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This handbook has grown out of work I've done over the last five years in human rights information management. The two projects I worked with that have most directly influenced the ideas here were 1) work with the non-government Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (CDHES) in 1991 - 1992, and 2) work with the Haitian National Commission for Truth and Justice (CNVJ) in 1995. Although the technology -- both hardware and software -- has advanced tremendously, and the political contexts have varied widely in the six countries to which this work has taken me, the key issues have remained the same because the question at the root of this exercise is the same: Who did what to whom?
The most fundamental thing a human rights group can do is to tell the truth. A good information management system can help them to do this by maintaining systematic control over the various pieces of human rights stories that they receive. In the worst case, a bad information management system can mislead a human rights organization by introducing ambiguity or even distortion into information that was clear and unambiguous when it came into the organization. In the best case, a good information management system can help an organization to know more than the sum of all its members' relevant knowledge.
This handbook has benefited enormously from criticism, advice, assistance, and urging by others, including Dr. Audrey R. Chapman, Director of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, who asked me to write something like this book over a year ago. I would like to thank explicitly Dr. Francoise Bouchard (President, Haitian National Commission for Truth and Justice) and the Junta Directiva of the non-government Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (CDHES) for their permission to use examples from the work we did together.
Mike Levy (formerly of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide's Washington liaison office), Prof. Herb Spirer (Emeritus, University of Connecticut), Gerald O'Sullivan (Computer Systems Manager, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa), and Prof. Janis Grobbelaar (Information Manager of the Johannesburg office, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa) all gave extensive feedback on early drafts. Mark Girouard (AAAS Science and Human Rights Program) provided invaluable guidance on the organization of the material, and Ria Galanos (AAAS Science and Human Rights Program) did the copy editing and layout. Finally, my toughest critic and warmest supporter, Dr. Margaret Weigers, made many helpful editorial suggestions, as well as substantive recommendations regarding the interviewing sections. Of course, whatever errors of fact or theory remain are solely my responsibility.
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Patrick Ball, Ph.D., is Deputy Director of the American Assocation for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Program. Since 1991, he has designed information management systems and conducted quantitative analysis for large-scale human rights data projects for truth commissions, non-governmental organizations, tribunals and United Nations missions in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, South Africa, and Kosovo. His 1997 Ph.D. dissertation ?Liberal Hypocrisy and Totalitarian Sincerity? examined the roots of the non-governmental human rights movements in Ethiopia, Pakistan, and El Salvador. AAAS has published two previous books by Dr. Ball: Who Did What to Whom? Planning and Implementing a Large Scale Human Rights Data Project (1996), and State Violence in Guatemala, 1960-1996: a Quantitative Reflection (1999, with Paul Kobrak and Herbert F. Spirer).
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