Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

The first question in the 5WS+H is WHO. When you are collecting information about a situation or event, always make a list of all the parties involved. This list can include the alleged victim(s), perpetrator(s), authorities (such as a government, government officials or members of an organization) and witnesses. When describing the “who”, make sure to provide an unbiased description of the individual or entity, their background, affiliations, and potential biases.

Test Your Knowledge!

To practice identifying the “who” when assessing a piece of evidence, read the following passage from a Human Rights Watch report and create a “who” list. Include each party’s background, affiliations, and potential biases in your list. Click “next” to see how you did:

"On the night of June 14, two days after the election, police and Basij forces attacked Tehran University dormitories, injuring students and damaging buildings. Some students were asleep when the attack occurred. Police arrested a number of students at the dormitory that night and transferred them to different police stations. They took a few dozen students to a basement room four levels below ground at the Ministry of Interior. There, the students said, Basij and police physically and verbally abused them.

One student who spent 48 hours in the ministry basement told Human Rights Watch:

“During the attack the plainclothes forces grabbed me and some other students randomly, although we were not chanting or anything. I was blindfolded and could not recognize where we were headed. On the way, they cursed and beat me. In the 48 hours in that place, which I learned from the conversations of the guards was the basement of the Ministry of Interior, they put food in our hands and forced us to eat, and if any food fell on the ground they would beat us with batons. They made harsh noises to terrify us. We had to beg to go to the toilet. Some of the detainees had open wounds and needed medical attention, but they were treated the same way." (Source)