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Sri Lanka

Ten years after the war ended in Sri Lanka, we still don’t know to the nearest ten thousand how many people perished. The estimates for the death toll for the last five months of the war alone vary between 7000 and 147,000. In 2011, the UN said it thought approximately 40,000 civilians had died; then in 2012 an internal UN report estimated it was at least 70,000. Population data from World Bank and UN sources indicated that more than 100,000 Tamils living in the conflict areas in the north have not returned home after the war. HRDAG has provided technical assistance to a broad range of non-governmental human rights organizations in Sri ...

Reflections: Some Stories Shape You

The first time I met anyone at HRDAG, I was a journalist. It was 2006. I was working on a story about a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon who’d collaborated with the organization on a survey in Sierra Leone, and I contacted Patrick Ball to discuss the work. At the time, I found him challenging. But I thought his work—trying to estimate how many people were killed, or, in that study, otherwise injured, during wars—was fascinating. Over the next few years, I got to know other researchers working on similar questions. In 2008, as the war in Iraq ramped up, I spoke with epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organiz...

Predictive Policing Reinforces Police Bias

Issues surrounding policing in the United States are at the forefront of our national attention. Among these is the use of “predictive policing,” which is the application of statistical or machine learning models to police data, with the goal of predicting where or by whom crime will be committed in the future. Today Significance magazine published an article on this topic that I co-authored with William Isaac. Significance has kindly made this article open access (free!) for all of October. In the article we demonstrate the mechanism by which the use of predictive policing software may amplify the biases that already pervade our criminal ...

Perú

In 2001, President Alejandro Toledo, called for the establishment of the Comision de la Verdad y Reconciliacion (CVR) (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) to investigate human rights abuses in Perú between 1980 and 2000. Dr. Patrick Ball was invited to work with the Commission to evaluate the CVR technical work and make recommendations on the information management process and analytic strategies. HRDAG consultant Jana Asher worked with Dr. Ball and CVR staff members David Sulmont (Director Informations Systems) and Daniel Manrique (Database Expert) to present evidence of the violations in a report to the CVR. The work included new estimates of ...

Deportation Possible for El Salvador’s Gen. García – Supported by HRDAG Analysis

Gen. José Guillermo García, El Salvador’s defense minister from 1979 to 1983, may be deported from Florida to El Salvador because of his involvement in war crimes that occurred under his command. The recommendation comes from a Miami immigration judge, whose decision was supported with expert testimony from Stanford political science professor Terry Karl, who presented extensive statistical analysis of killings, disappearances, kidnappings, torture and other crimes under Gen. García’s watch. The statistical analysis was a joint effort between Professor Karl and Amelia Hoover Green and Patrick Ball of Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). ...

Counting the Dead in Sri Lanka

ITJP and HRDAG are urging groups inside and outside Sri Lanka to share existing casualty lists.

Scraping for Pattern: Protecting Immigrant Rights in Washington State

With HRDAG's help, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights team has been able to analyze the scraped text and search for key words such as “jail” in order to gain insight into where immigration arrests are being made.

In Pursuit of Excellent Data Processing

With help from HRDAG, Roman Rivera built the data backbone for the Invisible Institute's Citizens Police Data Project.

Sierra Leone TRC Data and Statistical Appendix

HRDAG assisted the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission in building a systematic data coding system, electronic database, and secure data analysis process to manage the thousands of statements given to them in the course of their work. HRDAG executive director Patrick Ball and HRDAG field consultant Richard Conibere worked at the TRC full-time for approximately eighteen months starting in March 2003. HRDAG worked with TRC researchers to help them incorporate quantitative findings to support the qualitative findings in their writing for the other chapters of the TRC report. In addition, HRDAG produced a Statistical Appendix to present ...

Release of Yellow Book Calls on Salvadoran Military to Open Archives

With the release today of a civil war-era catalog of “enemies,” Salvadorans are calling for a new look at the 12-year civil war during which hundreds of citizens were victims of human rights violations such as torture, forced disappearance, and illegal imprisonment. The recently leaked document, known as The Yellow Book, is a list created and (more…)

CIIDH Data – Dictionary

Version date: 2000.01.29 Current version: ATV20.1 Patrick Ball & Herbert F. Spirer The unit of analysis for each record in this structure is VIOLATION. Each violation was of a particular type, happened at a particular time and place, and was committed by zero, one, or several organizational perpetrators. The violation was committed against zero or one named (individually identified) victim, and zero or more anonymous (unidentified) additional victims. The violation was reported one or more times in one, two, or three source types. Note that to count the number of times individuals suffered particular violations, users should sum either the ...

Seeking the Truth with Documentation

The need to establish the truth around events is central to goals of transitional justice, particularly securing accountability, establishing legitimate and effective justice mechanisms, and laying the foundations for a peaceful society. Documentation to provide verifiable and widely accepted accounts of such events is a critical component of establishing this truth, or the multiple truths that may exist for a population. It is difficult to overstate the important role of documentation in transitional justice efforts. If some of what follows sounds familiar, echoing points of previous posts, it is no coincidence.  Documentation, in a word, is the ...

Data on Kosovo Migration

[popup citation="For migrations: Ball, Patrick. (2000). AAAS/ Human Rights Data Analysis Group database of migrations in Albania and Kosovo. For killings: Patrick Ball, Wendy Betts, Fritz Scheuren, Jana Dudukovich, and Jana Asher. (2002). AAAS/ABA-CEELI/Human Rights Data Analysis Group database of killings in Kosovo. For other data: Human Rights Data Analysis Group. (2002). Database of NATO airstrikes, geographic coding, and KLA activity in Kosovo."] The data on migration from Kosovo are in seven files. All of the files are comma-delimited ASCII. The fields in each file are described below. For more information, see Policy or Panic, section A1, pp. ...

Multiple Systems Estimation: Collection, Cleaning and Canonicalization of Data

<< Previous post: MSE: The Basics Q3. What are the steps in an MSE analysis? Q4. What does data collection look like in the human rights context? What kind of data do you collect? Q5. [In depth] Do you include unnamed or anonymous victims in the matching process? Q6. What do you mean by "cleaning" and "canonicalization?" Q7. [In depth] What are some of the challenges of canonicalization? (more…)

Multiple Systems Estimation: The Basics

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. In this blogpost, and four more to follow, I’ll answer both conceptual and practical questions about this important method. (In posts to follow, questions that refer to specific statistical procedures or debates will be marked, "In depth.") (more…)

Human Rights and the Decentralized Web

Our partners were eager to learn and talk about emerging decentralized technology.

Update on Work in Guatemala and the AHPN

HRDAG has sampled and analyzed documents at Guatemala's AHPN and has testified against war criminals based on that analysis.

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.

Courts and police departments are turning to AI to reduce bias, but some argue it’ll make the problem worse

Kristian Lum: “The historical over-policing of minority communities has led to a disproportionate number of crimes being recorded by the police in those locations. Historical over-policing is then passed through the algorithm to justify the over-policing of those communities.”


Assassinations of social leaders in Colombia in 2016–2017

Patrick Ball, César Rodríguez and Valentina Rozo (2018). Asesinatos de líderes sociales en Colombia en 2016–2017: una estimación del universo. Dejusticia and Human Rights Data Analysis Group. August 2018. © 2018 HRDAG. Creative Commons.

Patrick Ball, César Rodríguez and Valentina Rozo (2018). Asesinatos de líderes sociales en Colombia en 2016–2017: una estimación del universo. Dejusticia and Human Rights Data Analysis Group. August 2018. © 2018 HRDAG. Creative Commons.


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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