Elsewhere Online twitter Facebook SLS Blogs YouTube SLS Channel Linked In SLSNavigator SLS on Flickr

The Future of Human Rights - War Crimes by the Numbers: Statistical Evidence Used by the Prosecution in the Guatemalan Genocide and Disappearances Trials in 2013


October 15, 2013 12:45pm - 2:05pm

Room 95

Continuing its speaker series on "The Future of Human Rights", the Human Rights Center welcomes Patrick Ball, executive director of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group


When human rights lawyer Claudia Paz y Paz was appointed attorney general of Guatemala in December 2010, she opened criminal investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the armed internal conflict between 1960-1996. In particular, prosecutors charged former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt with war crimes and genocide for campaigns in the Ixil region during 1982-1983, and former director of the National Police Col. Héctor Bol de la Cruz with command responsibility for the Feb 1982 disappearance of Edgar Fernando García, a student and labor leader. Both cases involve questions about unobservable, macro-level, institutional behavior, and these questions can be addressed with statistical analysis.

This talk will summarize expert testimony presented in the two cases. In the Ríos Montt case, HRDAG calculated the relative mortality rates of the indigenous and non-indigenous communities to assess whether the patterns of Army's killings were consistent with the theory that the Army committed genocide. In the Bol de la Cruz case, HRDAG considered the distribution and  movement of documents within the National Police. Both analyses were cited by the judges in their decisions. The talk will conclude with thoughts about the value of science generally and statistics in particular in war crimes prosecutions.


Patrick Ball is a scientist who has spent more than two decades conducting quantitative analysis for truth commissions, NGOs, international criminal tribunals, and United Nations missions in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, South Africa, Chad, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Kosovo, Liberia, Perú, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.  He served as expert witness in two cases before the ICTY, including the case against Milošević.  Dr. Ball also provided expert testimony before the Supreme Court in Guatemala in the trial of former Dictator José Efraín Rios Montt. Dr. Ball has received numerous awards for his work. He is a Fellow at the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex, and a Research Fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Human Rights Science.