3.5.4 Counts

Statistics are the most common kind of database output. By statistics, I mean basic counts of elements in the system. Here are a few examples based on the Example Database 2.2.3.2 presented in a previous section:

Table 3.5.4.1: The number of arbitrary executions by month and city in which they occurred
City June July Totals
Elmville 0 3 3
Littleton 1 0 1
Totals 1 3 4

Note: Each act of violence is uniquely identified by month of occurrence, so totals across time are accurate counts of the number of victims who suffered that kind of violation. Each victim may have suffered one, two, or all three kinds of violence, so it is not meaningful to sum victims across different kinds of violation.

Source: Hypothetical data, Example Database 2.2.3.2

This table indicates that the number of murders in Elmville went up, from zero to three, in the city of Elmville, while the number of murders in Littleton went down. Overall, the Elmville had more murders than Littleton (three vs. one) and there were fewer murders in June than in July (one vs. three). This table is relatively straightforward. The next table, analyzing the number of arbitrary executions by month and by the perpetrating organization, is not as simple.

Table 3.5.4.2: The number of arbitrary executions by month and perpetrating organization
Perpetrating
Organization
JuneJuly
National Guard 1 1
Federal Police 1 2

Source: Hypothetical data, Example Database 2.2.3.2

From the discussion of Example 2.2.3.2, we can see that several factors complicate how violations attributed to perpetrators can be counted. Summing across months and organizations (1+1+1+2) it would seem that there were five executions. In this Example, however, only four people were arbitrarily executed (John Smith, George Jones, Lisa Jones, and Betty Smith). This is not a mistake. Because the FP and the NG shared responsibility for the execution of John Smith, the sum of violations attributed to all perpetrators is more than the sum of violations experienced by victims. Furthermore, this means that we cannot meaningfully argue that the FP was responsible for 60 percent (3/5) of executions and the NG was responsible for 40 percent (2/5). In fact, the FP was involved in 75 percent (3/4) of executions, and the NG was involved in 50 percent (2/4). In particular, it is worth noting that pie charts can be misleading in the analysis of perpetrator responsibility.

If the organization wants to analyze relative proportions of responsibility, then they must create a category of shared responsibility linking each of the units that participated in joint operations. Consider Table 3.5.4.3:

Table 3.5.4.3: Number of arbitrary executions allegedly committed by perpetrator categories
Classification of
perpetrator
Number of
arbitrary
executions
FP 2
NG 1
FP/NG 1
Total executions 4

Source: Hypothetical data in Example 2.2.3.2

This table includes a category describing combined Police and Guard activity, which reflects how John Smith's murder allegedly occured. This idea will be addressed again in the discussion of the CDHES Table 3.5.4.7 presented below.

Table 3.5.4.4: The number of different types of violations by month
Type of violationJuneJulyTotal
arbitrary execution 1 3 4
torture 2 4 6
arbitrary detention 3 2 5

Note: Each act of violence is uniquely identified by month of occurrence, so totals across time are accurate counts of the number of victims who suffered that kind of violation. Each victim may have suffered one, two, or all three kinds of violence, so it is not meaningful to sum victims across different kinds of violation.

Source: Hypothetical data, Example Database 2.2.3.2

Because all four of these tables came from the same database, it is worth noting when they should agree and when they should not agree. The total number of executed people by month in Table 3.5.4.1 should agree with the month totals of executed people in Table 3.5.4.4, and it does. There is no way to compare the numbers in Table 3.5.4.2 either with Table 3.5.4.1 or with 3.5.4.4 because we do not know if in any cases responsibility for an execution was shared between units operating in combination. However, the total number of people executed in Table 3.5.4.3 matches the totals in Table 3.5.4.1 and Table 3.5.4.4. When an organization is calculating many tables from the same data, it is always important to check the totals which should agree with the corresponding totals in different tables. The explanatory notes under each table should describe precisely what is being counted. With this information, the reader should be able to determine which tables should be comparable.

Tables 3.5.4.5, 3.5.4.6, 3.5.4.7, and 3.5.4.8 come from the Salvadoran Human Rights Commission (non-governmental; CDHES) presentation to the United Nations' Truth Commission for El Salvador in November, 1992. The tables are presented in their original, Spanish versions so that what the CDHES did, exactly, can be seen here. In English, the violation codes used in the tables are the following:

    EA - Arbitrary execution          Dp - Displacement of population
    DF - Forced disappearance         Dd - Disappeared
    Tt - Torture                      Hd - Injured
    Mc - Massacre                     Ro - Robberies
    DI - Illegal detention            Ot - Other violations
    VS - Rape                         Vt - Total number of victims
    Az - Threats                      Pb - Total number of collective victims
    Ps - Persecution                  In - Total number of violations
    Am - Raids on houses and offices  Cs - Total number of cases
    Db - Destruction or damage to goods	

All four tables begin with fifteen columns describing the numbers of violations based on the types of violations described by the codes above. The final four columns show the total number of individuals victimized (Vt); the total number of populations, such as trade unions or towns, victimized (Pb); the total number of violent incidents that occurred (In); and the total number of cases that occurred (Cs). The total number of violent incidents that occur measures the number of specific times and locations in which these violations happened. "Cases" are the number of files the organization opened.

