Karen Tse

Founder and CEO, International Bridges to Justice
Geneva, Switzerland

About Karen


A former public defender, Karen first developed her interest in the cross section of criminal law and human rights as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow 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.

After witnessing thousands of prisoners of all ages being held without trials, usually after being tortured into making ‘confessions’, Karen founded International Bridges to Justice in 2000 to promote systemic global change in the administration of criminal justice. In the initial stages, she negotiated groundbreaking measures in judicial reform with the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambo¬dian governments. Under her leadership, IBJ has expanded its programming to twenty-four countries, including Rwanda, Burundi and India. IBJ has created a Global Defense Support Program to bring IBJ assistance to public defenders worldwide. In 2010, IBJ launched the Justice Training Center in Singapore.

A graduate of UCLA Law School and Harvard Divinity School, Karen was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders in 2007. She has been recognized by the Skoll Foundation, Ashoka, and Echoing Green as a leading social entrepreneur. Karen was the recipient of the 2008 Harvard Divinity School’s First Decade Award, and the 2008 American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Award. She also received the 2009 Gleitsman International Activist Award at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

International Bridges to Justice

International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that was founded in 2000 with a vision to end torture and ensure due process rights in the 21st Century through the just implementation of criminal laws. IBJ’s experience has shown that legal counsel at the earliest stages of defense can reduce instances of torture by as much as 80%. Thus, it works with the defender, or legal aid lawyer, as the primary leverage point for the legal transformation of its target countries. Since its inception, IBJ has pioneered this practical approach to torture prevention. It is now poised to implement human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries worldwide. For more information, see www.ibj.org.

TED Conference

TEDGlobal 2011

Areas of Expertise

International Human Rights, Criminal Defense, Rule of Law, Ordained Unitarian Universalist Minister

I'm passionate about

IBJ's Mission: guaranteeing all citizens the the right to competent legal representation, the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment and the right to a fair trial.