New App Launched to Help Catch War Criminals in the Act

February 2, 2016   |   Michaela Whitton

Michaela Whitton
February 2, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Everyday all over the world, citizens, journalists, and human rights defenders risk their lives to expose the truth. From war crimes in Syria, to the wanton police brutality rife in the U.S., eyewitness videos of global atrocities are being captured by billions of people on their mobile phones and the footage is becoming increasingly more significant in court cases.

As the ability to capture live video and share it online spreads across the world, it has also become common practice for journalists and news outlets to source video footage from individuals who actually witnessed the incidents on the ground.

While footage from the ground brings an immediacy that traditional reporting often can’t, the downside is that mobile phone footage of human rights abuses, that often spreads like wildfire on social media can occasionally be faked. Despite the liberating technology of smartphones increasing access to eyewitness accounts, documentation can occasionally be impossible to verify — or can lack the information necessary for use as evidence in court.

To ensure that the courageous efforts of citizens, journalists, and activists are not in vain, the London-based International Bar Association (IBA) has developed an app to document atrocities, that can be used in court to help bring war criminals to account.

The catalyst for the idea was the harrowing footage obtained by U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 that seemingly showed Sri Lankan troops executing Tamil prisoners. Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association (IBA), was one of the international lawyers asked to examine the video — but its authenticity could not be verified.

“Watching that film was a catalyst for the idea that an app could be created to act as a tool of verification and allow the video to be admissible in a court of law,” he said.

Launched last summer after a four-year effort, the eyeWitness to Atrocities app aims to help bring war criminals to justice. By recording verifiable footage, the app’s camera captures the metadata required to ensure the footage can be used in investigations and trials.

According to eyeWitness: “This footage could be of criminal conduct (crime base evidence) or images that help to identify the individuals responsible for the criminal conduct, such as uniforms, insignias, license plates, types of weapons (linkage evidence).”

How does the footage meet reliability requirements?

The app expands the metadata collected and embedded in the images when they are captured and includes the GPS coordinates, date and time, device movement data, and location of surrounding objects such as cell towers and Wi-Fi networks. This information verifies the date, time, and location of the evidence.

It embeds a unique identifying code (known as a hash value) based on the pixel count that is used to verify the footage has not been edited or altered in any way.

The footage is sent directly from the app to a secure storage facility maintained by eyeWitness. Only footage captured with and sent from the app is stored, ensuring that the stored footage is the original version. This original, encrypted footage is stored offline until it is needed for investigations or trials.

The expert eyeWitness team then become ongoing advocates for the footage, analysing the information and working with the appropriate legal authorities to promote accountability for those who have committed the worst global crimes. The data from the app will be used to promote accountability for international atrocities, specifically war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and torture.

You can download the app directly from the Google Play Store here.


This article (New App Launched to Help Catch War Criminals in the Act) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Michaela Whitton and theAntiMedia.orgAnti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Michaela Whitton

Michaela Whitton joined Anti-Media as its first journalist abroad in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include human rights, conflict, the Middle East, Palestine, and Israel. Born and residing in the United Kingdom, she is also a photographer.

Share This Post On