Investigators work on a forensic dig.

Investigations Program

Improving the quality of investigations into alleged violations of human rights, humanitarian and international criminal law

We Design and Conduct Professional Investigations

We engage in innovative research to help ensure that investigations into violations of international law are as effective, efficient, and ethical as possible. For thirty years, we have collaborated with experts using forensic anthropology and genetic research to investigate war crimes and identify the disappeared using DNA analysis to reunite families with children who were abducted or given up for adoption during armed conflict. Today, we continue to set precedent with digital open source investigations. We train students and advocates to collect, preserve, and verify digital open source information of human rights abuses worldwide. We partner with leading human rights, legal, and news organizations, and – when possible – use the evidence we uncover to shape the course of international criminal law.

A student looks at a laptop with satellite imagery.

We Set International Standards for Investigations

In 2024, we co-launched the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations in partnership with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Protocol – published in all the languages of the United Nations — sets international standards for the collection, preservation, and verification of digital open source information that can be used in investigations of violations of international criminal, humanitarian, and human rights law. As the world’s first international guidelines on how to responsibly conduct online investigations with the goal of admissibility for international courts, the Protocol is changing the ways we document conflict – updating expert methodologies to reflect the current state of crisis and address how social media has changed the human rights landscape. The Protocol is actively in use around the world, including by Ukrainian prosecutors documenting Russian war crimes. Additionally, as part of our partnership with the Institute for International Criminal Investigations, we are creating international guidelines for digital investigations of systematic and conflict-related sexual violence. This tool is deeply needed to facilitate digital investigations of CRSV in Ukraine, Myanmar, and elsewhere around the world. 

An ai-generated coastline depicting an illustration of satellite imagery.

We Train Current and Future Fact-Finders

We train students at UC Berkeley to gather and verify digital open source information of potential human rights abuses to support professional investigations for leading organizations, including the United Nations, New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and countless grassroots organizations. Our Lab model has now been replicated at close to a dozen universities around the world. Beyond our university-based training model, we travel worldwide to hold digital open source investigation training programs for frontline human rights defenders, including civil society groups from Ukraine; journalists and human rights advocates from Libya; and Yemen’s National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations of Human Rights. Further, we hold regular trainings at The Hague in partnership with the Institute for International Criminal Investigations, where we train investigators from the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Criminal Court, among others.

A group of women work together in a conference setting. Most of the women are wearing a hijab, and one woman is not wearing a hijab. She has brown hair.

Program Staff

Portrait of a smiling woman with blonde hair.

Alexa Koenig

Co-Faculty Director; Director, Investigations

Human Rights Center

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Eric Stover

Co-Faculty Director

Human Rights Center

A woman smiling with brown hair.

Sofia Kooner

Assistant Director, Investigations Lab

Human Rights Center

A man smiling with glasses.

Brian Nguyen

Open Source Investigations Training Manager

Human Rights Center

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Maggie Andresen

Editorial Manager, Lead Writer

Human Rights Center

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Anthony Ghaly

Graduate Student Researcher

Human Rights Center

News

As online information channels and social media proliferate worldwide, news consumers are exposed more often to horrifying images of human violence and atrocities. In a new book, two Berkeley scholars explore how we can protect ourselves without becoming numb to human suffering. Photo by LKEM/Flickr. Illustration by Edward Lempinen

January 10, 2024

Images of war are shocking. They also can strengthen our humanity

HRC in the News — Berkeley News: Images of war are shocking. They also can strengthen our humanity, writing about “Graphic: Trauma and Meaning in our Online Lives.”

A mural in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Photo by AP.

April 21, 2023

Burkina Faso investigates alleged abuses by security forces

HRC in the News — Associated Press: Burkina Faso investigates alleged abuses by security forces, investigation supported by Research Manager Brian Nguyen.

ALexa Koenig on 60 Minutes

May 15, 2022

The online investigators tracking alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine

HRC in the News — 60 Minutes: The online investigators tracking alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine, Alexa Koenig spoke about the use of open source intelligence (OSINT) tools by civilian

The mobile DNA lab provided by French authorities is seen Nov. 4 in Izium, where Ukrainian scientists have been trained to take DNA from bodies to identify them and to gather evidence for potential war-crimes trials.

November 12, 2022

Ukraine is jump-starting its war-crimes investigations with a French mobile DNA lab

HRC in the News — Grid News: Ukraine is jump-starting its war-crimes investigations with a French mobile DNA lab, quoting Eric Stover and Tom White.

A still from Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten, which premieres on PBS on Monday. Photograph: University of Tulsa McFarlin Library Special Collections.

May 29, 2021

‘Justice looks like telling the story’: the long buried story of the Tulsa race massacre

HRC in the News — The Guardian: ‘Justice looks like telling the story’: the long buried story of the Tulsa race massacre, on film produced by Eric Stover and supported by Investigation