Students from the University of Pretoria, the University of Essex, and UC Berkeley take a break from the Open Source Investigations Summit to explore San Francisco.


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News and Events

UN High Commissioner and Microsoft President talk free speech in event moderated by HRC’s Alexa Koenig


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Microsoft President Brad Smith will discuss technology, human rights, and freedom of expression at UC Berkeley’s International House at 11:30 am on September 28 as part of the Haas School of Business Dean’s Speaker Series. The speakers will address the role of technology and business in protecting and promoting human rights, in conversation-style format introduced by Haas Dean Rich Lyons and moderated by the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law’s Executive Director Alexa Koenig. RSVP here.

Human Rights Center hires Vitorte as first Deputy Director

The Human Rights Center has hired Molly Vitorte as its first Deputy Director to provide leadership and expertise at a pivotal moment in its history. Vitorte was most recently UC Berkeley’s Director of Development for Undergraduate Education.

“This is full circle for the Human Rights Center,” said Faculty Director Eric Stover. “Molly was our first graduate student researcher more than two decades ago. She helped lay the groundwork for many of our current projects. We’re excited that she will help us lead this next phase of our work.”

Executive Director Alexa Koenig said Vitorte brings “a wealth of experience to the Human Rights Center at a critical time.” She will be leading the administrative staff, spearheading development, and playing a key role in strategic planning, Koenig said.

Vitorte received her Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from UC Berkeley in 1999. She has served as the Associate Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Stanford University and worked in the UC Office of the President. She led the San Francisco-based Hispanic Scholarship Fund as the National Director of Outreach and was the Vice President of Local Engagement for GreatSchools, a national nonprofit that provides parents with information about K-12 schools. Molly grew up in South America and has lived in the Bay Area since 1991.

On global anti-trafficking day, Freccero on Al Jazeera 

HRC’s Julie Freccero—now directing our new Health and Human Rights Initiative—was on Al-jazeera on Sunday to discuss human trafficking. She highlighted the plight of unaccompanied boys in Greece. Find the segment at the 45 minute mark of this video. 

AJNewsGrid: Saudi-led bloc 'cannot shrink list of demands on Q…

The four countries blockading Qatar say they’re ready for dialogue but only if Doha responds to all of their demands. Qatar has repeatedly called those demands an infringement of its sovereignty, so what happens now? We have analysis and reaction. Also on AJ NewsGrid: Venezuelans are voting in a controversial election on whether they should change the constitution. President Nicolas Maduro says it’s the only way to peace, after months of protests and turmoil. But the opposition says the vote is unlawful. Which side do you believe?

Posted by Al Jazeera English on Sunday, July 30, 2017

Missing Peace Young Scholars tackle research gaps on sexual violence and exploitation

The Missing Peace Initiative’s Young Scholars met in San Francisco in July to discuss sexual violence and exploitation. The Missing Peace Initiative was established in 2012 by the United States Institute of Peace, Women in International Security, Human Rights Center , and the Peace Research Institute Oslo. The Young Scholars are Ph.D. candidates or new professors.

Read Maddie Boyd and Dylan Saba’s piece about this year’s workshop. 

Global summit on open source human rights investigations convened at UC Berkeley

Amnesty International’s Scott Edwards joins the Human Rights Center’s Alexa Koenig in opening the summit on Monday evening. Photo by Monica Haulman.

The Human Rights Center and Amnesty International co-hosted a summit on open source human rights investigations June 26-29, bringing together students from Pretoria, Essex, Toronto, and Berkeley and global experts. More about the summit: 

World’s next generation of human rights investigators meets at Berkeley (Gretchen Kell, UC Berkeley, Public Affairs) 

As ‘fake news’ flies, UC Berkeley students verify and document (Emily Deruy, The Mercury News)

Global student summit on open source human rights investigations convened at UC Berkeley (Andrea Lampros, Human Rights Center Medium)

Watch a brief video about the summit! 

