Technology and Human Rights Program


Investigations Lab      Research

About the program

Building on longstanding work in the field, the Human Rights Center launched a  Technology and Human Rights Program in 2015 to strengthen the use of emerging technologies in human rights investigations and prosecutions. We have since created the  first university-based Human Rights Investigations Lab of its kind to conduct open source investigations for international organizations, news outlets, and courts.  The lab collaborates with Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps to train students to verify publicly available information on potential war crimes and hate crimes and to rapidly respond to human rights crises. The lab also works with legal partners to conduct open source investigations for legal accountability and convenes experts to establish protocols for digital evidence. 

The Technology and Human Rights Program also helps to advance  the tech capacity of the International Criminal Court. We have sent experts from the fields of software, security, analytics, and open source intelligence to The Hague to share their expertise with Court investigators and analysts. The Human Rights Center’s Alexa Koenig co-administers the Court’s Technology Advisory Board, a group of law, technology, and human rights experts. 

History: Using emerging technologies in human rights investigations

For more than 23 years, the Human Rights Center  has been engaged in cutting-edge human rights investigations worldwide. Faculty Director Eric Stover organized exhumations of mass graves in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and elsewhere. At the request of the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Stover conducted a mass grave survey in Rwanda—the first of its kind—that later linked several accused to genocide. This evidence helped convict scores of accused, including Radovan Karadzic, Saddam Hussein, and Jean-Paul Akayesu.

In recent years, the Human Rights Center convened three international conferences—one in The Hague and two in Salzburg—on the application of emerging technologies to expose and document genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. These historic convenings brought together scores of technologists, international lawyers, activists, and university researchers to usher in a new era in digital investigations and led to a series of workshops with the Division of Investigations in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the collection, analysis, and presentation of digital evidence in trial proceedings.

Prior to the those international workshops, the center hosted Soul of the New Machine in May 2009 and Advancing the New Machine in 2011 to explore the intersection of human rights and technology. 

Technology conferences, events, and reports 

Strengthening the use of science and technology in international courts

The Human Rights Center and the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor convened Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Using Scientific Evidence to Advance Prosecutions at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in October 2012. The purpose of the conference was to promote an ongoing exchange of ideas, expertise, and strategies for the application of new and emerging scientific methods and technologies to judicial investigations of serious international crimes and to expand the range of strategic and technological resources for investigators and prosecutors to use in pursuing accountability for such crimes.

The first Salzburg Workshop on Improving War Crimes Investigations, held in October 2013, brought together investigators and prosecutors from the International Criminal Court, specialists in cyberinvestigations,  foundation representatives, legal experts, and University of California, Berkeley, faculty and students to discus the use of digital evidence to prosecute atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes). The Human Rights Center sponsored the workshop in collaboration with CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society), the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and Salzburg Global Seminar at the Schloss Leopoldskron, an Austrian castle occupied by the Nazis during World War II and subsequently dedicated to promoting human rights and international justice.

The second Salzburg Workshop was entitled “First Responders: An International Workshop on Collecting and Analyzing Evidence of International Crimes,” and was an international conference held in September 2014 in Salzburg, Austria. Workshop participants discussed how local and international NGOs, journalists, forensic scientists, health professionals, and other “first responders” to war crimes and human rights violations can most effectively work with courts—and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in particular—in the collection of evidence of serious international crimes, such as genocide and crimes against humanity.

Read the reports: 

Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Using Scientific Evidence to Advance Prosecutions at the International Criminal Court

Digital Fingerprints: Using Electronic Evidence to Advance Prosecutions at the International Criminal Court 

First Responders: Collecting and Analyzing Evidence of Digital Crimes

Exploring the intersection of human rights, technology and new media 

In May 2009 UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center hosted “Soul of the New Machine,” an international conference focused on exploring the intersection of human rights, technology, and new media. Over 250 leading thinkers, civil society members, activists, programmers, and entrepreneurs had the chance to assess the ‘lay of the land’ and discuss emerging technologies related to evidence gathering / documentation and advocacy and outreach. The conference was designed to be a meeting point between the tech-savvy world and the human rights community.

Soul of the New Machine

In 2011,  much progress in the practice and implementation of human rights and technology projects called for a new opportunity to share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned from deploying technology in the field. Advancing the New Machine: Human Rights and Technology convened human rights practitioners and technologists to discuss the progress, successes, and challenges that have emerged. The conference was hosted on April 26t and 27, 2011, at the David Brower Center.

Advancing the New Machine

Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge

The Mobile Challenge, an open innovation competition hosted by the Human Rights Center in conjunction with NetSquared, invited submissions from nonprofits and advocacy organizations to develop mobile tools that combine data, imagery, mapping and social networking to advance human rights. The Challenge received 50 project submissions from 23 countries. Ten finalists were selected by online community vote, and award winners, selected by a panel of judges, were announced at the Soul of the New Machine conference. Winners received cash awards to implement their projects, as well as technical support from NetSquared volunteers.