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eyeWitness to Atrocities helps documenters in Ukraine capture reliable evidence for investigations

March 31, 2022

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.

The front of an airplane hanger. The panels have scorch marks on them and many are missing.

Civilians and human rights organisations across Ukraine are using the eyeWitness to Atrocities camerea app to capture potential war crimes and human rights violations. ©eyewitness to Atrocities - 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:

  1. The app automatically stamps footage with the location, date and time. Unlike with regular camera apps, this information is unmodifiable so documenters can prove to investigators and other organisations that the image is genuine. This improves its chances of being used as evidence and having more weight in investigations.
  2. Users can set the app to automatically upload their footage to eyeWitness’ secure server before sending it to the Ukrainian national authorities. eyeWitness’ legal team can then analyse and confirm the footage’s validity for the Prosecutor General and other investigators. eyeWitness’ server is hosted and protected by LexisNexis Legal & Professional, a part of the RELX Group.
  3. The app has security features, including a hidden password-protected gallery, app disguise, and encryption.
  4. The app comes in Ukrainian, Russian and English, as well as Spanish, French, Arabic and Burmese.

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.”


Notes to the editor

  1. About eyeWitness: Founded by the International Bar Association in 2015, eyeWitness to Atrocities (eyeWitness) helps human rights defenders around the world capture and use verifiable photos and videos for justice. As well as providing the specialist eyeWitness to Atrocities camera app, eyeWitness also offers training on photo and video documentation, legal expertise, and links to key investigative bodies such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. All these services are free. By combining law with technology, eyeWitness ensures that images are not only verifiable, but that they can be used to hold perpetrators accountable in courts of law.
  2. Charity registration:eyeWitness is a registered charity (registered number 1156242) and company limited by guarantee, incorporated in England and Wales (registration number 08703983). eyeWitness is regulated by the Charities Commission.
  3. Related material: a. eyeWitness Ukraine Resources Hub; b. eyeWitness Impact stories
  4. Interviews: eyeWitness can offer interviews in English, Spanish and French.