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This study describes and analyzes the methods used to document human rights abuses in El Salvador, focusing on the methods used by the United States Government through its Embassy in San Salvador, and by Tutela Legal, a nongovernmental monitoring agency in San Salvador. The authors examined Tutela and U.S. records which were relevant and available for 1980 through 1984 and used post-1984 official statements which relate to methods. The focus is on the method used for the documentation of the murder or disappearance of civilians. This paper begins with an examination of the current international human rights standards as they relate to documentation in EI Salvador and the U.S. perspective on the issues. Then the history and methods of data collection on human rights violations, as practiced by Tutela and the U.S. State Department, are discussed. A section follows on factors of reliability and accuracy for data on violations of human rights, data that are often collected under conditions of great hardship and risk. Next, a general picture is drawn of how well the Tutela and U.S. methods take into account reliability and accuracy criteria. Finally, in an Appendix, several possible quantitative indices of human rights violations are discussed.

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Human Rights Quarterly



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