Cooperation - Interdisciplinarity - Investigative Commons

From museum to courtroom: Investigative Commons reinvents legal investigations

Cooperation - Interdisciplinarity - Investigative Commons

From museum to courtroom: Investigative Commons reinvents legal investigations

In search of new ideas for the creative and public enforcement of human rights, we founded Investigative Commons in 2020. The multidisciplinary cooperation is a result of years of collaboration between ECCHR and the research agency Forensic Architecture.


Investigative Commons establishes an interdisciplinary space where ECCHR, Forensic Architecture and other organizations come together in different constellations to work on concrete cases. Depending on the project, journalists, activists, lawyers, architects and other experts share their knowledge. The outcome of these collaborations – video analyses, evaluations of satellite imagery or multimedia exhibitions – will enable new ways to finding truths in matters of human rights and environmental protection. They shall be used in court proceedings as well as other public forums, such as museums.

The tools from which Investigative Commons carefully selects and uses are diverse, such as research methods from investigative and data journalism, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, animation techniques, and innovative ideas rooted in architecture. These and other means help us explore new ways to go about presenting evidence in legal casework. At the outset, Investigative Commons is examining various topics, such as the responsibility of European corporate actors for war crimes in Yemen, the German genocide in Namibia, and push-backs on the Greek-Turkish border.


Over the past decade, ECCHR and Forensic Architecture have cooperated on human rights crimes worldwide, such as on working conditions in Pakistan, torture in Syria, and Spanish push-backs in Melilla. In 2020, this cooperation resulted in joining forces to open an office in Berlin. Thus, we can continue to explore new paths of presenting evidence in collaborative projects.


You can find all Investigative Commons projects below

Despite countless attacks on civilian homes, markets, hospitals and schools – conducted by the Saudi/UAE-led military coalition – transnational companies based in Europe continue to supply the war in Yemen with weapons, ammunition and logistical support.

In order to show the consequences of European arms exports in Yemen, ECCHR, Forensic Architecture, Bellingcat and Yemeni Archive developed the interactive timemap European arms in the bombing of Yemen. It documents attacks on civilian targets in which weapons for example from Rheinmetall or Airbus were evidently used. The project is based on field research at the sites of the airstrikes, open source investigation and legal analyses. We applied cartographic techniques on the results of our joint research, thereby showing how the attacks are interconnected. The outcome is an interactive overview of the crimes still committed in Yemen – each of which could count as a violation of international law.

The timemap can function as a platform for national and international prosecution authorities investigating the Yemen war and serves as a basis for information for civil society, academics or lawyers. The project complements our criminal complaint to the International Criminal Court from November 2019 against economic and state actors who are involved in these arms exports and might thus be aiding and abetting the war crimes in Yemen.