3.5.2 Case summaries

Case summaries are a different kind of list and are used for a different purpose. Rather than a simple list of items, case summaries put together all of the facts for each case in an attractive, readable, and standard format. Having the information organized in a standard format allows readers to absorb the relevant details of many cases rapidly. A case summary usually presents a narrative description of the case so that the reader can get a deeper sense of what happened. However, the case summary also presents the elements of the case that were coded, especially the violations which were counted. In October, 1993, the NonGovernmental Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (CDHES-NG) presented summaries of over 110 of their bestdocumented and most thoroughly researched cases (more than 600 pages of material) to the United Nations' Truth Commission for El Salvador.

In Example below, there is a hypothetical case rendered in the form used by the CDHES for the Salvadoran Truth Commission. This example is an extended form of the case suggested in the hypothetical database in Section, above. Additional detail has been added to Example to show the flexibility of this report format [11]. There is no reason that reports in this form cannot be generated directly from a database that contains this information. Although this can be technically difficult report to produce, it can be correspondingly valuable. When many cases are presented together in a format like this one, it can be much easier to see what are the unique elements in each case.

Example Hypothetical case summary form

			Case summary form (hypothetical)

Date of deposition: 06/07/94        Case No.: 243
Date of event: 30/06/1994+          File No.: 14/89C

VICTIMS:    1. JONES, George
            2. JONES, Lisa

    AGE:    1. 35   SEX:    1. M   OCCUPATION:  1. House builder
            2. 32           2. F                2. Secretary

    1. Threats and Intimidation (National Guard)     30/06/1994
            Guardsmen said that they would kill 
            him if he continued his complaint 
            against them.
    1. Arbitrary Detention (National Guard)          04/07/1994
            no arrest warrant 
    1. Torture (Federal Police)                      04/07/1994
    1. Arbitrary Execution (Federal Police)          04/07/1994
    2. Arbitrary Detention (National Guard)          04/07/1994
            no arrest warrant
    2. Torture (Federal Police)                      04/07/1994
    2. Arbitrary Execution (Federal Police)          04/07/1994

    1. Severe Beating (Federal Police)               04/07/1994
    1. Electric Shocks (Federal Police)              04/07/1994
            given in the ear ("telephone")
    2. Severe Beating (Federal Police)               04/07/1994

            Col. Collins, Ralph E. (Commander, National Guard)
            Lt. Col. Schmidt, G.R. (Executive Officer, 
                National Guard)
            North, John (Director, Federal Police)
            Jackson, J.L. (Associate Director, Federal Police)
            Gates, Agent (Federal Police)

            National Guard
            Federal Police

    In the victims' house, 123 First St., Elmville
    On the afternoon of June 30, 1994, three unidentified 
National Guardsmen came to the house of George and Lisa 
Jones.  Mr. Jones, who is a shop steward for Local 16 of 
the Factory Workers' Union, had complained to newspapers 
and the HRC-Elmville about Guard intimidation of union 
meetings several weeks before this incident.  The Guardsmen 
threatened that if he did not stop his complaints, he would 
be killed.  Jones told several colleagues and his sister, 
Mary, about the incident.
    Around 11 PM on the evening of 4 July, men dressed as 
Guardsmen broke into the Jones' house and were seen 
dragging both of them into a waiting truck.  According 
to witnesses who were detained that evening in the 
Federal Police headquarters, the Jones were brought into 
the FP headquarters very late that night.  Detainees heard 
both of the victims being beaten, and one reports hearing 
threats to use the "telephone" (electric shocks given in 
the ear) against Mr. Jones, after which he was heard screaming.
    Mary Jones went to different police and military 
headquarters on 5 July.  Each denied having arrested 
the two victims.  A certain Agent Gates at the Federal 
Police said something to the effect that if anything 
happened to the victims, "they had it coming."
    The two victims' bodies were found near their house on 
the morning of 6 July.  Mary Jones organized autopsies 
of both victims' bodies, and made a declaration to the 
HRC-Elmville.  The autopsies indicated that the two had 
been beaten to death.  The HRC-Elmville investigated 
and confirmed (through unsworn statements by other 
detainees) that the Jones were in the FP headquarters 
late during the night of 4-5 July.


