Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

The third question in the 5WS+H is WHERE. Information about where an even took place can include:

  • A city, province, or country;
  • A part of town or a neighborhood;
  • A particular building; or,
  • A part of a building.

If you are able to obtain pictures or videos of an event, these can help you identify the “where”; however, you can also use written, oral, or even second-hand accounts to answer the “where”. Let’s go back to our Human Rights Watch story:

“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.” (Source)

In this passage, we can identify several “where” answers:

  1. Tehran University dormitories (in Tehran, Iran at a university campus. From this passage, we are not able to identify more specific information about which dorms were raided, but the Basij forces allegedly damaged multiple buildings).
  2. Different police stations (we are not sure which police stations and where, but we could seek out more information about where these locations are.)
  3. The Ministry of Interior. More specifically, a basement room four levels down.

When collecting information, you might not always be able to identify the exact location of an incident. In this case, explain what you know about the setting and what this tells you about its possible location. For example, we can infer that the person narrating this next passage is in a state-run interrogation location in Tehran:

"There was a fluorescent lamp that didn't really help us to distinguish day from night. There was no soap. They confiscated all our personal belongings. […] In Tehran's hot weather, we were deprived of a fan or water. They interrogated us. If anyone had a green scarf, shawl, or bracelet indicating that they were Mousavi supporters, their situation was worse. On the last day, I was feeling sick and a female guard came and kicked me a few times to stop me from crying." (Source)