Documenting War Crimes and Human Rights Abuses in the Digital Age

Policy Briefing

Thematic Track: Harnessing technologies to build a better future

Documenting War Crimes and Human Rights Abuses in the Digital Age

US Department of State, Yale Humanitarian Research Lab, Human Rights Center at University of California, Berkeley, Mitre
  • 02/11/2023 @ 11:00 - 12:30
  • GCSP- Conference Room 4th floor (pétale 4) and Online

Open Source Investigations (OSINT) have become increasingly important in the documentation of war crimes and human rights abuses. OSINT involves the collection and analysis of a wide range of publicly and commercially available information, such as satellite imagery, photos and videos shared online, social media posts, and news reports. These methods have been used to document war crimes and human rights abuses in a number of recent conflicts, including the Syrian civil war, Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and recent events in Sudan. 

OSINT is a powerful tool for human rights and war crimes investigators, but it is not without its challenges, such as the sheer volume of information generated and mis- and disinformation. Despite these challenges, OSINT has the potential to play an even greater role in human rights and war crimes investigations in the future. As technology advances, new OSINT tools and techniques are constantly being developed, making it easier for investigators to collect, analyze, and manage OSINT data.

This panel discussion will bring together experts at the intersection of open source investigations. technology, and the law to discuss the following topics:

  • The benefits and challenges of using OSINT to document war crimes and human rights abuses
  • Case studies of how OSINT has been used to investigate war crimes
  • Best practices for conducting OSINT investigations in a way that is ethical, rigorous, and adheres to international legal guidelines, such as the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations



  • Susan Wolfinbarger, PhD - Bureau Chief Geospatial Information Officer, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
  • Alexa Koenig, PhD, JD - Co-Faculty Director, Human Rights Center
  • Caitlin Howarth, Director of Operations for the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab
  • Chris Harris, Project Lead, Mitre