Table 3.5.4.5 is a "Tabulation of Numbers of Human Rights Violations, by Type of Violation and Year, Presented to the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador by the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (non-governmental), November, 1992." This is a simple summary of the numbers of different types of violations that occurred in different years. For example, there were 1610 arbitrary executions in 1981. This table is closely analogous to Table 3.5.4.4, above. Most violations cluster in the period 1980 - 1982.

| view Table 3.5.4.5 |

Table 3.5.4.6 is a "Tabulation of Numbers of Human Rights Violations, by Corporate Perpetrator and Type of Violation, Presented to the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador by the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (non-governmental), November, 1992." This table is roughly analogous to Table 3.5.4.2, except that instead of time breakdowns of a single type of violation, this table breaks down different kinds of violations summed across all time periods. For example, the First Infantry Brigade is alleged to have committed 259 arbitrary executions. Only the first of two pages is presented here. Note that in addition to the concerns raised in the discussion of Table 3.5.4.2, some of these units are subdivisions of other units. Not only shared responsibility but the bounds of a given named unit confound sums across units. There is therefore no total on this table.

| view Table 3.5.4.6 |

Table 3.5.4.7 is "Tabulation of Numbers of Human Rights Violations, by Combinations of Perpetrators and Types of Violations, Presented to the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador by the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (non-governmental), November, 1992." The codes for the perpetrators in this table are the following:

   E.M. - death squads
   FFAA - Armed Forces of El Salvador
   FMLN - Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación National
   dscd - unknown
   ejhn - Honduran Army

Note that this table includes the combinations of units which committed violations. For example, there were 114 arbitrary executions alleged to have been committed by the Salvadoran Armed Forces acting in combination with death squads. Given this table, one can argue that in this data, either acting alone or in combination with other forces, the Armed Forces of El Salvador were responsible for approximately 82 percent of the arbitrary executions reported in interviews conducted by the CDHES.

This table is analogous to Table 3.5.4.3.

| view Table 3.5.4.7 |

Table 3.5.4.8 is "Individual Military Responsibility by Type of Human Rights Violation Presented to the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador by the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (non-governmental), November, 1992." This table lists military officers and the violations alleged to have been committed by units under each officer's command during the period of his command. For example, Juan Alcides Aviles is alleged to have commanded units that committed 222 arbitrary executions. These tables were presented to the Ad-Hoc and Truth Commissions in 1992. They were also published in Salvadoran newspapers in 1992 and 1993. Individualized versions for the most egregious officers were printed, including a photo, a description of their military careers, and the numbers presented in the table; these were laid out as small pages, and pasted onto walls and bus stops all over San Salvador.

| view Table 3.5.4.8 |

Quantitative human rights data can go beyond questions in the form "how many?" to questions like "in what forms does political violence occur?" The following example is taken from the first report by the International Center for Research in Human Rights (CIIDH 1996). Among other topics, their report argues that indiscriminate violence victimizes children more directly than targeted attacks. The table below would be one way to make this argument.

Table 3.5.4.9: Proportion (%) of victims in three age categories (and unknown) by six types of human rights violation for violations that occurred July, 1980 - June, 1984 in Rabinal, Guatemala

Type of violation MINOR
< 17 yrs
ADULT
17-60 yrs
ELDERLY
> 60 yrs
Age
unknown
Sum of victims
at all ages for
this violation
individual murder 3 84 8 5 144
multiple murder 10 66 5 19 238
corpse 12 73 4 12 26
disappearance 5 88 5 3 40
kidnapping 8 82 0 10 49
torture 4 81 4 12 26

Source: Calculated from Table 2.3 in CIIDH (1996: p.75).

In their report, the CIIDH notes that the data in this table come exclusively from oral testimonies, each taken according to a structured interview process. In the interviews, witnesses identified some victims in great detail, whereas sometimes people say "and there were many others killed then, as well." This table includes only victims identified at least by one given name and one family name [12].

Note that in Table 3.5.4.9 the proportion of individual murders, disappearances, and tortures that happen to children are small (fewer than 5 percent) relative to the proportion of children in multiple murders or the appearance of corpses (more than 10 percent). Since the absolute numbers of victims in the category of multiple murders is large, children also run a greater risk of being killed in an indiscriminate killing as opposed to being killed individually. This argument intuitively makes sense, since it is unlikely that people committing political violence would have a reason to target children except as part of a larger campaign. However, the data are useful to confirm the sense that children are killed as part of mass killings, thereby clarifying what indiscriminate violence means in terms of effects on the civilian population.


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