'E-Team,' Human Rights Atrocities Seen Through the People Who Record Them

PARK CITY (TheStreet) -- I met Fred Abrahams in 2000 at a time when he was painstakingly documenting the murder, rape and torture of Kosovo civilians at the hands of a Serbian state and military drunk on nationalism.

It was a dark time for human rights workers whose cries for a stop to the brutal killing and torture of civilians in the south Serbian province had mostly gone unheeded until a U.S.-led bombing campaign in 1999 largely halted the terror. Abrahams, a field investigator and member of Human Rights Watch's Emergency Team, also documented abuses by Kosovar forces.

Fred labored on through that trying work and in 2002 faced Slobodan Milosevic at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague as the former Yugoslav president was tried for crimes against humanity and genocide in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s, a broad way of saying the murder, torture and rape of civilians, non-combatants, whole families.

Whenever Fred talked about the events of Kosovo, he kept the focus on the Kosovars. It was never about him. Pressed to describe the fear of being in such a place during a cruel war, Fred would become uncomfortable, deflecting the conversation back to the Kosovars.

It was not surprising then that when the documentary filmmakers Ross Kauffman, who produced Born into Brothels, and Katy Chevigny, who made Deadline, asked Human Rights Watch whether they would be open to a film about the work of Abrahams and some of the organization's other field investigators, they balked. Human Rights Watch had never allowed an independent film team to follow its investigators for an extended period of time.

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