App for Eye Witnesses to Atrocities   Leave a comment


By MarEx 

The charity Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has made it possible for people who witness crimes and abuse at sea to use the eyeWitness to Atrocities App to capture evidence.

Developed by the International Bar Association (IBA), the App, through its unique capabilities, enables Android smartphones and tablets to be used to document crimes – such as murder, armed robbery, human trafficking, piracy and drug smuggling – in a way that is admissible as evidence in a court of law.

The App is an easy-to-use camera app that collects and embeds, in the images taken by a user, GPS coordinates, date and time, device sensor data, and surrounding objects such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks. The collection of this metadata provides verification and context and is encrypted and securely stored within the app together with the images.

The user may then upload the footage directly to a secure storage facility, hosted by LexisNexis and maintained solely by the eyeWitness organisation. In doing so, a chain of custody record verifies that the footage has not been edited or digitally manipulated. Thus, the images attain a level of authentication which allows for their use in investigations or trials.

David Hammond, CEO of HRAS, said “This is another maritime first using the power of technology in order to assist in evidential gathering of potential or actual human rights abuse incidents which ordinarily would occur out of sight and out of mind at sea. Up to this point such evidence has often been hidden from the investigatory efforts of our charity that wishes to identify and address such abuses that would otherwise go unreported within the maritime environment. Today, the ability of those individuals or entities who wish to cover up or ignore abuse has been deal a significant blow.”


eyeWitness highlights the problems that can occur without properly verified images. For example, in 2010, U.K.’s Channel 4 capture video of soldiers laughing as a naked, bound prisoner was shot on a muddy track. Bodies littered the ground around, including those of at least seven women lying dead and undressed. Unseen onlookers were recorded sneering and making lewd comments.

The film was claimed to be taken in Sri Lanka, but the government denounced it as fake. It took months to verify the truth. The films were scoured for detail, every frame inspected, every source exhausted, every potential witness contacted. But even then, the truth could not be guaranteed. Experts are far from infallible, and even the best make mistakes. A degree of doubt will always remain, wielded like a weapon by the alleged perpetrators to beat back their adversaries, says IBA.

The organization developed the App to enable honest activists, journalists and citizens to be set apart from potential fraudsters, giving them the credibility and security they need to document gross human rights violations.

Hammond says that the collaboration between eyeWitness and Human Rights at Sea will empower seafarers to record and report violations occurring at sea and help hold accountable the people responsible for these abuses.


Protection for victims and bystanders is a key priority, stresses eyeWitness Project Director Wendy Betts. “eyeWitness has an ethical obligation to do no harm and we take the protection of these individuals very seriously. We will take all possible measures to ensure our use of the collected footage does not put anyone at risk and respects the privacy of innocent victims and witnesses appearing in the videos.”

The hope, however, is that privacy concerns will pale in comparison to the broader purpose of the app: an end to impunity for the most severe human rights violations.


“The founding principle of HRAS that ‘Human Rights apply at sea as equally as they do on land’ is a premise shared by eyeWitness,” says Betts. “Empowering seafarers to capture vital information that can serve as key evidence in legal investigations into these violations underlies our common aim to increase justice and bring prosecutions through relevant authorities. This collaboration could not be more opportune.”

Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director, commented: “The increasing number of reports about violations of human rights taking place at sea demonstrates the serious and rampant nature of these abuses. Working with Human Rights at Sea to combat the impunity that the perpetrators of these crimes currently enjoy is a new development which we at the International Bar Association wholeheartedly welcome.”

More information is available here.


Posted December 7, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

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