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Revisiting the analysis of event size bias in the Iraq Body Count

(This post is co-authored by Patrick Ball and Megan Price) In a recent article in the SAIS Review of International Affairs, we wrote about "event size bias," the problem that events of different sizes have different probabilities of being reported. In this case, the size of an event is defined by the number of reported victims. Our concern is that not all violent (in this case homicide) events are recorded, that is, some events will have zero sources. Our theory is that events with fewer victims will receive less coverage than events with more victims, and that a higher proportion of small events will have zero sources relative to large events. The ...

Liberia

In July 2009, The Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) concluded a three-year project with the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help clarify Liberia's violent history and hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable for their actions. (This work was conducted by HRDAG while with Benetech.) In the course of this work, HRDAG analyzed more than 17,000 victim and witness statements collected by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and compiled the data into a report entitled "Descriptive Statistics From Statements to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission." The report is included as an annex to the final ...

Frequently Asked Questions

Multiple Systems Estimation What is MSE?  What do you mean by statistical inference?  What is an overlap, and how do we know when lists overlap?   How does MSE find the total number of violations?  How was MSE originally developed?  How does the Benetech Human Rights Program use MSE?    1. What is MSE? A: Multiple Systems Estimation, or MSE, is a family of techniques for statistical inference. MSE uses the overlaps between several incomplete lists of human rights violations to determine the total number of violations. Return to Top 2. What do you mean by statistical inference? A: ...

India FAQs

Violent Deaths and Enforced Disappearances During the Counterinsurgency in Punjab, India: A Preliminary Quantitative Analysis Frequenty Asked Questions If there is so much data available, why can't you make claims about the number of people killed by security forces during the Punjab counterinsurgency campaign? Haven't Punjab Police and government bodies already documented the number of people killed and "illegally cremated?" Why doesn't this suffice? What has been the impact of quantitative studies of human rights violations in other regions? What impact do these findings have in the Punjab context? Why did you undertake this study? What are the ...

Multiple Systems Estimation: Does it Really Work?

<< Previous post, MSE: Stratification and Estimation Q15. Are there other MSE models one might use with human rights data? Q16. Is it possible to use MSE to model non-lethal human rights violations? Q17. I am concerned about using MSE with my data, because the datasets were gathered by opposing organizations. Victims who were reported to an NGO were very unlikely to be reported to state sources, but also very likely to be reported to religious organizations. Won't that cause the overlaps between the NGO list and the state list to be artificially low, and the overlaps between the NGO list and the church list to be artificially high? Does ...

Timor-Leste FAQs

How do you know that there are more conflict-related deaths than have been reported to the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR, by its Portuguese acronym)? Where did the method of multiple systems estimation come from? If you didn't have access to the whole population, how do you know how representative these data are of the entire population? i.e. How do you control for bias? What are the total conflict-related mortality numbers? How many people were killed and disappeared between 1974 and 1999? And how many people died due to hunger and illness? What is the margin of error associated with these results? What is ...

Lessons at HRDAG: Making More Syrian Records Usable

If we could glean key missing information from those fields, we would be able to use more records.

MEDIA MISREPRESENTATIONS OF THE CAVR REPORT

Press release from the Technical Secretariat of the Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation (CAVR) MEDIA MISREPRESENTATIONS OF THE CAVR REPORT Although not yet officially released, the 2500 page CAVR Report 'Chega!' has been the subject of several prominent reports in the media based on leaked versions of the Executive Summary and particularly its section on Recommendations. Stories on the Report have been carried by AFP, AP, the Japan Times, the Singapore Straits Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Lusa,Timor-Leste press and Bali Times - to name some. Regrettably some of these stories contained serious misrepresentations of the Report which ...

BJS Report on Arrest-Related Deaths: True Number Likely Much Greater

(This post is co-authored by Patrick Ball and Kristian Lum.) Today the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report on their effort to document “all deaths that occur during the process of arrest in the United States.” The analysis estimates that the Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program covers only 34-49% of these deaths. A parallel program by the FBI (the Supplementary Homicide Reports, SHR) is estimated to cover approximately the same proportion of deaths. Even taking into consideration both programs, 28% of all police homicides remain unreported. In order to estimate the total number of homicides that appear on neither the ARD or ...

Round-up

Benetech's Human Rights Data Analysis Group Publishes 2010 Analysis of Human Rights Violations in Five Countries Analysis of Uncovered Government Data from Guatemala and Chad Clarifies History and Supports Criminal Prosecutions By Ann Harrison The past year of research by the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) has supported criminal prosecutions and uncovered the truth about political violence in Guatemala, Iran, Colombia, Chad and Liberia. On today's celebration of the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, HRDAG invites the international community to engage scientifically defensible methodologies that ...

