Design and Methodology of the Database of attacks

Our searchable and downloadable database compiles cases of HRDs working on corporate accountability issues who were attacked, harassed and killed from 2015 onwards. 


The main source for the database is the coverage of incidents by BHRRC’s regional researchers, as captured on the BHRRC’s online library. Also, databases of attacks, compiled by Global Witness (from 2015) and Janika Spannagel of the Global Public Policy Institute (cases from 2015, part of a project that analyses cases from Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’ reports (2000-2015)) were kindly shared with us.

Additionally, we continuously add cases from the websites of Front Line Defenders, Amnesty International, The Guardian (in collaboration with Global Witness), CIVICUS, FIDH / OMCT – Observatory of HRDs, EU Protect Defenders, and several regional, national and thematic websites compiling attacks, such as Somos Defensores, UDEFEGUA, IM-Defensoras, HRD Alert India, Labour Start and others. We do not claim to have covered all the cases against human rights defenders working for corporate accountability and we are gradually working to expand our coverage. If you believe we have missed an important case or if you would like to contribute cases for the database, please get in touch with us at zbona (at) 

Scope and limitations

The database is a work in progress: the cases included in it are the tip of an ice-berg of cases, many of which are not reported and/or not made public. This seems to be particularly true in the African context - as also observed by the Special Rapporteur by Human Rights Defenders. We are working with human rights defenders everywhere to improve documentation of attacks, related to their work on corporate accountability. We also welcome any suggestions for inclusion from defenders and organizations. Certain cases have not been added to the database to protect the identity of Human Rights Defenders, as it was considered that additional exposure may be harmful for them. This is particularly true in the case of China.

Company responses

In line with our libel policy, BHRRC seeks responses from companies when direct allegations are made against a company.

We did not seek a response in cases when:

  • Company already commented on a case / cases publicly;
  • The incident was a lawsuit started by the company and the company and the defender were therefore, in principle, given an equal opportunity to state their case; and/or
  • There was no direct allegation of direct or indirect involvement made by the reporting NGO/ HRD/ news source, and the only link between the incident and the company was that the HRDs advocacy / work was focused on a company or its subsidiaries or on a project led by those companies or its subsidiaries.

If the response was sought and found but it does not appear next to the case in the database, it may still appear in your company section on our website. If you would  like to provide a response to be included with a case, we will be happy to include it. If you have concerns about a case and think it should be removed, please get in touch with us about it (including the name of the defender, the date of the incident, and the reasons why you believe the case should be removed). 

Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society Organizations

Database compiles cases of Human Rights Defenders, working in the field of corporate accountability, and their organizations, that got attacked, harassed, killed or otherwise silenced in 2015 and 2016. The HRDs in the database were/ are:

  • Human rights defenders working in or volunteering for Civil Society Organizations, focused on corporate accountability and their organizations,
  • Leaders of communities or community-based groups (indigenous peoples, minorities, rural communities);
  • Leaders and members of unions (mostly trade unions but also professional associations such as journalists’ associations, judges’ and lawyers’ and bar associations) and their organizations;
  • Leaders of social movements, professionals contributing directly to the enjoyment of human rights (e.g. humanitarian workers, lawyers, doctors and medical workers),
  • Relatives of victims of human rights violations,
  • Journalists covering corporate accountability topics, and
  • Leaders of faith-based groups (churches, religious groups), focusing on corporate accountability.

In each case, we specify the name, the gender of the defender (when possible), the date, type and location of the attack, the rights the HRD is / was focusing on and any broader issues that may be related to the case. In each case, we specify the sector the HRD was focusing on. Whenever possible we identify companies that the HRD was focusing on, as well as its sector and headquarters. We are not alleging that companies are responsible for the incidents against defenders, we are merely stating that the HRD’s work was focused on the company in question. Only in cases where the company was allegedly or provably involved in the incident itself, we acknowledge that by stating that the alleged degree of involvement was “direct”. If the incident in question is a lawsuit against a human rights defender by a company directly, in which case the company’s viewpoint is well-documented, we did not reach out to the company for a comment. Similarly, if company issued a response on its own accord, we did not reach out for a response. In all other cases, we have invited a company to respond. Responses and non-responses are available in the “Response” field. We also identify the project that the HRD was focused on. In certain cases, we identify the investors related to the project – over time, we will be adding investors in more cases.


Since the main source for the database is the coverage of incidents by BHRRC’s regional researchers, as captured on the BHRRC’s online library, we use categories that BHRRC has been using throughout its existence and focus on Abuses included in the category tree on our website. This means we are currently not focusing on and/or naming attacks such as "freeze of bank accounts" or "limitation on foreign funding", though these attacks may be included under the "Denial of freedom  of expression" category, if the organization was specifically dealing with corporate accountability cases. We are also not focusing on or naming attacks such as "union busting" and "unfair dismissal", though they may be included under the "Labour: general" category, when relevant. When a defender was judicially harrassed, we include those attacks under the "Lawsuits: general" BHRRC category.


We are committed to furthering the understanding of attacks on defenders focusing on corporate accountability, including through increasing documentation and analysis of overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage they are experiencing. The database currently allows for in-depth search on multiple tags, such as "Gender" and "Affilitation". Overtime, we aim to further improve this aspect of the database and the search engine.


For the time being, we did not have the capacity to verify the gender identity of HRDs in question. In most cases, we therefore assumed what their gender was, based on the use of pronouns in articles about them. We do, however, include categories "transsexual", "non-binary" and "other" in our categorization of gender, and welcome suggestions on how to make this category more inclusive (keeping in mind that the primary goal of the database is not to track gender identity of HRDs). If you are a HRD mentioned in the database and you believe your gender identity has been wrongfully captured, please let us know at zbona (at) (including your name and your preferred gender category), and we will be happy to change it.


Over the course of 2018 and 2019, we will be releasing the versions of this database in languages other than English.


Do you have feedback on this database or a case that you would like to see added? Do you have concerns about a case and/or your alleged involvement in it and would like to see it removed?  Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us at zbona (at) or share your case