001, IJM sent men undercover to a brothel, used hidden cameras and produced a 25-page document alleging specific violations of Thai law. Police raided the brothel and detained 43 female sex workers. Some of the women detained by police stated that they were working voluntarily and had not wished to leave the brothel. About half the group subsequently escaped; some apparently fearing deportation to Burma. After the 2000 and 2003 raids on the Chiang Mai restaurant, IJM sent a panicked request to other local NGOs to provide translation assistance upon realizing the sex workers were not Thai citizens. After providing translation assistance, the Shan Women’s Network characterized the raids as having grossly violated the women’s human rights. The group pointed out that despite IJM having instigated a raid twice on the same establishment, IJM failed to protect the women from prosecution and further victimization.
In later years IJM backed away somewhat from its initial assertion that the Thailand brothel raids were successful. In a 2012 article, Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s vice president for Government Relations, characterized the 2003 raid as “one of the few IJM cases in which law enforcement treatment of non-coerced adults did not meet IJM standards.”
Cambodia televised brothel raid
IJM director Gary Haugen invited the television show Dateline to film a March 29, 2003 raid it organized on a large brothel in the village of Svay Pak. IJM operatives came to the raid equipped with pepper spray and batons. The brothel contained approximately 40 girls and women who were detained in the raid. A noodle vendor, who had no involvement with the brothel, was among those who were arrested in the raid; the noodle vendor subsequently died of a stroke in jail. IJM had contracted with a Cambodian human rights organization, LICADHO, to review its actions in organizing the raid. Peter Sainsbury, the consultant who reviewed the raid, stated that he communicated the medical issues of the noodle vendor to IJM but that his concerns were ignored. At least twelve of the "rescued" victims from the 2003 raid ran away from the safe house they were taken to. In a subsequent brothel raid a year later, a number of girls rescued from the 2003 raid were found to be again involved in sex work.
Maligning indigenous public health efforts
IJM organized brothel raids have been accused of interfering with public health and HIV-prevention efforts, some of which took place at the brothels themselves. In response, IJM has stated that sex workers can instead go to clinics for such information. When Cambodian NGO Empower raised questions about the televised brothel raid in that country, Empower staff say IJM accused their organization of supporting pimps. The International Union of Sex Workers criticizes IJM's work as being focused on Christianity, and for presenting anyone involved in sex work, coerced or not, in the role of a victim awaiting salvation. It states that crackdowns drive prostitution further underground. Others have criticized brothel raids more generally as an ineffective way to fight human trafficking, likely to cause harm to those allegedly rescued, and disruptive of public health efforts.
Brothel to Sweatshop Pipeline
Some journalists have noted a link between organized "rescues" of sex workers and the garment industry, in which women "rescued" during brothel raids are sent to NGO's for training and work in garment sweatshops with poor work conditions and lower pay. Former IJM Board member Ram Gidoomal is also the head of a Christian-based garment fair trade company known as Traidcraft.
IJM response to criticism
After a series of critical articles published in The Nation magazine in 2009, IJM published a document to clarify and explain its mission and tactics. The document states that IJM operations with local police are focused solely on securing for children and trafficked women the right to be free from commercial sexual exploitation and that IJM supports HIV prevention efforts. IJM also states that it has protocols that it introduces to local law enforcement that address the appropriate treatment of non-trafficked adults co-mingled in the brothel with children. However, IJM has refused to share these protocols with reporters. Some of IJM's responses corroborate the criticism it has received. For example, IJM states that it supports "placing child trafficking victims in secure environments from which they cannot leave". It also compares brothel owners with pedophiles.
IJM's Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy Holly Burkhalter, formerly with Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, authors the organization's viewpoints on these issues in an article from the Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 1, June 2012.
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- Empty citation (help)
- "Sex Trafficking, Law Enforcement and Perpetrator Accountability," an article from Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 1, June 2012.
- Global Website of International Justice Mission
- The Freedom Common by IJM Government Relations & Advocacy Team
- Official Website of IJM Institute for Biblical Justice
- Tackling slavery with the International Justice Mission at the The Cavalier Daily
- India: the bond of freedom - Interview with Saju Mathew at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
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