Essex Human Rights Clinic Digital Verification Unit Participates in Amnesty International Summit in Hong Kong

By Daragh Murray

From Sunday 2 June to Wednesday 5 June 2019, the Human Rights Centre Clinic Digital Verification Unit participated at the annual Amnesty International Digital Verification Corps (DVC) Summit, held this year in Hong Kong.

The summit was organised by Amnesty International, and hosted by the Human Rights Hub at Hong Kong University. Students from the University of Essex, the University of Pretoria, the University of Toronto, the University of Cambridge, Hong Kong University, and the University of California Berkeley all participated, along with expert speakers from Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Team, Witness, the Mekong Club, Diginex, and Amnesty International China.

The purpose of the summit is to bring together student teams from around the world in order to share their experiences of working within the Digital Verification Corps, to identify lessons learned, and to plan for the coming years. The first annual summit was held in Berkeley in 2017, with the second event taking place in Cambridge in 2018. The Essex Digital Verification Unit is one of the founding members of the Corps, and has been undertaking work in this area since 2016.

Sam Dubberley, Manager of the Digital Verification Corps in Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Team said that: “To see the students involved in the DVC come together from the four different continents underlines just how strong this global network of young human rights defenders has become. We have a global community of young researchers dedicated to using open source information in human rights research, and see these skills, thanks to the DVC, now spreading out into the global human rights community. This was an invaluable forum to take stock of where the DVC programme is, to identify lessons learned, and to strategise for the future”.

AI DVC Summit Photo

Members of the Essex Digital Verification Unit highlighted the importance of the week as an opportunity to meet with other members of the open source investigations community, and to prepare the hand over to the next generation of students. Matteo Bassetti reported back that: “The summit has been an amazing experience and an opportunity to learn from other units’ experiences and reflect on our unit’s strengths and weaknesses. The past week has also been a very social experience. I love how we built a community around digital verification in such a short amount of time. Although digital verification can be an individualistic work and you can feel detached from the subjects, events such as the summit allow us to build a network of people to collaborate with and understand the wider context of our work.”


Esme Marshall, said: “It was incredibly valuable to meet and to learn from the DVC teams across the world at this year’s summit, and I left feeling as if we had forged new connections and become part of a larger community of people passionate about the possibilities of digital verification in addressing human rights abuses. It was also very encouraging to hear Tirana Hassan discuss the increasing value of digital verification and open-source intelligence to traditional human rights investigations. We at the Essex DVU are now looking forward to handing over what we have learnt to the next cohort while remaining part of the wider DVC community and continuing to use these skills in our human rights work in the future.”

Director of the Digital Verification Unit, Dr. Daragh Murray said, “I’m incredibly proud of Essex’s participation in the Digital Verification Corps, and the leading role our students play in both responding to pressing human rights issues in real time, and in driving forward the development of open source investigations.”


Click hereto find out more about the Human Rights Centre Clinic Digital Verification Unit.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the author(s) alone.

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