34 results for author: Christine Grillo


Locating Hidden Graves in Mexico

For more than 10 years, and with regularity, Mexican authorities have been discovering mass graves, known as fosas clandestinas, in which hundreds of bodies and piles of bones have been found. The casualties are attributed broadly to the country’s “drug war,” although the motivations and perpetrators behind the mass murders are often unknown. Recently, HRDAG collaborated with two partners in Mexico—Data Cívica and Programa de Derechos Humanos of the Universidad Iberoamericana—to model the probability of identifying a hidden grave in each county (municipio). The model uses an set of independent variables and data about graves from 2013 ...

Stephen Fienberg 1942-2016

We are saddened by the passing of Steve Fienberg yesterday in Pittsburgh, at the age of 74. He is perhaps best known around the world for bringing statistics to science and public policy and was a beloved professor at Carnegie Mellon University. At HRDAG we are in awe of and grateful for the work Steve did formalizing multiple systems estimation. His work on that front blazed a trail and essentially enabled all of our most important analytical work at the intersection of human rights and statistical science. If we are to reduce the amount of human violence in the world, the first task is to determine the scope of the violence, to know how much of ...

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, ...

HRDAG Names New Board Members Julie Broome and Frank Schulenburg

We are pleased to announce that HRDAG will be supported by two additions to our Advisory Board, Julie Broome and Frank Schulenburg. We’ve worked with Julie for many years, getting to know her when she was Director of Programmes at The Sigrid Rausing Trust. She is now the Director of London-based Ariadne, a network of European funders and philanthropists. She worked at the Trust for seven years, most notably Head of Human Rights, before becoming Director of Programmes in 2014. Before joining the Trust she was Programme Director at the CEELI Institute in Prague, where she was responsible for conducting rule of law-related trainings for judges and ...

Judges in Habré Trial Cite HRDAG Analysis

Three months after the announcement of the momentous verdict finding former Chadian president Hissène Habré guilty of crimes against humanity, the presiding judges have released the full, written 681-page judgment of the court. Testimony given by HRDAG’s director of research, Patrick Ball, is mentioned at three points in the verdict. The judges included in their written judgment the HRDAG analysis that the mortality rate in Habré prisons was staggeringly high—much higher than the mortality rate among the population as a whole. Here’s an excerpt from the judgment, page 358 (translated by Google): The statistical expert, Patrick Ball, ...

HRDAG and Amnesty International: Prison Mortality in Syria

Today Amnesty International released “‘It breaks the human’: Torture, disease and death in Syria’s prisons ,” a report detailing the conditions and mortality in Syrian prisons from 2011 to 2015, including data analysis conducted by HRDAG. The report provides harrowing accounts of ill treatment of detainees in Syrian prisons since the conflict erupted in March 2011, and publishes HRDAG’s estimate of the number of killings that occurred inside the prisons. To accompany the report, HRDAG has released a technical memo that explains the methodology, sources, and implications of the findings. The HRDAG team used data from four ...

HRDAG and AHPN Launch Book Detailing Collaboration

Earlier this month, HRDAG and the Historic Archive of the National Police (AHPN) of Guatemala launched a book that represents a long-time collaboration between the two organizations. The book, “Una mirada al AHPN a partir de un studio de cuantitativo,” is, as the title states, a look at the Archive’s datasets via a quantitative study. Book authors are HRDAG executive director Megan Price and AHPN colleague Carolina López, with translations by Beatriz Vejarano. The book is available in Spanish and forthcoming in English. The book explains how HRDAG and the Archive worked together over a decade to gain insight into the police activities that ...

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 ...

Momentous Verdict against Hissène Habré

Today we’re very pleased to hear of the verdict finding Hissène Habré guilty of crimes against humanity. Habré, president of Chad from 1982 to 1990, has been sentenced to life in prison in Dakar, Senegal, where he was tried. He is the first former head of state to be tried and found guilty of crimes against humanity in one country (Chad) by the courts of another country (Senegal).  Here’s more on the verdict from The Guardian. The verdict resonates especially with HRDAG because of our role in the trial. In September 2015, director of research Patrick Ball testified as an expert witness about the very high rates of prison mortality in ...

Welcoming a New Board Member

As we get ready to begin our fourth year as an independent nonprofit, we are, as always, indebted to our Advisory Board and to our funders for their support and vision. We’re finishing up a busy year that took us to Dakar (for the trial of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré), Pristina (for the release of the Kosovo Memory Book), Colombia (for work on a book about the Guatemalan Police Archives), and kept us busy here at home working on police violence statistics. But one of our biggest victories has been to score a new, talented, wise Advisory Board member—Michael Bear Kleinman, whom we first met when he was working with Humanity United. ...

