Human Rights and Statistics

Human Rights and Statistics is the first book to describe and summarize important issues associated with the collection and uses of human rights statistics.

Human Rights and Statistics
Getting the Record Straight

Edited by Thomas B. Jabine and Richard P. Claude

1992 | 480 pages | Cloth $79.95
Law | Political Science | Statistics
View main book page

Table of Contents

1. Exploring Human Rights Issues with Statistics
—Richard P. Claude and Thomas B. Jabine
2. The Limitations of Using Quantitative Data in Studying Human Rights Abuses
—Robert Justin Goldstein
3. Use of Incomplete and Distorted Data in Inference About Human Rights Violations
—Douglas A. Samuelson and Herbert F. Spirer
4. Guidelines for Field Reporting of Basic Human Rights Violations
—Randy B. Reiter , M. V. Zunzunegui , and Jose Quiroga
5. HURIDOCS Standard Formats as a Tool in the Documentation of Human Rights Violations
—Judith Dueck
6. The Rights of Collectivities: Principles and Procedures in Measuring the Human Rights Status of Communal and Political Groups
—Ted Robert Gurr and Barbara Harff
7. Political Rights and Political Liberties in Nations: An Evaluation of Human Rights Measures, 1950 to 1984
—Kenneth A. Bollen
8. Problems of Concept and Measurement in the Study of Human Rights
—George A. Lopez and Michael Stohl
9. Human Rights Reporting as a Policy Tool: An Examination of the State Department Country Reports
—Judith Eleanor Innes
10. Human Rights Reporting in Two Nations: A Comparison of the United States and Norway
—Kathleen Pritchard
11. Statistical Evidence of Racial Disparities in Death Sentencing: A Critical Analysis of McCleskey v. Kemp
—Glenn Dickinson and William B. Fairley
12. A Statistical Analysis of Dutch Human Rights Case Law Manfred Nowak and Herman von Hebel
13. An Epidemiology of Homicide: Ningún Nombre Burials in the Province of Buenos Aires from 1970 to 1984
—Clyde Collins Snow and Maria Julia Bihurriet
14. New Patterns of Oppression: An Updated Analysis of Human Rights Data
—David L. Banks
15. A Guide to Human Rights Data Sources
—Michael Cain , Richard P. Claude , and Thomas B. Jabine


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]

Thomas B. Jabine Richard P. Claude

In February 1977 Carlos Noriega, a former director of the Argentine Statistical Office, was abducted in the presence of his wife and three small children while vacationing in Mar del Plata. 1 Word of Noriega's disappearance reached U.S. statisticians, including Fred C. Leone, the executive director of the American Statistical Association (ASA), who had been beneficiaries of Noriega's official and personal hospitality during a visit to Argentina in May 1976. Largely because of Leone's efforts, in 1978 the American Statistical Association (ASA) established an Ad Hoc Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights, following the lead of other professional and scientific societies that had begun to respond to widespread violations of the human rights of their professional colleagues throughout the world.

The ASA Committee (which soon became a permanent committee), with important help and counsel from staff of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), began to monitor the cases of Noriega and other statisticians who had been victims of human rights abuses and to make formal appeals on their behalf. These appeals did not benefit Carlos Noriega, whose fate is still unknown, but the committee believes they were effective in bringing about better treatment of some other victims. Progress in some areas of the world is accompanied by new outbreaks of repression in other areas, and the ASA Committee continues its casework.

Working on behalf of one's professional colleagues is imperative but is not enough to ensure significant progress toward worldwide realization of the rights set out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Members of the ASA Committee and others began to ask themselves how statisticians, using the tools of their profession, could work with others to promote the assurance of human rights for all. Prominent among the ASA members who raised this question was Professor I. Richard Savage who, in his 1984 Presidential Address to the association, challenged statisticians to explore the application of statistics to human rights issues.

This book is meant to provide some answers to the question of how statistical methods and the statistical profession can contribute to the advancement of human rights for all. Our intended audience is not restricted to statisticians: We hope that this collection of papers will prove to be useful and provocative to anyone interested in human rights -government officials, scientists, members of human rights advocacy groups and others -whether they are presently active in the field or merely curious to know more about it. In consideration of this hoped-for audience, the inclusion of statistical formulas has been held to a minimum, and the authors have been urged to focus on goals and results, rather than on any advanced statistical techniques that they may have used.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, we need to point out that "statistics," as used in the title of this book, is meant to cover all aspects of the production and use of statistics. Margaret E. Martin, in her 1981 Presidential Address to the ASA, made an important distinction between statistics as a product and statistical methods:

In one sense, producing statistics as an end product is a narrower concept than applying statistical methodology across a whole range of problems... .In another sense it is broader. It encompasses not only statistical methodology as a tool, but the whole gamut of activities that must be performed in producing statistics for the use of others—planning, collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data. The practice of many of these functions is not based primarily on statistical science or methodology, but is an art based on a mixture of intuition, experience, and judgment, as well as scientific evidence or procedures—in other words, the practice of a profession as well as the application of a scientific discipline.
The relevance of statistics to human rights may also be clearer if we think of the origin of the term. The root traces back to the Latin word for state, and in German the word statistik referred to the study of political facts and figures.

The enjoyment of full human rights for all may seem to many to be an overambitious, unattainable ideal. We prefer to think of it in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream"—clearly a distant goal, but one that can help us to identify present problems and to know where to expend our efforts. For this purpose, it is not enough just to know that individual human rights violations occur. We need to know which rights are being violated, how frequently, and who the victims and violators are. To evaluate efforts to advance human rights, we need to know how patterns of violations change over time. An important function of such statistical information on human rights is to let the world community know what the problems are, so that deliberate abusers of human rights can be held responsible. This is what we mean by "getting the record straight. "Effective use of statistics in all fields, but especially in the area of human rights, requires the careful, objective application of sound techniques and procedures to collect, analyze, and present statistical information. No matter how strongly we may feel about human rights violations, in the long run it will not help to present data that lack credibility. The chapters in this volume have been selected as illustrations of good statistical practice in the field of human rights: this was a much more important consideration than the recency of the data presented. However, for readers who may be interested in locating the latest available data on various aspects of human rights, the final chapter in the volume, "A Guide to Human Rights Data Sources," includes a listing of 29 important data bases, with emphasis on those that provide international comparative data. Progress in human rights requires that people with a variety of skills and knowledge work together toward common goals. The two editors of this work represent the fields of statistics and political science. Each has learned much from the other. We hope that the individual chapters and the overall result will illustrate the benefits of cooperation between disciplines.