Thursday, May 23, 2013

The 'Statistics Proposal' as the Final Solution to the Sovereign’s Human Rights Question

The Road to Hell...: The 'Statistics Proposal' as the Final Solution to the Sovereign’s Human Rights Question, by Samuel R. Lucas, Professor of Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley, is posted at the latest issue [pdf] of the Wisconsin International Law Journal.

Some statistical analysts advocate using statistical analysis to certify the existence of human rights violations and to identify both victims and perpetrators. Their advocacy has been effective, as prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia used statistical analyses in their indictments, and the International Criminal Court now employs crime pattern analysis in its effort to identify human rights violations. The statistics proposal is scrutinized here and found to be exceedingly dangerous–although motivated by a desire to reinforce victims’ justice-seeking, it will actually vitiate human rights enforcement. The case against the proposal has four key parts. First a sociological analysis elaborates professional statisticians’ good-intentioned attention to human rights issues in sociological terms as a professionalization project, outlines the power-shift the project entails, and suggests the damage that can be done to victims’ interests and human rights adjudication as a result of these aspects. Next, subtle epistemological changes in the definitions of crime against humanity and genocide that accompany the use of statistical analysis as a certifying tool are shown to insidiously weaken the foundation for human rights. Then, fundamental dissension among statisticians, masked in discussions of the proposal, actually belies any claim to objectivity; as defendants hire consulting statisticians to exploit these paradigmatic divisions, contradictory analyses will proliferate, rendering statistical research ultimately unable to sustain any charge of a crime against humanity or genocide, after the adoption of statistics proposal will have implicitly delegitimated other forms of evidence. The dire nature of this prediction may seem extreme, yet a fourth stage of the analysis considers the adjudication of allegations of discrimination in the United States as a historical cautionary tale, foreshadowing a future where the statistics proposal has rendered statistics the basis for assessing human rights issues. If present evidence on discrimination litigation in the United States is any guide, in that future it will be, at best, nearly impossible to substantiate any charge of a crime against humanity or genocide.