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Eight-year contribution to the fight against impunity and a farewell message

June 30, 2023

eyeWitness to Atrocities marked its 8th anniversary in June with a milestone of 21,000 potential evidence of atrocity crimes submitted to accountability mechanisms, but also with a bittersweet goodbye to our director after 10 years of commitment to our cause.

Quote by eyeWitness Director Wendy Betts

21,000+ unique pieces of potential evidence at the fingertips of international accountability mechanisms

To date, eyeWitness to Atrocities has provided more than 21,000 unique pieces of footage (photos, videos, audio) to national or international accountability mechanisms including the International Criminal Court, Europol, and the United Nations captured by users of the eyeWitness to Atrocities camera app. Some of the footage revealed alleged extrajudicial killings in Nigeria, demolitions in Palestine, assaults on Ukrainian healthcare, and destruction of residential buildings, educational facilities, cultural heritage sites, food, and commercial properties, some of which were underreported in the media. When lines of investigations are not opened and avenues for redress do not exist , we advocate for it through our own or joint submissions. As part of our process, we also create context-specific reports to enhance accountability efforts.

Through our work over the past eight years, we have supported more than 60 partner organisations operating in high-risk regions worldwide that document human rights violations and atrocity crimes – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Documentation poses major challenges for all our partners, including physical and cybersecurity risks, limited internet and mobile device access, limited access to crime scenes, a lack of accountability channels, low local trust in the judicial system, and a lack of documentation resources and capacity. Therefore, supporting their efforts and safeguarding their evidence is our top priority.

2,234 hours spent reviewing, analysing and categorising footage to be shared with accountability mechanisms

Since its launch, eyeWitness team members and pro bono lawyers have spent 2,234 hours reviewing, analysing, and categorising footage captured with the eyeWitness app. We have made a significant contribution toward bringing justice for victims by providing information to numerous accountability efforts which proves the value of collection and preservation of digital evidentiary material. Our impact so far would not be possible without the substantial hours spent by pro bono lawyers and our continuous technological advances in developing a new database to store and protect uploaded footage. With this upgraded database, eyeWitness and pro bono lawyers can analyse and review footage more efficiently.

New beginnings come with endings - A farewell message from our Director, Wendy Betts

Dear friends,

After almost ten intense but rewarding years as eyeWitness director, the time has come to step down. I am proud of the work the organisation and team have done to empower and support courageous activists in conflict zones around the world. What started as an idea on paper in 2011 resulted in the launch of the eyeWitness to Atrocities organisation and app in 2015, and has since become a widely used tool in the fight against atrocity crimes worldwide.

As I prepare to leave, I would like to express my gratitude to Mark Ellis, the Executive Director of the International Bar Association (IBA) for providing me the opportunity to bring his concept to fruition; the IBA for initiating and supporting eyeWitness; the eyeWitness team (past and present) for their hard work and dedication; our partners and app users for trusting the eyeWitness to Atrocities app as their documentation tool; and finally to LexisNexis, the pro bono lawyers, and the law firms that have supported eyeWitness in myriad ways, including safeguarding, storing, and reviewing the extensive footage uploaded to the eyeWitness server.

During my time at eyeWitness, I have seen firsthand the importance of documenting verifiable evidence of international crimes and the impact it can have in achieving justice. It is critical that we take steps to ensure that records of these crimes are securely stored and available to international, national, and regional investigative bodies to make progress toward justice for those affected. With the war in Ukraine continuing and other instability looming across the globe, it is imperative to hold perpetrators of heinous crimes accountable to combat vicious cycles of impunity. Accountability is possible when governments, justice mechanisms, and human rights defenders work together.

Since its launch, we at eyeWitness have been working to support human rights defenders in their efforts to capture, preserve, and use verifiable evidence for justice. I am confident that eyeWitness will continue to grow under its new leadership and reach even greater heights in its mission to combat impunity.

Thank you for all your support!

Wendy Betts