eyeWitness to Atrocities (eyeWitness) – a charitable organisation that enables human rights defenders to capture reliable mobile phone footage that can be used in investigations and trials – is helping documenters in Ukraine to take photos and videos of alleged war crimes that can be used as evidence.
Whilst many photos and videos of the situation in Ukraine have been recorded and circulated online, this footage will need to be verified before it can be relied upon as evidence. The verification process can be resource intensive and time consuming. If the footage cannot be verified, it may be of little use in judicial proceedings. It is more vital than ever that documenters capture photos and videos that can be easily verified.
A photo of a destroyed building in Ukraine, captured in March 2022 with the eyeWitness to Atrocities app by a citizen journalist. (Image shared with the consent of the photographer.)
Following the announcement of numerous investigation initiatives, eyeWitness is urging documenters in Ukraine to utilise the eyeWitness to Atrocities camera app. Launched by the International Bar Associationin 2015 and predicated on legal expertise, the app is beneficial for a number of reasons:
In addition to delivering the app, the organisation has developed a Ukraine Resources Hub. With resource articles available in English, Ukrainian and Russian, the hub provides information on using the app, gathering verifiable footage, and identifying and capturing evidence of war crimes.
eyeWitness Director, Wendy Betts said, “Civilians, journalists and civil society groups are currently risking their lives to gather vital footage of potential war crimes and other human rights violations. Unfortunately, due to problems with verification and reliability, we cannot be sure that all relevant images will be used as evidence in the upcoming investigations. Our mission at eyeWitness is to help documenters capture footage that can be easily verified by investigators and accepted as evidence.”
“Those who use our app want to see justice for the human rights violations and atrocities they have witnessed,” commented eyeWitness Legal Advisor, Julianne Romy. “Thousands of photos, videos and audio files captured with the eyeWitness to Atrocities app have been delivered to national and international accountability mechanisms, including the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Our photos have been used to expose the displacement of Palestinian communities, convict two warlords in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and uncover environmental crimes in The Gambia. We hope that footage captured with the app in Ukraine can similarly be used to seek justice.”