HRC’s Eric Stover and Cristián Orrego in Argentina for the 30th anniversary of the Banco Nacional de Datos Genéticos

HRC’s Eric Stover and Cristián Orrego were in Argentina for the 30th anniversary of the Banco Nacional de Datos Genetics, an organization devoted to analyzing DNA evidence to link grandparents with potential grandchildren in the wake of Argentina’s Dirty War. In this photo, Eric is meeting with with Chicha Mariani, the former director of the Abuelas de Plaza Mayo, at her home in La Plata. Now in her early 90s, Mariani and other abuelas visited Stover in his office at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1983. They asked him to help them find a way to identity their grandchildren who had been born in detention during military rule in the 1970s and given up for illegal adoption. Stover and the forensic geneticist Orrego arranged for the geneticist Mary Claire King to work with the Abuelas. Today, more than 120 grandchildren have been recovered and reunited with their grandparents.

Se realizó una Jornada de Genética Forense en el C3, por el 30º aniversario del Banco Nacional de Datos Genéticos

United Nations manual on investigating state violence is revised—with HRC input 

The 1991 Minnesota Protocol that sought to create international standards to investigate unlawful death was recently revised with input from a committee of international human rights leaders and legal experts. The committee members included Human Rights Center Faculty Director Eric Stover; Senior Research Fellow Vince Iacopino, Medical Director at Physicians for Human Rights; Senior Research Fellow Cristián Orrego, forensic expert and former Director of HRC’s Forensic Program; and Human Rights Center Advisory Board member Juan Mendez, human rights lawyer and former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Read the revised protocol here: The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016).

Documenting hate against Muslims

This photo was taken at an unsanctioned camp north of Amman, Jordan, on February 11, 2017. Photo by Saeed Nassef, an Egyptian-Iranian photographer documenting the conditions of Syrian refugees. Find his work at

Ilaf Esuf is a recent UC Berkeley graduate and member of our Human Rights Investigations Lab. Over the past semester, she and the other students on the U.S. Team have contributed to Documenting Hate, an investigative journalism project led by ProPublica. They have searched social media to find evidence of hate crimes against Muslims, immigrants, and other targeted populations. Using verification techniques, the students have attempted to corroborate and substantiate the claims and then shared that information with the ProPublica database. Read Ilaf’s story about her experiences documenting hate, now on our new Human Rights Center Medium channel: “Documenting hate against my Muslim community” 

Discover Cal’s ‘Catching war criminals’ features Stover and Koenig 

Video now available.

The Discover Cal traveling lecture series featured the Human Rights Center’s Eric Stover and Alexa Koenig this spring in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orinda. Stover and Koenig discussed human rights investigations, from forensic science to open source, with Berkeley alumni and friends. Watch the video from the Orinda event here.

HRC’s Alexa Koenig wins awards for teaching, public service

The Human Rights Center’s Executive Director Alexa Koenig was honored with the Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association Teaching Excellence Award and Berkeley Law’s Eleanor Swift Award for Public Service. With each award, she was recognized for her dedication to students and commitment to developing the next generation of human rights leaders. 

Habré’s acquittal on rape must not be forgotten, writes Kim Thuy Seelinger in The Guardian

The Human Rights Center’s Kim Thuy Seelinger was in Dakar, Senegal, where the court upheld the conviction of former Chad dictator Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity, including for sexual violence, but not for an individual rape conviction.  Seelinger writes about the decision in The Guardian—“Hissène Habré’s rape acquittal must not be quietly airbrushed from history.”

Seelinger also writes for the California Law Review about the Thomas Kwoyelo case and customary international law in Uganda

Meet our 2017 Human Rights Center Fellows—working for rights and justice in 11 countries 

Congratulations to our 2017 Human Rights Center Fellows, who will work with survivors from San Francisco to Mongolia. Read about the Fellows and their projects!

San Francisco Chronicle features the Human Rights Investigation Lab

“UC Berkeley program seeks to help prosecute war criminals”

The San Francisco Chronicle featured the Human Rights Investigations Lab on April 14th, looking at their work using open source information to defend human rights. 

Read the article here.

Authors discuss book, Hiding in Plain Sight, in ALOUD Podcast Series 

Authors Alexa Koenig, Victor Peskin and Eric Stover discuss their seminal book, Hiding in Plain Sight at the Los Angeles Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium as part of the award-winning ALOUD at Central Library speaker series presented by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. The authors trace the evolution of international justice and how to hold accountable mass murderers like Adolf Eichmann, Saddam Hussein, Ratko Mladic, Joseph Kony, and Osama bin Laden. The authors also discussed the United States’ increasing reliance on military force to capture—or more often simply to kill—suspected terrorists, with little or no judicial scrutiny.

Listen to it here