A time to support human rights


Here’s what we’ve done in 2016:

  • Launched the world’s first university-based open source Human Rights Investigations Lab. We have trained more than 40 UC Berkeley students how to use publicly available sources to investigate human rights abuses. Through the lab, students are verifying and corroborating video footage and photographs from Syria and elsewhere for use in media and human rights reports and, potentially, as evidence for international courts. The lab is now gathering and verifying incidents of hate speech in the wake of the U.S. election. Read about our lab in New Scientist.
  • Awarded human rights fellowships. Our twenty 2016 Human Rights Center Fellows worked side by side with local organizations on the front lines in 10 countries this year, and recently presented their work at our annual fellowship conference.
  • Initiated anti-human trafficking research. We are studying law enforcement’s response to sex and labor trafficking in California and finding ways to better protect and support survivors.
  • Provided legal expertise for cases against perpetrators of wartime sexual violence. We are continuing to provide legal consultation to international courts.
  • Responded to the refugee crisis. Julie Freccero, associate director of our Sexual Violence Program, is coordinating the global response to gender-based violence in Greece’s refugee camps. We are also embarking on new research on unaccompanied refugee children and LGBTQI refugees in Europe and northern Africa.
  • Organized the Gun Violence in America event series. Our year-long series has featured acclaimed Berkeley linguist George Lakoff as well as leading firearm researcher Dr. Garen Wintemute. More events to come!

Each year, we raise 95 percent of our budget from foundations and individuals like you. Thank you for making this work possible in 2016 and for your support in 2017.


—The Human Rights Center Team

Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins joins the Human Rights Center

Award-winning citizen journalist Eliot Higgins

Award-winning citizen journalist Eliot Higgins has joined the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law as a Research Fellow, as part of the center’s Human Rights Investigations Lab.

Higgins, founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog, is a global leader in the use of social media and other publicly available sources to investigate conflict, including human rights violations. He publishes the work of an international alliance of citizen journalists who trawl the web to document the weapons and tactics deployed in armed conflict, including the downing of flight MH17 in Ukraine and Sarin and chlorine gas attacks in Syria. According to Human Rights and Technology Program Director Keith Hiatt, “Eliot’s expertise in vehicle and munitions identification is well known, but it’s his ability to coordinate the efforts of a globally distributed team of investigators, and synthesize findings in an accessible way, that really sets him apart.”

“We’ve entered a new era of human rights investigations and Eliot Higgins is at the forefront of that work,” said Alexa Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center. “We are honored to partner with Eliot and to support his groundbreaking efforts to investigate human rights abuses.”

Higgins is currently a visiting research associate at the Centre for Science and Security Studies at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. In addition, he is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative, where he co-authored major reports documenting Russia’s involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

The Human Rights Investigations Lab at UC Berkeley will become part of Amnesty International’s “Digital Verification Corps,” along with the University of Essex and the University of Pretoria. The center will launch the lab in January 2017.