India

In 2009, as Indians debated institutional reform of their security forces in the wake of the previous year's Mumbai attacks, HRDAG issued a groundbreaking report about the human cost of suspending the rule of law during a violent counterinsurgency campaign in the Indian state of Punjab. Together with our partner Ensaaf, HRDAG released findings that cast substantial doubt on the Indian government's past explanations and justifications for disappearances and extrajudicial killings during the height of the Punjab counterinsurgency in the early 1990s. These findings contribute to an increasing body of knowledge that informs policy questions about the ...

Multiple Systems Estimation: Stratification and Estimation

<< Previous post, MSE: The Matching Process Q10. What is stratification? Q11. [In depth] How do HRDAG analysts approach stratification, and why is it important? Q12. How does MSE find the total number of violations? Q13. [In depth] What are the assumptions of two-system MSE (capture-recapture)? Why are they not necessary with three or more systems? Q14. What statistical model(s) does HRDAG typically use to calculate MSE estimates? (more…)

Liberian TRC Data and Data Dictionary

The files linked on this page contain the data used in the calculations presented in Benetech's report to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission entitled "Descriptive Statistics From Statements to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission." In accordance with Benetech's Memorandum of Understanding with the TRC, these data are published on the Internet so that others can use the material to replicate our findings and continue research on past human rights violations in Liberia. In order to protect the privacy of the people who suffered, the information in the files below contains no personal identifying information about the victims or ...

Timor-Leste

During the violence in Timor-Leste in June 2006, armed gangs broke into the offices of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) in Dili and stole their motorbikes. The Human Rights Data Analysis Group, then at Benetech®, and other human rights observers wondered whether the mobs would soon return to loot the irreplaceable paper records used by the CAVR to compile their definitive report entitled "Chega!" The Benetech Initiative contributed to the CAVR findings and released a separate statistical report (PDF) establishing that at least 102,800 (+/- 11,000) Timorese died as a result of human rights violations in Timor-Leste ...

How many police homicides in the US? A reconsideration

(This post is co-authored by Patrick Ball and Kristian Lum.) In early March, the Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report that estimated that in the period 2003-2009 and 2011, there were approximately 7427 homicides committed by police in the US. We responded that the method the analysts used, capture-recapture with two databases, is vulnerable to underestimation if the databases exhibit positive dependence. We conduct a thorough sensitivity analysis on the original independence model as applied to the police homicides databases. We used information from several other countries where our partners created multiple databases of homicides. We ...

New results for the identification of municipalities with clandestine graves in Mexico

The goal of this project is identify Mexican municipalities with a high probability of having clandestine graves. Knowing where to search will help to create better public programs regarding missing persons in Mexico.

Convenience Samples: What they are, and what they should (and should not) be used for

As noted on our Core Concepts page, we spend a lot of time worrying about the ways data are used to make claims about human rights violations.  This is because inaccurate statistics can damage the credibility of human rights claims.  Analyses of records of human rights violations are used to guide policy decisions, determine resource allocation for interventions, and inform transitional justice mechanisms.  It is vital that such analyses are accurate. Unfortunately, all too often these decisions are based, inappropriately, on analyses of a single convenience sample. (more…)

Core Concepts

Inaccurate statistics can damage the credibility of human rights claims—and that's why we strive to ensure that statistics about human rights violations are generated with as much rigor and are as scientifically accurate as possible. But, what are the pitfalls leading to inaccuracy—when, where, and how do data become compromised? How are patterns biased by having only partial data? And what are the best scientific methods for collecting, managing, processing and analyzing data? Here are the data pitfalls that HRDAG has identified, as well as some of our approaches for meeting these challenges. We believe that human rights researchers must take ...

14 Questions about Counting Casualties in Syria

In early 2012, HRDAG was commissioned by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to do an enumeration project, essentially a count of all of the reported casualties in the Syrian conflict. HRDAG has published two analyses so far, the first in January 2013, and the second in June 2013. In this post, HRDAG scientists Anita Gohdes, Megan Price, and Patrick Ball answer questions about that project. So, how many people have been killed in the Syrian conflict? This is a complicated question. As of our last report, in June 2013, we know that there have been at least 93,000 reported, identifiable conflict-related casualties. The ...

Yezidi Activists Teach HRDAG about Human Rights – updated

UPDATE (21 Dec 2014): Juan Cole is reporting that the Kurdish militia (the peshmerga) have retaken Shingal (also known as Sinjar) mountain where many Yezidi people have been trapped since 3 August 2014. They are now moving to liberate other Yezidi towns south of the mountain. The Yezidi people trapped on the mountain are now free. There is no word yet on the thousands of Yezidi people enslaved by ISIS. ORIGINAL (19 Nov 2014): Farhad (not his real name) got the call from ISIS on his personal cell phone just after lunch: we have your sister, and we will give her back if you pay us $6000, plus $1500 for the driver. Carrying little more than his ...

Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.

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