We’ve completed some exciting and meaningful work in 2018, which you’ll find highlighted below. But this year I have been most gratified by our team’s growth. One of the pillars of the HRDAG mission is to build the field of
analysts who think deeply and carefully about human rights, and thanks to your support we’ve been able to do that, by creating several new positions this year.
We recently hired a full-time data scientist, created a new data science fellow position, and put together our first formal development team. I’m excited about the sustained long-term increase in capacity this will mean for our organization, and I’m looking forward to taking on more projects that can help us fight for justice, support our partners and lead critical conversations around human rights. A year from now, I’ll be reporting on new progress and accomplishments enabled by this growth!
Also, this summer we hosted three amazing interns, all of whom have remained on as part-time consultants after returning to school. Their work included updating and expanding existing projects as well as taking on new
partnerships, such as helping The Million Dollar Hoods Project think through some messy data wrangling.
Every year the pursuit of truth and justice seems both more fraught and more necessary. The long arc of progress has victories, but it also has setbacks, and these ups and downs require fortitude and patience. Over the past 27 years the team at HRDAG has learned the importance of long-term commitment and I am uplifted by the passion and wisdom that my colleagues and associates bring to the cause of human rights everyday. Thank you for joining us in this vital pursuit and for sharing our faith that justice will prevail.
HRDAG has never wavered providing consistent expert testimony across multiple trials. The first time was in 2013 when judges found General Ríos Montt guilty, though that verdict only stood for ten days. The second was in 2018 when the court unanimously concluded that the Guatemalan Army committed genocide during the de facto government of Ríos Montt.
General José Efraín Ríos Montt oversees the most violent period of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict, resulting in the killings of thousands of citizens.
The Truth Commission report includes HRDAG analysis of three databases consisting of interviews and reports of violations. Statistical estimates are central to its conclusion that 200,000 people were killed or ‘disappeared’ and the pattern of violence was consistent with genocide.
HRDAG is invited to present expert witness testimony in the case against Ríos Montt, based on work presented in the Truth Commission report.
April 12, 2013
Patrick Ball testifies in the Guatemalan Supreme Court for two hours. He is one of over 90 witnesses who testify for the prosecution during a nearly two-month trial.
May 10, 2013
General Ríos Montt is found guilty of committing acts of genocide; Patrick’s testimony is quoted in the judges’ verdict.
May 20, 2013
The Guatemalan Constitutional Court overturns the verdict on a legal technicality and annuls the final days of the trial.
March 2, 2018
Patrick returns to the Guatemalan Supreme Court where he testifies twice in front of the High Risk Court, for a total of two hours.
April 1, 2018
Ríos Montt dies.
General Ríos Montt may have evaded accountability by dying before the verdict could be rendered in his final trial, but the Guatemalan justice system has concluded, multiple times, that genocide occurred under his leadership.
For the Truth Commission report in 1999 and again in preparing expert witness testimony in 2013, HRDAG researchers analyzed records from multiple databases to estimate the total number of victims killed or disappeared during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. They also used census estimates to calculate homicide rates for members of the Mayan community and non-Mayans living in the same region.
This analysis found that members of the Mayan community suffered homicide rates between five and eight times higher than non-Mayans. This stark difference provided the basis for the truth commission’s conclusion “... that agents of the State of Guatemala, within the framework of counterinsurgency operations carried out between 1981 and 1983, committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people.”
ALGORITHMIC FAIRNESS: Kristian Lum partnered with Liz Bender from the New York Legal Aid Society to organize a tutorial on “Understanding the Context and Consequences of Pre-Trial Detention” at the Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAT*). A key presenter was Terrence Wilkerson who spoke about his first-hand experiences within the criminal justice system after being falsely accused of robbery. This tutorial brought an important perspective — that of a person impacted by the technology being discussed — to the conversation around risk assessment.
RECOGNITION: Patrick Ball received the Karl E Peace Award for Outstanding Statistical Contributions for the Betterment of Society. In presenting the award, Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association, said, “Patrick Ball is an extraordinary individual whose work spans an area often ignored yet incredibly important to our statistics community and to the world at large. Since the early 1990s, Patrick has brought fresh approaches to data analysis of human rights crises. He has a unique ability to really target the biases in the collection, formats, and analysis of human rights data.”
METHODOLOGICAL ADVANCES: Lead statistician Kristian Lum contributed to new advances in record linkage and multiple systems estimation in two articles in the peer-reviewed academic journal Biometrika, the first with colleagues James Johndrow and David Dunson, the second with Johndrow and Daniel Manrique-Vallier. These important advances strengthen our analysis of human rights violations.
Photo: EFE/Leonardo Muñoz
COLOMBIA: As the war between the guerrillas, the Army, and paramilitary groups in Colombia winds down, violence against social movement leaders has intensified. We partnered with DeJusticia to analyze data from six organizations and estimate the total number of social movement leaders killed in 2016 and 2017. Based on this analysis, we conclude that there is a 50 percent probability that fatal violence against social movement leaders increased by 10 percent or greater between 2016–2017.
STATISTICS FOR GOOD
countries with active HRDAG projects this year
reports assessing situations of mass violence
requests for technical assistance
technical papers accepted in peer-reviewed publications; each paper improves the use of statistical modeling in human rights case
OUTREACH AND EDUCATION
requests for media interviews
invitations to collaborate or participate in meetings, panels, convenings, or conferences
universities participating in active methodological collaborations
In 2018, we were able to pursue our mission with a highly skilled staff of 5, plus 5 advisory board members, 15 consultants, 3 summer interns, and 1 fall fellow.
HRDAG’s fiscal year is July 1–June 30
Beginning cash balance
Revenue from contracts
Direct public support
Salaries and consultants
Travel and conferences
Rent, utilities, and technology
Supplies and other direct costs
Ending cash balance
HRDAG operates as a nonprofit project of Community Partners (communitypartners.org), a nonprofit organization that helps community leaders build and sustain effective programs that benefit the public good.
As our fiscal sponsor, Community Partners offers back-office services and the legal framework that allows nonprofit ventures to focus on their missions.
Human rights research — if done well — requires the dedication of a full-time team working with committed consultants. It requires investment in staff, in travel, in equipment and technology.
Our core team is small and focused. Key staff include executive director Dr Megan Price, director of research Dr Patrick Ball, lead statistician Dr Kristian Lum, data scientist Tarak Shah, and admin Suzanne Nathans, all based in San Francisco. We also work with colleagues who are based across the United States and Europe. These consultants make it possible to expand our capacity and rapidly respond to opportunities as they arise.
Primary funding comes from private, international human rights donors. The majority of our funding is not tied to specific projects, but rather supports our ongoing scientific work in human rights data analysis. A small but growing proportion of our funding specifically supports our work examining the use of predictive algorithms in the US criminal justice system.
Thank you to all our supporters and these major donors:
David & Anita Keller Foundation
Cooper Schneier Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation
The Anne R. Dow Family Foundation