The Work of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch:Evidence from Colombia
Andrés BallesterosUniversidad Nacional and CERACJorge A. RestrepoPontificia Universidad Javeriana and CERACMichael Spagat
Royal Holloway, University of London,CERAC, CEPR and WDIJuan F. VargasRoyal Holloway, University of Londonand CERAC
We process the main written output of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Colombia covering theperiod 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 havesubstantive 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 eventsare fairly representative and much more useful and accurate than the statistical information. We disprove a commonaccusation that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch rarely criticize the guerrillas, but do find someevidence of anti-government bias. The quantitative human rights and conflict information produced by theseorganizations for other countries must be viewed with scepticism along with cross-country and time series humanrights data based on Amnesty International reports.
We are grateful to Mariana Blanco, Dirk Engleman, Madelyn Hicks, Todd Landman, Yadaira Orsini, David Richards, James Ronand Susan Waltz for comments made to a previous version of the paper although they bear no responsibility for the content.Restrepo and Vargas aknowledge financial support of Banco de la República, Colombia and Vargas also aknowledges financialsupport of ORSAS, UK.
Corresponding author. E-mail: M.Spagat@rhul.ac.uk.