The Work of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch: Evidence from Colombia
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Vargas, Juan F.
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Centro de Recursos para Análisis de Conflictos
We process the main written output of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Colombia covering the period 1988-2004, recording all numerical conflict information and accounts of specific conflict events. We check for internal consistency and against a unique Colombian conflict database. We find that both organizations have substantive problems in their handling of quantitative information. Problems include failure to specify sources, unclear definitions, an erratic reporting template and a distorted portrayal of conflict dynamics. Accounts of individual events are fairly representative and much more useful and accurate than the statistical information. We disprove a common accusation that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch rarely criticize the guerrillas, but do find some evidence of anti-government bias. The quantitative human rights and conflict information produced by these organizations for other countries must be viewed with scepticism along with cross-country and time series human rights data based on Amnesty International reports.
International human rights , Government watc