Project Description

Recording the casualties of violent acts is an essential activity in any civilized society. Creating such records honors those who have suffered. It is also a step toward ensuring that victims and survivors receive reparations and justice— and that the perpetrators pay for their crimes. Additionally, estimating the number of casualties— including both injuries and deaths— is vital to providing services and to administering justice, as well as for understanding the social processes leading to violence.

In times of conflict, the creation of trustworthy records of individual casualties and reliable estimates of the overall toll is fraught with challenge and controversy. The work must be conducted in perilous conditions, and the results can have serious consequences in the realms of politics, justice, and social reconstruction. The disputes over casualty recording in Iraq and Darfur are two recent examples of the depth of the passions that can surround these issues, and the stakes riding on their resolution.

The organizations performing casualty recording and estimation must grapple with intellectually demanding tasks, requiring expertise from multiple disciplines, sometimes posing problems beyond the limits of known science. Despite the inherent difficulty of the work, collaboration between the human rights and scientific communities has been irregular. Although there are several institutions with distinguished programs in political and legal aspects of humanitarian crises, there is, to the best of our knowledge, no single place where human rights advocates, humanitarian aid workers, and transitional justice specialists can go for scientific assistance and research support.