An Award for Anita Gohdes

On November 26, HRDAG colleague Anita Gohdes was awarded the German Dissertation Prize for the Social Sciences. The patron of the prize is the President of the German Parliament, Norbert Lammert, who presented Anita with the award. Anita’s dissertation, “Repression 2.0: The Internet in the War Arsenal of Modern Dictators,” investigates the role played by social media networks in modern dictatorships, such as President Assad’s regime in Syria. On one hand, Anita argues, social media can help opposition groups to organize more effectively, but on the other hand, the same networks allow regimes to monitor and manipulate the population. ...

Changes at HRDAG

A special announcement from the HRDAG Advisory Board: Beginning officially on December 1, HRDAG is changing leadership. After nearly three years as Executive Director, Patrick Ball will become the new Director of Research. Megan Price will be the new Executive Director. Patrick has spent more than 25 years working at the intersection of human rights and statistical science. Over that time, he has finely honed statistical methodology for quantifying mass killings. Now he is excited about the chance to go deeper into research for HRDAG and develop additional approaches for new problems. In his new role, Patrick will focus more on technical coding ...

HRDAG Testifies in Hissène Habré Trial

Last week HRDAG’s executive director, Patrick Ball, served as an expert witness for the prosecution in the trial of Hissène Habré, the ruler of Chad from 1982 to 1990. The trial is taking place in Dakar, Senegal, where the 73-year-old Habré has been living since 1990 when he fled Chad. He has already been sentenced to death in absentia in Chad. Habré is being charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture that took place during his eight-year reign. The trial is happening at the Extraordinary African Chambers, which was inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union to try Habré. This is the first time that one country has ...

Beka Steorts Named MIT Under-35 Innovator

We’ve known for years that Beka Steorts is on the cutting-edge of statistical science, and now The MIT Technology Review has realized the same. Last week she was named one of 35 Innovators Under 35, in the category of humanitarian. We first became familiar with Beka's work in 2013 when she was a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon and was introduced to us by Prof. Steve Fienberg. Since then, we’ve felt very fortunate to collaborate with her on projects such as the UN enumeration of casualties in the Syrian conflict, and we look forward to many more years of work with her. She is one of several young stars we include in our superheroine hall ...

Analysis of Homicide Patterns in Colombia

Last week Forensis, the Colombian National Institute of Forensic Medicine’s flagship publication, published the first of our analyses of homicide patterns in Colombia. Authored by HRDAG executive director Patrick Ball and UN colleague Michael Reed Hurtado, “Cuentas y mediciones de la criminalidad y de la violencia” (pages 529-545) explores, as the title suggests, the quality of “truth” contained within crime registries. Citing the problem of partial data, missing data, and inherent design bias, Patrick and Michael write that no register, official or unofficial, can present a true reflection of what has really happened. This publication...

Celebrating Ten Years of Data from the AHPN

Ten years ago, in July 2005, human rights officers stumbled upon a nondescript warehouse in a commercial zone of Guatemala City and changed history. They had discovered an archive–its existence kept secret–belonging to the Guatemalan National Police, whose officers committed human rights atrocities on behalf of the government during the civil war. Inside the building was the bureaucratic detritus typical of a large government agency: 80 million pages detailing shifts worked, tasks assigned, assignments fulfilled, workers’ whereabouts, and who was supervising whom. The documents, which were found stacked on dirty floors, shoved into bags, ...

Update of Iraq and Syria Data in New Paper

This week The Statistical Journal of the IAOS published a new(ish) paper by Megan Price and Patrick Ball. The open-access paper, Selection bias and the statistical patterns of mortality in conflict, is a revisiting and updating of both the Iraq and Syria examples used in an earlier paper, Big Data, Selection Bias, and the Statistical Patterns of Mortality in Conflict, which was published last year inThe SAIS Review of International Affairs (JHU Press, 2014). HRDAG believes that the concerns highlighted by these examples are important for a wide variety of audiences, including both the foreign policy readers reached by The SAIS Review and the ...

Patrick Ball Honored with Degree at Claremont Graduate University

We’re happy to announce that our executive director, Patrick Ball, has been presented an honorary degree from Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. University President Deborah Freund presented the degree to Patrick at the university’s 88th annual commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16, 2015. The degree conferred was Doctor of Science honoris causa. “We at CGU are thrilled that Patrick Ball accepted our Honorary Degree invitation and joined us for commencement,” said Thomas Horan, CGU Professor and Director, Center for Information Systems and Technology. “Patrick’s work stands as a model for conducting first-r...

Evaluation of the Kosovo Memory Book

At the end of 2014 we completed the evaluation of the Kosovo Memory Book database and are pleased to conclude that the database has succeeded in documenting all or nearly all the human losses during conflicts in Kosovo during the period from 1998 to 2000. With a motto of "Let people remember people," the goal of the Kosovo Memory Book (KMB) is to document all people who were killed or disappeared in connection with the war in Kosovo. The project aimed to document all human losses during armed conflict in the territory of the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) between 1998 and 2000. The KMB database evaluation is the fruition of several years of ...

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…)