Ida Sawyer is the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division, which covers pressing human rights issues in approximately 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. From April to September 2020, she served as the acting Crisis and Conflict director, overseeing and supporting a team of researchers as they responded to global crises, including Russian and Syrian strikes on civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria, aid obstruction in Yemen, rights restrictions related to Covid-19 emergency measures, and police crackdowns on protests that broke out across the United States following the killing of George Floyd.
She was previously the organization’s Central Africa director, overseeing work on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Central African Republic. From 2008 to 2016, she was based in Congo with Human Rights Watch, first in Goma and later in the capital, Kinshasa. She conducted research across Congo and in areas of neighboring countries affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. In August 2016, Congolese authorities barred Ida from continuing to work in the country, following a series of Human Rights Watch publications on political repression. She was able to return to the country in 2019, after long-delayed elections.
Ida has authored numerous Human Rights Watch reports and other documents, and she has written for publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy. Ida conducts high level advocacy with African officials and other international actors as well as outreach with national human rights groups.
Ida came to Human Rights Watch from Cairo, where she had worked as a freelance journalist. Her previous experience in Africa’s Great Lakes region includes work for Care International and the Charity for Peace Foundation in northern Uganda, as well as research in Congo on the cross-border dynamics of natural resource exploitation. Ida holds a Masters in international affairs, specializing in human rights, from Columbia University.