Counting Torture: Towards the Translation of Robust, Useful, and Inclusive Human Rights Indicators
Choudhury, Zahid ul Arefin
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The turn to quantified measures is part of an attempt to produce more objective and comprehensive data on human rights violations. However, the turn to numbers has also been criticised for forcing human rights into the limitations of statistical capacities. This paper examines the methodological issues involved in trying to make human rights violations count, highlighting the cyclical process of translating between the experiences of human rights violations, quantified forms of measurement and human rights norms. It draws on the particular experience of conducting household surveys on the prevalence of torture in Nairobi, Kathmandu, and Dhaka. The paper argues that torture and ill-treatment can be made to count in ways that is robust, useful, and inclusive by developing indicators that are embedded in locally specific practices and forms of participation. This means treating the process of counting as a matter of contextualisation rather than abstraction. Doing so can help produce new understandings of the implications of human rights violations.