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RustConf 2019, and systems programming as a data scientist

It could make sense to use Rust as a data journalist for in-browser computations, and other thoughts from RustConf.

Training with HRDAG: Rules for Organizing Data and More

I had the pleasure of working with Patrick Ball at the HRDAG office in San Francisco for a week during summer 2016. I knew Patrick from two workshops he previously hosted at the University of Washington’s Centre for Human Rights (UWCHR). The workshops were indispensable to us at UWCHR as we worked to publish a number of datasets on human rights violations during the El Salvador Civil War.  The training was all the more helpful because the HRDAG team was so familiar with the data. As part of an impressive career which took him from Ethiopia and Kosovo to Haiti and El Salvador among others, Patrick himself had worked on gathering and analysing ...

Skoll World Forum 2018

Illuminating Data's Dark Side: Big data create conveniences, but we must consider who designs these tools, who benefits from them, and who is left out of the equation.


Collecting and Protecting Human Rights Data in Guatemala (1991-2013) In 1996, a peace accord brokered by the United Nations ended 36 years of internal armed conflict in Guatemala. During the hostilities, non-governmental organizations asked for technical support from the scientific community in the project to gather the experiences of witnesses and victims in databases. From 1993 to 1999 Dr. Patrick Ball, then at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), worked with the International Center for Human Rights Research in Guatemala (CIIDH) to collect and organize evidence of more than 43,000 human rights violations. The ...

Herb Spirer, 1925 – 2018

Herb led and mentored a generation of statisticians working in human rights.

12 Questions about Using Data Analysis to Bring Guatemalan War Criminals to Justice

When people talk about war criminals in Guatemala, which war are they talking about? They’re talking about the Guatemalan civil war, which began in 1960 and ended in 1996. That’s thirty-six years of civil war. Even though it ended almost two decades ago, Guatemala is still recovering from it. At its simplest, this civil war story was right-wing government forces fighting leftist rebels. But it went deeper than that, of course. The majority of the rebel forces was composed of indigenous peoples, primarily the Maya, (more…)

Syria: No word on four abducted activists

Razan Zatouneh is an esteemed colleague of ours, and we are one of 57 organizations demanding immediate release for her and the three other human rights defenders still missing. A year on, no information on Douma Four The prominent Syrian human rights defenders Razan Zaitouneh, Samira Khalil, Wa’el Hamada and Nazem Hamadi – the Douma Four—remain missing a year after their abduction, 57 organizations said today. The four were abducted in Duma, a city near Damascus under the control of armed opposition groups. They should be released immediately, the groups said. On 9 December 2013, at about 10:40 pm, a group of armed men stormed into the ...

News Wrap: U.N. Reports 60,000 Dead in Syria Since Civil War Began Two Years Ago

New analysis of World War II Korean “comfort women” held by Japanese

There may have been more undocumented World War II-era Korean "comfort women" than known.

La estadística de mortalidad del conflicto en Perú

En ese artículo respondemos a una crítica del estudio de mortalidad que realizamos para la Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación en 2003.

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 ...

HRDAG and the Digital Commons

One of the three main goals of HRDAG is education and outreach, and to that end we use Creative Commons licenses for all of our blogposts and, whenever possible, for our publications. Using a Creative Commons license makes it clear that educators are free to use HRDAG's publications, in their entirety, and with the peace of mind that they are doing so with our blessing. Also, the use of the Creative Commons license allows us to participate in and encourage the creation of a digital commons, which we feel helps to advance another one of our goals, the creation of knowledge. We feel that it’s important to offer up our publications for use and reuse ...

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 ...


On the heels of the Arab Spring revolutions, which began in December 2010, armed conflicts began in Syria in March 2011. What started as protests demanding that President Bashar al-Assad resign resulted in the deployment of the Syrian Army to stop the uprising. Since then, violent conflict has been raging in Syria. Amid this continuing violence and humanitarian crisis, local human rights activists and citizen journalists risk their lives to document human rights violations. The grave challenges they face are compounded by the regime's active suppression of information flow out of the country. As a result, there is considerable uncertainty about the ...


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 ...

The World According to Artificial Intelligence (Part 1)

The World According to Artificial Intelligence: Targeted by Algorithm (Part 1)

The Big Picture: The World According to AI explores how artificial intelligence is being used today, and what it means to those on its receiving end.

Patrick Ball is interviewed: “Machine learning is pretty good at finding elements out of a huge pool of non-elements… But we’ll get a lot of false positives along the way.”

Reflections: A Love Letter to HRDAG

On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, HRDAG executive director Megan Price tells us why she loves her work, and why she feels hopeful about the future.

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 ...

Amnesty International Reports Organized Murder Of Detainees In Syrian Prison

100x100nprReports of torture and disappearances in Syria are not new. But the Amnesty International report says the magnitude and severity of abuse has “increased drastically” since 2011. Citing the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, the report says “at least 17,723 people were killed in government custody between March 2011 and December 2015, an average of 300 deaths each month.”

Justice Unknown, Justice Unsatisfied? Bosnian NGOs Speak about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Kristen Cibelli and Tamy Guberek. “Justice Unknown, Justice Unsatisfied? Bosnian NGOs Speak about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.” A project of Education and Public Inquiry and International Citizenship at Tufts University. December, 2000.

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.