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Measurement is the process of quantifying concepts, phenomena, events, or physical properties using standard units.

In the human rights context, measurement often takes place through:

  • counting specific observable events (so-called “event-based data,” such as the enumeration of extrajudicial killings);
  • coding qualitative information about the status of rights in a specific place for a given period to produce a numerical score (so-called “standards-based measures,” such as the Political Terror Scale project);
  • collecting survey-based measures of people’s experiences or opinions about rights-related issues; and
  • using socio-economic and administrative data concerning outcomes or services, and conducting forensic investigations, including physical and chemical measurements. For example, the Physicians for Human Rights international forensic program has mobilized forensic scientists and other experts worldwide to conduct autopsies and other forensic investigations; DNA analysis has also been used for human rights advocacy, particularly in exonerations from the death penalty.