Investigating Perpetrators: A guide to mapping parties in relation to international humanitarian law and human rights violations

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Daniela Gavshon, Mary Flanagan, Nadeshda Jayakody, Erol Gorur
Publication Date
May 23, 2023
Publication Type
Investigations Program


There is a vast amount of disparate open-source information available in the public domain regarding parties to conflicts or specific events. The challenge is knowing how to find the information and how to meaningfully piece it together. When this information is systematically collected, organised and analysed, it is possible to create a rich and powerful information map of the structure and location of parties through time. This mapping can be used as a dynamic analytical tool to understand parties and to investigate their potential involvement as perpetrators of IHL and IHRL violations. Mapping parties is a complicated and resource intensive undertaking. It requires careful thought on a range of matters including scope, project management, security, technology, and methodology. There is very little guidance available for those seeking to conduct this work. The purpose of this guide is to support people and organisations seeking to map parties to a conflict or parties involved in specific events. It does so by providing practical guidance and a proven research methodology for the process of assembling the disparate information regarding parties. This allows for a coherent understanding of the structure and location of parties, as well as their potential involvement in IHL and IHRL violations. The discipline of open-source research in IHL and IHRL investigations has been progressing at a record pace over the last decade. We are seeing increased professionalisation and sophistication. This progress is to be welcomed but there is still some way to go. This guide is intended to contribute to the growing professionalism of open-source intelligence (OSINT) work and to serve as a useful tool for OSINT practitioners working on IHL or IHRL investigations.