Rights & Wrongs

Stories from the Human Rights Frontline

Rights & Wrongs is a podcast by Human Rights Watch that takes a deep dive into major human rights issues. The podcast taps into the expertise of our researchers around the world and the stories of local activists on the ground. While global in outlook it is human in approach, unpacking human rights work in a way that is engaging and shows what change is needed and possible.

July 1, 2024

In the early aughts, a campaign to “Save Sudan” became the bipartisan issue of the time. Celebrities and politicians alike implored a global audience to pay attention to and advocate against Suan’s human rights crisis.

As interventions waned, so did the attention of many global onlookers. But, since the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces began fighting in April 2023, over 500,000 Sudanese civilians have been displaced. What has happened in Sudan since the world stopped paying attention?

Mohamed Osman: Researcher, Africa Division at Human Rights Watch

Christopher Tounsel: Associate Professor of History, Director of Graduate Studies and Director of African Studies Program at the University of Washington 

Screenshot of audiogram depicting protests in Sudan.
June 17, 2024

When Robert Taylor bought land and began to build a home in St. John Parish in Louisiana, he envisioned a compound that would house his family for generations to come. Now, Taylor hopes that his grandchildren don’t have to live in this “Sacrifice Zone.”  


The Taylors’ home is situated in what’s known as Cancer Alley, an 85-mile stretch of land along the banks of the Mississippi River that was once home to sugar plantations, but now houses some 200 fossil fuel and petrochemical operations. 


Through this ‘porch chat’ conversation with Robert and his daughter, Tish, we learn not only about the rare cancers, respiratory ailments, and miscarriages that afflicted their family and friends, but also how the duo is fighting back to stop these pollutants from ruining their environment.   

Human Rights Watch request for comment in advance of publication.

Comment received from Denka Performance Elastomer LLC.


Robert Taylor: Founder of Concerned Citizens of St. John Parish and long-time resident of St. John Parish, located in Cancer Alley

Tish Taylor: Member of Concerned Citizens of St. John Parish and daughter of Robert Taylor.

Screenshot of audiogram depicting Robert Taylor looking at petrochemical plant.
June 3, 2024

In 2023, Human Rights Watch researcher Nadia Hardman came across a letter the United Nations had sent to the government of Saudi Arabia expressing concern over the killing of Ethiopian migrants who were attempting to enter the kingdom. Migrants from the Horn of Africa had long used the so-called “eastern migration route” through war-torn Yemen in the hope of getting employment in Saudi Arabia – but the UN letter mentioned a mass grave of up to 10,000 in a remote border region. The Saudi government denied the allegations, saying the UN had no dates, and no locations. So, Nadia stepped in to see if she could verify them. 


Nadia couldn’t reach the remote border, so she began interviewing people in Yemen. One of the people she was in touch with began sending her social media videos from the massacre site. Nadia soon called on Human Rights Watch’s digital investigation’s lab for help. In this episode, Host Ngofeen Mputubwele takes listeners through how Human Rights utilized satellite imagery of burial sites, conducted interviews with survivors of the attacks, mined social media, and verified video footage from the border to show how Saudi authorities summarily executed hundreds of unarmed migrants – many of them women and children – in what is likely a crime against humanity.  In the aftermath of the report and the media attention it generated, Germany and the United States ceased funding and training Saudi border guards. 


Nadia Hardman: Researcher, Refugee and Migrant Rights Division at Human Rights Watch

Sam Dubberley: Managing Director, Digital Investigations Lab at Human Rights Watch

Devon Lum: Former Assistant Researcher, Digital Investigations Lab at Human Rights Watch 


Screenshot of audiogram depicting Ethiopian migrants.
May 20, 2024

What happens to cargo ships at the end of their lives? Often, they wind up beached on shores in the global south where untrained and unprotected workers are tasked with breaking them apart in dangerous conditions. In this episode, Host Ngofeen Mputwbwele takes listeners to the beaches of Bangladesh where Human Rights Watch recently completed an investigation of the shipbreaking industry. Here, in what the International Labour Organization calls the most dangerous job in the world, workers are hit with nails, maimed by exploding pipes, sickened by exposure to asbestos and have been trapped in burning hulls as they “recycle” the ships that transport consumer goods to Europe, the United States and beyond. 

Shipbreaking: The Most Dangerous Job in the World

Spotlight on Ngofeen Mputubwele, Host of Human Rights Watch’s New Podcast

Ngofeen Mputubwele could never have planned his route to becoming host of the new Human Rights Watch podcast, Rights & Wrongs, but it would be hard to find anyone better suited.  

The son of immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mputubwele was born in Indiana, where his father was a doctoral student. When his father was offered a professorship at Lane College, among the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the family moved to Jackson, Tennessee. Mputubwele’s high school, which had been desegregated through busing but remained socially segregated, provided a crash course in US race relations – though it remained confusing to the son of Congolese immigrants.

Ngofeen Mputubwele

Mputubwele’s father grew up during Belgian colonial rule in what was then known as the Belgian Congo, and later as Zaire. He managed to get an education beyond the 6th grade by embracing the church (the only way available), and eventually received a Fulbright to study linguistics at Indiana University. He went on to Purdue and received a doctorate in comparative literature. The elder Mputubwele steeped his children in anti-colonial doctrine from an early age. Ngofeen and his two brothers were given African names, and the comic books in the Mputubwele household included those about Toussaint Louverture, who led the Haitian Revolution against the Atlantic slave trade.   

“We were steeped in Blackness,” Mputubwele says. “Toni Morrison, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King – we read all of these books. But culturally, we were very Congolese. We ate our food at home with our hands and we spoke Kikongo and French.”  

But to the teachers and students at Jackson Central-Merry, Ngofeen was just another Black kid at a segregated high school in the American South, which made for alienating and lonely teenage years. At times, American Blackness felt illegible, he says, but by the end of high school, he began to find his own place inside Black American life. 

Mputubwele soon returned to Indiana, where he went on to study music at Ball State University. It was there, in 2005, that he saw the film “Invisible Children,” a documentary about the abduction of children in East Africa whom the Lord’s Resistance Army uses as child soldiers.     

“How in the world did I get to grow up here?” Mputubwele asked himself.  

He developed an interest in human rights and made his first trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He went on to get a master’s degree in international development from the University of Pittsburgh. The master’s degree and Africa trip led to a desire to study something concrete – to have a skill, as Mputubwele describes it – which resulted in a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. That, in turn, led him to practice law for several years, though Mputubwele soon left to forge his path in podcasting.    

He moved to Brooklyn, New York and got jobs at the podcasting companies Gimlet Media and Stitcher, and then at the New Yorker magazine. The net result is an experienced podcast host with a long-standing interest in human rights, expertise in international human rights law and the lived experience of growing up in an immigrant family from a country at war.

“It’s funny, when I was getting my master’s degree, I would have been super happy to get an internship with Human Rights Watch,” Mputubwele said. “And now here I am, 15 years later, hosting a podcast for Human Rights Watch. And I’m like, so that worked.”  

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