Restricted access interviews: a guide to interviewing witnesses in remote human rights investigations Alternative formats available on request to PIAC - Contact PIAC
This guide will assist investigators who are conducting witness interviews in contexts where they have restricted access to the country or area under investigation (restricted access contexts — RACs).
Witness accounts are a critical source of information for human rights investigations and fact-finding missions. However, obtaining witness accounts is increasingly complicated by political, security, logistical and COVID-related constraints on access to the country or area under investigation. Faced with these constraints, investigators often rely on remote interviews, whether with witnesses inside or outside the country. They can also conduct in-person interviews with witnesses outside the country, such as refugees and asylum seekers.
These methods of interviewing entail unique challenges, which have not yet been addressed by comprehensive guidance. ‘Restricted access interviews: a guide to interviewing witnesses in remote human rights investigations’ has been written to fill this gap. It provides insight into the practices of investigators working in a variety of RACs, extracting lessons learned and issues to consider. Most significantly, it provides cautions and advice that will be useful to investigators in diverse contexts. The guidance reflects the experiences of over 30 investigators, as well as former and current Commission of Inquiry (COI) and Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) commissioners; staff at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and other experts who reviewed the content. Their input enabled us to draw on examples from past investigations and ensure that the guide reflects best practice.
These guidelines form a companion piece to the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI) guide IICI guidelines on remote interviewing (August 2021); the IICI publication is a short guide focusing solely on the issue of remote interviews that are covered as part of the PIAC guide.