Denounced to international human rights 
    organizations	                              15/07/1996
    To whom: Amnesty International
    By whom: HRC-Elmville
    Refers to: 1, 2

Denounced to other international organizations    13/07/1996
    To whom: International Federation of 
        Factory Workers' Unions
    By whom: Local 16, Factory Workers' Union
    Refers to: 1

Letters to military officials                     10/07/1996
    To whom: Col. Ralph E. COLLINS 
         (Commander, National Guard)
    By whom: HRC-Elmville
    Refers to: 1, 2
    Status: admits knowing of Mr. Jones, denies having 
         arrested either George Jones or Lisa Jones.

Letters to military officials                     10/07/1996
    To whom: John North (Director, Federal Police)
    By whom: HRC-Elmville
    Refers to: 1, 2
    Status: no reply

    Autopsy report by Dr. William Hogarth 
        for George Jones                          07/07/1996
    Autopsy report by Dr. William Hogarth 
        for Lisa Jones                            07/07/1996
    Deponent's declaration (Mary Jones)           09/07/1996

    JONES, Mary
       (sister of Mr. Jones)
    MARTIN, Ronald
       (trade union associate of Mr. Jones)

Non-Government Human Rights Commission of Elmville 

In this example, the first section lists the general case information. Note that the date of the event ends with a plus sign. This indicates that this is only the first of several dates on which violations occurred. There is also a case number and a file number. The case number indicates this case's position in a set of files reported at the same time (i.e., this is the 243rd such case presented in this group), and the file number indicates how this file is identified in the organization's files.

The victims are listed in the second section. The key note here is that the numbers assigned to each victim (1. JONES, George, etc.) refer to the numbered information in other sections. This kind of form is flexible enough to accommodate cases in which there is any number of named victims. The second section indicates that victim 1 (George Jones) was thirty five years old, male, and was a house builder. Note that additional victims can be listed in this section just by adding lines to identify them. In this case there is a second line giving Lisa Jones' personal information (thirty two years old, female, secretary).

The next section details the types of violations. The first line indicates that George was threatened by the national guard on 30 June, 1994. Other lines indicate other violations that happened to George (1) or to Lisa (2). Note that there can be any number of violations against each victim, and that the violations may have occurred at different dates. Furthermore, each violation may be qualified by a brief commentary. The first violation is listed as having happened on 30 June, whereas others happened on 4 July. The following section details the types of torture that were used. By including "torture" in the violation section and then detailing torture types in a separation section, the organization highlights torture as an especially egregious type of violation.

The next section indicates those organizations and individuals allegedly responsible for the violations. Of course each violation includes a reference to the organizations alleged to have committed it, but the "responsibles" section summarizes the perpetrators more succinctly. Note that all the commanding and executive officers are included as individually responsible. Many countries hold the commanding officer legally responsible for all the violations committed by forces under his command; this section highlights the commanders' names to highlight their responsibility.

The next two sections, location of the act and commentary, are simple text fields. The commentary must be written by a human being, but once it is created and stored in the database, it can be reproduced whenever it is needed.

The interventions undertaken form the next section. These interventions may have been done by the organization itself, by other organizations, or by individuals. By including this information here, the organization can show the work that has been done on the case. Similarly, the next section, documentation available, shows evidence which the organization can mobilize to support their claims. The final section follows the previous two by listing known witnesses to the event. The case summary closes by noting the source for the data, that is, the Non-Government Human Rights Commission-Elmville.

Summaries of the kind presented here are a clear and standardized way to present a few hundred cases in exacting detail. If the organization needs to present more cases (e.g., several thousand), then they might want to think about presenting less information, or about presenting the information in electronic form. For this many cases, the volume of paper produced for a report in this format would be overwhelming.

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