New guide on investigating and mapping perpetrators in open-source investigations

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in Sydney and the Human Rights Center (HRC) at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law have developed a ground-breaking guide to support investigation of international human rights violations.

Investigating Perpetrators provides practical guidance for investigators on how to use open-source data to comprehensively map potential perpetrators of human rights violations and related crimes. Understanding the structure of security forces, roles within various units and their location over time is a powerful tool to support accountability processes, including criminal prosecutions, civil cases, vetting processes and sanctions.

The guide sets out a methodology for collecting, organising and analysing the copious open-source information available regarding alleged war crimes and mass human rights violations. Investigators can use the methodology to create a powerful information map of parties’ activities through time and across geographic regions. 

Open-source mapping can also provide valuable insight into time periods or locations where there has not been wide or accurate reporting of events, and where more investigations are necessary to address information gaps.

Investigating Perpetrators will be launched on Friday 28 April 2023 at 1am AEST at a webinar hosted by the International Bar Association featuring keynote speaker US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack.

PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor says:

‘Clearly understanding who was involved in potential human rights violations is a crucial early step in any investigation. This guide forms part of a suite of work produced by PIAC on mapping  incidents, laws and policies to support truth, justice and accountability.’

Report co-author and former Director of PIAC’s Truth and Accountability Program, Daniela Gavshon says: 

‘Open-source investigations are a crucial source of information for justice and accountability processes. With so much information available, it is essential that we continue to improve how we collect, systematise and use it. This methodology provides one more tool to assist open-source investigators to refine their work.’

Executive Director of HRC at UC Berkeley, Alexa Koenig says:

‘Perpetrator mapping is one of many investigative processes that can be significantly strengthened with the help of digital open source information. We are honored to have supported Daniela and her team in developing this guide, which is based on insights from their years of mapping work, and hope it will be a useful resource for investigations teams worldwide that are looking to develop or expand their own open source investigative processes.’

Investigating Perpetrators was co-authored by Daniela Gavshon, Mary Flanagan, Nadeshda Jayakody and Erol Gorur.

Media contacts:

Dan Buhagiar, PIAC Media and Communications Manager: +61 478 739 280 [email protected]

Maggie Andresen, HRC Communications Specialist: +1 845 608 4997 [email protected]

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