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 World Science Day for Peace and Development


To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the CHR is sharing stories of scientists, engineers, and health professionals who use their expertise to promote and protect human rights.

In honor of World Science Day for Peace and Development, we are highlighting the work Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) has done to estimate the number of disappearances and deaths during the Sri Lankan civil war. HRDAG has collaborated on multiple projects related to this topic through its expertise in statistical analysis. In doing so, HRDAG has helped provide closure to the families left behind and provided information essential for accountability.

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of persons."
-Article 3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Statistical Analysis & Seeking Justice for the Disappeared

Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) is a non-profit organization that applies rigorous science to the analysis of human rights violations around the world. Among HRDAG's numerous projects include collaborations with a range of human rights organizations in Sri Lanka to provide technical assistance in efforts to identify and enumerate individual disappearances and deaths during the Sri Lankan civil war.

To help determine the total number, HRDAG has provided technical assistance related to data coding, database development, and statistical advising to groups attempting to determine the numbers of the dead and missing. HRDAG has also assisted in working to identify what is referred to as the "dark figure" – the number of missing/deceased individuals who were never documented. An estimate of this number can be determined based on the number of individuals who have been identified through the use of multiple systems estimation and deduplication methods. The database deduplication and multiple systems estimation start with individually-identified victims. HRDAG is helping Tamil groups outside Sri Lanka to develop a database of victims of killing and enforced disappearance based on interviews and letters collected from family members. They are organizing names from existing lists and cross-linking them so that no individual would be counted more than once and so the pattern of multiple reporting can enable the estimation.

ITJP For the loved ones left behind, such statistics aid in ensuring that future generations are aware of the human rights abuses that took place during the civil war. Enumerating the victims of the conflict allows for a more concrete acknowledgment of their suffering and helps to memorialize them. Such information is essential for efforts to identify patterns of institutional responsibility and to analyze the factors that contribute to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. It is hoped that understanding these factors will help ensure protections are in place to prevent such abuses in the future. These numbers can also assist those left behind in seeking accountability on behalf of their loved ones, as demonstrating the scale and magnitude of human rights abuses is crucial to seeking proportional justice and responsibility.

For more information, visit HRDAG's webpage on its projects in Sri Lanka.