RARE - Open source investigation

Gaining new tools - knowing the pitfalls: Empowerment and challenges for human rights work in the digital age.

Human rights organisations across the world are increasingly relying on open source information in their research,advocacy and litigation. In legal accountability, open source information can be essential for human rights defenders, as it allows uncovering and documenting mass atrocities and other grave human rights violations. Gathering this information enables human rights organisations to put pressure on decision-makers at national and EU-levels to take action, or to pursue legal action on behalf of victims.


In January 2022, RARE teamed up with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to co-organise RARE Camp 6 in Prague. Human rights defenders came together for a three-day training with Sam Dubberly, Managing Director for the Digital Investigations Lab at Human Rights Watch, that focused on open source information, investigation and verification methods. The training provided them  with a valuable opportunity to deepen their knowledge in these fields and explore new strategies for finding proof and building strong cases.

“The use of open source information in every jurisdiction is becoming more and more important for human rights researchers because they can't be everywhere at once.”

Sam Dubberley
Managing Director, Digital Investigations Lab, Human Rights Watch

“RARE has managed to gather an excellent pool of civil society activists and defenders working across thematics, across the European Union. That is really a strength of a project like that [...] it helps people to connect.”

Marine Constant
Human Rights Advisor,
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)

Although participants had been familiar with cases in which open source information helped to shed light on human rights violations, the training equipped them with  a range of concrete online research strategies and fact-checking methods (e.g. geospatial analysis, geolocation, chronolocation), enabling them to communicate and document verified information on human rights abuses accurately.

In view of an increase in online threats against human rights defenders, the group also discussed various aspects of digital security, psychological health and ethical questions related to human rights work online. Secure data storage and a well-protected digital infrastructure in their organisations are crucial aspects of a safe and productive working environment for human rights defenders. So are effective techniques for shielding oneself against vicarious trauma when being confronted with images documenting human rights abuses.


Exploring new tools for documenting human rights abuse and protection in the virtual space.

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Learn about participants' main take-aways from the open source investigation training in Prague.


Being in Prague also provided opportunities to  meet Jamie Fly, President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and representatives of Czech civil society organisations working in the field of human rights.