Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

Once you have a sense of your source(s), your resources (including time, people, and safety measures), and the appropriate background information needed, here are some specific steps you can use to carry out your collection efforts:

1. Conduct Background Research

If you are collecting information about an incident or type of incident that occurred previously, reading background material can provide you with context. Are there academic papers, news outlets or social media that discuss the topic? Have human rights groups reported about similar incidents in the past? Are there other credible sources that have written or document this type of incident, the political context in your country/province/city, or any other topics relevant to your investigation? Take some time to read or view these background materials.

Once you have done your background research, talk to the experts. Have academics, journalists, or other individuals done research into the type of incident you are investigating or the political context in which these incidents have taken place? Talking to these individuals, reading or watching their reports can provide more clarity on the situation you’re investigating.

Test your Knowledge!

Take a minute to practice identifying background materials and potential experts. Imagine you’re researching student rights violations in Iran. Compose a list of three specific resources that you could read or watch and three experts you could talk to about this issue. Examples could include news articles on the 2012 gender-based changes to university education in Iran, documentaries on women’s access to education in Iran, human rights reports on Iran from credible domestic or international organizations, and professors who have studied changes to the educational system in Iran.