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HRDAG’s Year in Review: 2020

Beyond Statistics highlights how we’ve been able to provide clarity on issues related to the pandemic, police misconduct, and more.

100 Women in AI Ethics

We live in very challenging times. The pervasiveness of bias in AI algorithms and autonomous “killer” robots looming on the horizon, all necessitate an open discussion and immediate action to address the perils of unchecked AI. The decisions we make today will determine the fate of future generations. Please follow these amazing women and support their work so we can make faster meaningful progress towards a world with safe, beneficial AI that will help and not hurt the future of humanity.

53. Kristian Lum @kldivergence

.Rproj Considered Harmful

We aim to produce code that is clear, replicatable across machines and operating systems, and that leaves an easy-to-follow audit trail.

Killings of Social Movement Leaders in Colombia

Using multiple system estimation, we estimate the total population of social movement leaders killed in Colombia during 2018.

Report on Measures of Fairness in NYC Risk Assessment Tool

The report tries to answer the question of whether a particular risk assessment model reinforces racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

HRDAG’s Year End Review: 2018

Reflecting on our work and identifying the highlights that illustrate HRDAG's priorities and successes.

All the Dead We Cannot See

Ball, a statistician, has spent the last two decades finding ways to make the silence speak. He helped pioneer the use of formal statistical modeling, and, later, machine learning—tools more often used for e-commerce or digital marketing—to measure human rights violations that weren’t recorded. In Guatemala, his analysis helped convict former dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt of genocide in 2013. It was the first time a former head of state was found guilty of the crime in his own country.

Epidemiology has theories. We should study them.

With so many dashboards and shiny visualizations, how can an interested non-technical reader find good science among the noise?

Syria 2012 – Modeling Multiple Datasets in an Ongoing Conflict

The struggle between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and opposition forces has generated extensive global press coverage, but few accurate estimates of casualties. In January 2013, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on the number of conflict-related killings in Syria. The UN report is based on statistical analysis conducted by HRDAG scientists Megan Price, Jeff Klingner and Patrick Ball. This chapter examines HRDAG’s findings which compared information from a database collected by the Syrian government with six databases compiled by Syrian human rights activists and citizen ...

HRDAG – 25 Years and Counting

Today is a very special day for all of us at HRDAG. This is, of course, the 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—but this day also marks our 25th year of using statistical science to support the advancement of human rights. It started 25 years ago, in December 1991, in San Salvador, when Patrick Ball was invited to work with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church to design a database to keep track of human rights abuses committed by the military in El Salvador. That work soon migrated to the NGO Human Rights Commission (CDHES). Fueled by thin beer and pupusas, Patrick dove into the deep world of data from human rights testimonies, ...

Megan Price Elected Board Member of Tor Project

Today The Tor Project announced that it has elected a new Board of Directors, and among them is HRDAG executive director Megan Price. The Tor Project is a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes online privacy and provides software that helps users opt out of online tracking. Megan and Patrick have long maintained that encryption and privacy are essential for enabling human rights work. Patrick's ideas are described in Monday's FedScoop story about encryption, human rights, and the U.S. State Department. “Human rights groups depend on strong cryptography in order to hold governments accountable," says Patrick. "HRDAG depends on local human ...

Doing a Number on Violators

Timor-Leste 2006 – Combining Found Data and Innovative Surveys To Uncover the Truth

Large-scale human rights violations in Timor-Leste began in 1975 when the Indonesian government invaded the small island and continued until Timorese independence in 1999. Disappearances, torture, forced displacement and extra-judicial killings took place during the Indonesian occupation compounded by a severe famine. Estimates of deaths ranged from 50,000 to 200,000, but individual sources reflected only a fraction of total fatalities. The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) asked HRDAG to investigate abuses during the conflict. This chapter describes how Ball and HRDAG scientists Romesh Silva and Scott Weikart ...

Tech Corner

The HRDAG Tech Corner is where we collect the deeper and geekier content that we create for the website. You can browse by Category or scroll to view find all articles listed.

New death toll estimated in Syrian civil war

Kevin Uhrmacher of the Washington Post prepared a graph that illustrates reported deaths over time, by number of organizations reporting the deaths. Washington Post Kevin Uhrmacher August 22, 2014 Link to story on Washington Post Related blogpost (Updated Casualty Count for Syria) Back to Press Room  

Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Data

In July 2009, The Human Rights Data Analysis Group 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. 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.” Liberian TRC data and the accompanying data dictionary anonymized-statgivers.csv contains information ...

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

As an organization that uses science to advocate for human rights, the goals and issues represented by Ada Lovelace Day are very near and dear to our hearts.  Additionally, we are lucky to work with and be advised by some pretty kick-ass ladies in STEM (see our People page to learn more about these amazing women (and men)). I brainstormed a list of women I could write about, as Finding Ada suggests we celebrate today by blogging about a STEM heroine.  I considered Anita Borg (she has her own institute!), who advocated tirelessly for women in computer science.  I thought about Sally Wyatt, keynote speaker and organizer of the fascinating workshop...

Historic verdict in Guatemala—Gen.Efraín Ríos Montt found guilty

I've been working with various projects in Guatemala to document mass violence since 1993, so in 2011, when Claudia Paz y Paz asked me to revisit the analysis I did for the Commission for Historical Clarification examining the differential mortality rates due to homicide for indigenous and non-indigenous people in the Ixil region, I was delighted. We have far better data processing and statistical methods than we had in 1998, plus much more data. I think the resulting analysis is a conservative lower bound on total homicides of indigenous people. (more…)


HRDAG has been fortunate to have a long and exciting history that has taken us around the world to analyze data related to human rights violations. Along the way, we have met wonderful people, worked with amazing organizations and been a part of an amazing advancement of science through data analysis. This page highlights key moments in our history.

Controlled vocabulary

What is a controlled vocabulary? A controlled vocabulary provides the ability to transform information that has been collected on violations, victims, and perpetrators into a countable set of data categories. It is important that this process be done without discarding relevant information and without misrepresenting the collected information. Why is it necessary? The data collected about human rights violations originates from a wide range of information sources – legal case files, newspaper articles, e-mails, faxes, letters, phone conversations, testimonies, interviews, radio and television programs, video clips, and photos. This wide range of ...

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.