SITU at RightsCon 2023: Beyond Open Source

May 31st 2023

Program Details

Theme: Justice Litigation and Documentation

Program Date/Time: Thursday, June 8 from 3:15-4:15pm (Costa Rica time) / 5:15-6:15pm (EST)

Program Description

The last decade has seen an explosion in the use of open source intelligence to advance investigations focused on human rights abuses. While this technology is not ‘new’, in many ways, the OSINT community has significantly disrupted, transformed, democratized, and shifted both how investigations are conducted, as well as who can gather, store, and analyze evidence. While these transformations have undeniably impacted how human rights are claimed and presented, it is important to return to a holistic approach to investigations and recognize the limitations of OSINT and its methods.

This program invites panelists and attendees to co-establish what constitutes a holistic vision of human rights investigations, including an array of practices in which OSINT, and technology in general, is de-centered in service of a collaborative, multidisciplinary model for making human rights claims. Bringing together technology experts, forensic anthropologists, lawyers, and human rights practitioners–all of whom work directly on investigations related to mass atrocities and accountability–the conversation focuses on practices that move ‘beyond’ open source. In addition to training, this panel is composed of an intersectional constituency in terms of nationality, age, race, gender, sexuality, and ideological positions, which we feel contributes to a richer, more pluralistic discussion.

Through case studies, panelists will examine the opportunities and risks of OSINT investigations, exploring what we can learn from bridging ‘old’ or more ‘traditional’ investigative techniques (i.e. interviewing and forensic science) with ‘emerging’ technologies. The program’s goal is to create space for an interactive discussion about holistic, innovative, and impacted-community led investigations.


Elizabeth Eagen (Deputy Director, CAT Lab, Cornell University)

Anjli Parrin (Director, The University of Chicago, Law School, Global Human Rights Clinic)

Brad Samuels (Director, SITU Research)

Belkis Wille (Associate Director, Crisis and Conflict division at Human Rights Watch)

Moderated by Hanan Elmasu (Director, Fellowships & Awards, Mozilla Foundation)


Elizabeth Eagen is Deputy Director of the Citizens and Technology Lab at Cornell University, which works with communities to study the effects of technology on society and test ideas for changing digital spaces to better serve the public interest so that digital power is guided by evidence and accountable to the public. She is also a 2022-23 Practitioner Fellow at Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab.

Previously, she founded and led the Emerging Technology portfolio and the Human Rights Data Initiative at the Open Society Foundations’ Information Program. This initiative funded the use of emergent technologies in evidence and advocacy, making it easier for technologists and organizations to work together as equal partners to advance human rights.

Hanan Elmasu is the Director of Fellowships and Awards at the Mozilla Foundation. She manages a global program that finds, supports and connects individuals and organizations building a more open, inclusive internet and more trustworthy AI. She has been working at the intersection of human rights, law and technology for over two decades in a variety of different roles and with a broad base of stakeholders. Her work has largely focused on building the strength of communities, exploring the potential of data and technology to empower movements, and an endless pursuit of strategies that provide actual accountability for human rights violations.

Anjli Parrin is a Kenyan human rights advocate and lawyer. She directs the Global Human Rights Clinic, which works alongside partners and communities to advance justice and address the inequalities and structural disparities that lead to human rights violations worldwide. She is visiting from Columbia Law School.

Parrin conducts human rights fact-finding, investigations, and advocacy around the world. Her practice and research focuses on the areas of armed conflict, international criminal law, transitional justice, forensic science and human rights, discrimination and inequality, decolonizing human rights, and the right to health. Parrin has worked alongside forensic scientists to carry out complex war crime investigations, including for the International Criminal Court; successfully proposed new law on exhumations for hybrid courts; and provided trainings to judges, lawyers, police, gendarmerie, NGOs and victims associations on the law and science of suspicious death investigations.

Brad Samuels is a founding partner at SITU, an unconventional architecture practice based in New York City that uses design, research and fabrication for creative and social impact. He is responsible for strategic oversight and directs SITU’s research division which focuses on the intersection of design, human rights and technology.

SITU Research merges data and design to create new pathways for justice. SITU's work mobilizes an arsenal of technologies to identify and surface critical evidence and then shape it into a narrative, driven by transparent, accurate sourcing. The work supports activists, advocates, and lawyers, bridging the gap between digital evidence and the communities that can best deploy them towards justice and accountability. Samuels has overseen the team’s visual investigations for legal and advocacy organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Associated Press, UNITAD (the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL) and many others.

Outside the multidisciplinary practice, Samuels sits on the Technology Advisory Board for the International Criminal Court, The Advisory Board for the Carnegie Mellon's Center for Human Rights Science, the Advisory Board for Dartmouth's Wright Center for the Study of Computation and Just Communities and the board of The Architectural League of New York. He is a Fellow with the Urban Design Forum and teaches a The Cooper Union and Barnard/Columbia University.

Belkis Wille is an associate director with the Crisis and Conflict division at Human Rights Watch. In her previous role as a senior researcher within the division, she spearheaded the organization’s work investigating the harms stemming from personal data collection, including biometrics, in humanitarian contexts. This work has included investigations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, and Kenya. She has also led the organization’s work on the preservation of taken-down social media content that is vital to war crimes investigations. Since February 2022, she has been documenting laws of war violations in Ukraine.