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Connecting human rights documenters around the world with European investigators

May 23, 2021

eyeWitness to Atrocities has submitted footage of alleged atrocities from multiple regions to Europol’s innovative Analysis Project Core International Crimes (AP CIC). The AP CIC’s centralised database is intended to streamline evidence collection for war crimes investigators in Europe. eyeWitness was one of the first non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to submit evidence to the database.

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© Christian Lue

Centralising and streamlining evidence collection in Europe

Europol established its Core International Crimes Unitin 2017 to facilitate the cooperation and coordination of European Union (EU) Member States and Third Parties in their efforts to prevent and investigate international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. One of its initiatives has been to create a centralised database of evidence for those investigating war crimes and human rights abuses committed by perpetrators residing in Europe. Prior to this, investigators needed to navigate multiple jurisdictions and restrictions when trying to access evidence from individual countries and NGOs.

“Europol’s database holds great promise for war crimes investigations launched within and by the EU,” said eyeWitness Director, Wendy Betts. “Very often it can be difficult and time-consuming for investigators to access evidence from such a wide number of States and NGOs. By creating a centralised database of evidence, Europol is making the path to justice that much more straightforward.”

Delivering verifiable footage of alleged human rights abuses to European investigators

To date, eyeWitness has submitted three dossiers of evidence to the AP CIC for the purposes of storage, analysis and crosschecking.

The first contains footage of alleged atrocities in the Middle East and was submitted in 2018, making eyeWitness one of the first NGOs to contribute to the database. The footage comes from multiple eyeWitness partners who have been using the eyeWitness camera app to capture footage of alleged international crimes in the Middle East since 2017. These verifiable photos, videos and audios reveal recurrent themes such as injuries and fatalities, internal displacement, attacks to cultural property, the illegal supply of weapons, and army presence. With the consent of its partners, eyeWitness submitted the raw footage and its verifiable metadata to Europol. The team then provided Europol with further assistance by indexing and compiling the footage into a worksheet that would make it easier for future investigators to identify events, locations, dates and alleged crimes.

More recently, eyeWitness’ legal team submitted two separate dossiers of photo and video evidence to the AP CIC. Both dossiers – the first being submitted in 2019 and the second in 2021 – relate to an ongoing armed conflict in another region of the world. Whilst the details and location of this conflict cannot be named for security and confidentiality reasons, eyeWitness can reveal that the footage captured by its partners uncovers alleged war crimes and recurrent themes of war-related property damage – both to private property and public infrastructure - and environmental damage, presence of unmarked minefields and protests. It is with the full support of its partners that eyeWitness delivered the footage to the AP CIC.

Justice for the long-term

“Ensuring that footage reaches the right accountability mechanisms is one of the biggest challenges documenters face. In most cases, it takes years for any one crime to even be investigated so you want to ensure that footage is available long-term. You also want to ensure that it is available to those who can aid justice,” said Betts. “By contributing to the AP CIC database, our partners have the potential to aid numerous investigations far into the future.”

eyeWitness will continue to work with Europol and support partners who wish to submit evidence captured using the eyeWitness app to the AP CIC database.

Please note, certain names and locations have been withheld for security and confidentiality reasons.