No tyrant can implement tyranny against an entire country on his own. He needs enablers who will implement his oppressive practices, even if it means abusing their fellow citizens. These agents often work in the shadows, where they mask their complicity in the guise of professionals exercising their duties in offices, courtrooms, police stations, and interrogation rooms. Some of these state agents go to great lengths to hide their identities even where domestic law requires disclosure, including by assuming fictitious identities. Sometimes this is justified in the name of protecting their security, but in many cases, they seek to conceal their abusive functions to avoid public shaming, particularly among colleagues or friends who believe them to be respectable officials.

DAWN seeks to disclose the identity of the state agents who enable repression, to make them recognizable at home and abroad. These includes interior ministry agents who identity citizens demanding reform as a threat to be crushed; police and national security forces who arrest and beat citizens; interrogators who torture and terrorize; prosecutors who bring patently abusive charges for conduct that is protected by human rights law, sometimes without evidence; state officials, acting as witnesses, who perjure themselves for petty gains; judges who enforce unjust laws; jailers who harm captive detainees at their mercy; and propagandists who slander and vilify detainees. We identify persons whose contributions to abuses we have documented through our research. DAWN seeks to deter further abuses by ensuring that these enablers get the notoriety they deserve, including when they seek to use the comforts and conveniences that their salaries afford them to travel anonymously abroad. Identifying individuals who perpetrate or contribute to human rights abuses can also further truth-seeking within a society, contribute to processes of vetting or screening for participation in foreign or international programs, help identify appropriate targets for individual sanctions, and, where relevant, facilitate criminal prosecutions.

The individuals whose conduct we highlight have acted at the time of their conduct as an agent of the state or with the consent or acquiescence of the state, such that their actions could implicate the responsibility of the state under international human rights law or international humanitarian law. We identify those agents directly or indirectly involved in the violation of human rights, including those who failed to act when obliged to do so, because they knew or should have known of the abuses we document. These include, pursuant to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' guidance:

– an individual employed by the state, or empowered to exercise elements of state authority, or otherwise in a position to invoke state responsibility;
– one of the state's agencies (e.g., departments, ministries, units, etc.);
– one of its armed forces (e.g., security services, air force, etc.);
– persons or groups acting in fact on the state's instructions, or under its direction or control;
– private persons or groups whose actions the state has acknowledged and adopted as its own conduct.

In many cases, the abuse we document involves state agents who violate both the state's international human rights or humanitarian obligations and domestic law in the country. These abuses include physical or mental abuse of detainees, such as torture; deprivation of basic rights of detainees held in government custody; and deprivation of due process rights in arrest, prosecution and trial. In other cases, the abuse entails violations of international human rights that are nevertheless authorized under domestic laws, which government agents enforce and uphold. As explained by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "where… a state's legal framework, for example, imposes impermissible restrictions on the human right to freedom of expression, the individuals who establish or implement the policies could be identified, as well as their superiors and anyone who contributes substantially to the violation." This would include prosecutors who bring criminal charges against those engaging in protected speech and judges who uphold laws criminalizing free expression or free association. Examples of such laws include , criminalizing "insulting" the state or its officials or categorically labeling membership in a non-violent political or social organization as "terrorism".
The individuals that DAWN identifies bear administrative, civil, moral, or political responsibility for human rights and international humanitarian law violations. Any allegation of criminal responsibility should be investigated by a lawfully constituted domestic or international body, according to due process protections to those suspected or accused of crimes.

"The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face."

- Jamal Khashogi, Washington Post, October 17, 2018

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