Bellingcat is an independent international collective of researchers, investigators and citizen journalists using open source and social media investigation to probe a variety of subjects – from Mexican drug lords and crimes against humanity, to tracking the use of chemical weapons and conflicts worldwide. With staff and contributors in more than 20 countries around the world, we operate in a unique field where advanced technology, forensic research, journalism, investigations, transparency and accountability come together.
Bellingcat’s innovative approaches to using publicly available data and citizen journalist analysis have been particularly significant for advancing narratives of conflict, crime, and human rights abuses. We have produced investigations on these issues in coordination with partners and allies and expanded our training so that a growing corps of citizen journalists is poised to pursue these stories alongside us.
Our most popular posts of the last year included analysis of the April 7, 2018, chemical attack in Douma, Syria; exposure of a fake persona who had been widely cited in Ukrainian and anti-Putin Russian media as a Pentagon official; the illegal shipping of precursors of the nerve agent Sarin to Syria by Belgian companies; the Syrian Arab Army’s armored vehicle losses; and the use of drones by non-state actors in Syria and Iraq. Our most significant publications have included identifying a key suspect in the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 investigation as a high-ranking Russian intelligence officer, and identifying suspects in the Skripals poisoning as Russian intelligence officers as well. Our reporting has also been covered extensively by a range of international news media.
In July 2014, MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.Over the next four years Bellingcat discovered key information about the downing of MH17, including tracking the missile launcher that shot down MH17 from its base in Russia to Ukraine, locating the field where the missile was launched from, and identifying a number of suspects involved with the incident. Bellingcat identified that the Russian military was involved years before it was confirmed by European officials.
After the poisoning of MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March 2018, Bellingcat has been able to unmask three suspects that we’ve identified as high-ranking Russian military intelligence officers. In October 2018, our researchers appeared at a press briefing at the House of Commons to detail findings about two of the suspects, which supported Britain’s assertion that Moscow had been behind the nerve agent attack. Our investigation into the attacks, which is ongoing, continues to receive significant global attention, from media outlets and governments alike.
Bellingcat has led the way in the use of open source investigations in examining the conflict in Syria. Because of that work, we have become involved with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Technology Advisory Board to help them understand how open source investigation could be applied to their work. The newly created International Independent and Impartial Mechanism (IIIM) on Syria, created by the UN General Assembly to gather evidence of potential war crimes and other violations in Syria, has also become very interested in the work of Bellingcat and the use of open source material and investigation in their own work. In partnership with the Syrian Archive, we have been working on these issues, and we have become part of a network of like-minded organisations and individuals from a range of disciplines who have been working to answer the many questions been raised by about how to archive open source material for the purposes of accountability.
Bellingcat partnered with Transparency International to uncover the misuse of Scottish Limited Partnerships (“SLPs”) as the preferred vehicle for corrupt officials and organised crime figures to launder billions of pounds through the UK — most prominently the Moldovan bank raid and the Azeri Laundromat. Our work was featured in the Guardian newspaper due to SLPs connections to the Azeri Laundromat. Since then, our lead investigator has made several visits to the houses of Parliament to discuss the matter with Dame Margaret Hodge, who cited our work at length in her adjournment debate in the House of Commons in October 2017. We have also offered our assistance to Dame Margaret’s office with the aim of introducing a series of measures to ensure SLPs cannot be used in large scale money laundering operations.
Bellingcat published a major investigation with Forensic Architecture on the killing of Óscar Pérez in Venezuela. This investigation received major media coverage in both Venezuela and the wider region, as well as an Op-Ed in the New York Times, which gave Bellingcat an opportunity to put out a call for more open-source evidence. This, in turn, has resulted in a number of organisations contacting Bellingcat with additional information and assistance to develop the investigation.
The Need for Partnership
Bellingcat’s distributed, collaborative model is key to its value proposition. Through curated expertise from around the world and analysis of open source data, Bellingcat is shedding light on an eclectic array of global issues. Bellingcat’s remarkable successes using a dedicated corps of contributors and grassroots supporters speak to the relevance and need for our approach; building our capacity to manage, grow, and measure the impact of this network will ensure this approach endures and scales. At this critical inflection point for our work, we welcome your support and partnership.
Contact details can be found on this page.
Funding and Partnerships
Bellingcat currently receives grants from the following organisations:
- The National Endowment for Democracy
- Pax for Peace
- Open Society Foundations
- The Dutch Postcode Lottery
Bellingcat is also a partner in the Open Information Partnership, and is part of the Global Investigative Journalism Network. Bellingcat is also in partnership with the Global Legal Action Network as part of our Yemen Project.
Around 35% of Bellingcat’s budget is currently raised from workshops held by Bellingcat throughout the year and across the world. More information about workshops can be found here, and the sign up page for our workshop mailing list is here.
Awards and Prizes
Since Bellingcat’s launch, the Bellingcat Investigation Team has won a number of prizes and awards, both by itself, and in partnership with other organisations. Bellingcat has won The Hanns Joachim Friedrichs Prize in 2015, the European Press Prize for Innovation in 2017, the Ars Electronica Prize for Digital Communities in 2018, the European Press Prize for Investigation in 2019, and the London Press Club award for Digital Journalism in 2019. Bellingcat has also been involved with award winning collaborative projects, most recently the BBC Africa Eye investigation, Anatomy of a Killing, which has won multiple major journalism awards, including a Royal Television Society Award and Peabody Award.
Bellingcat has 18 full time employees and more than 30 contributers around the world, who are managed by a four-member management team (executive director, business director, head of training & research, and project manager development).
The executive board of directors consists of:
Eliot Higgins (chairman/executive director)
Dessislava Lange-Damianova (treasurer/business director)
Aric Toler (secretary/training director)
The board of directors is responsible for daily management of the Foundation.
The supervisory board consists of:
Paul Radu (chairman)
Joseph Peeraer (member)
Maria Renske Schaake (new member as per 15 October 2019)
The supervisory board is responsible for defining the policy of the Foundation and for supervising the work of the executive board of directors.
Stichting Bellingcat is registered on 11 July 2018
Address: Vijzelstraat 20, 1071HK Amsterdam
KvK number: 72136030
RSIN number: 859000515
VAT number: NL859000515B01
The current policy plan can be found here.
Remuneration policy board and supervisory board
The supervisory board members and the board members receive no remuneration for their board functions. An exception is costs allowance for meetings (twice per year) in the Netherlands for those board members coming from abroad.
Remuneration policy directors and employees
The remuneration for staff and empoyees of Stichting Bellingcat is withing the middle margin of the NGO-sector salary scale. The yearly brutto remuneration of the executive director of Stichting Bellingcat is 118.000 EUR (including pension and holiday allowance – 1fte/12 months). The yearly brutto remuneration of the operations director/manager is 90.000 EUR (including pension and holiday allowance, 1 fte/12 months). Both remuneration scales are well beneath the maximum ceiling of 158.000 EUR within the framework of Goede Doelen Nederland (GDN).