More than 13,000 videos of the conflict in Ukraine have been captured by the eyeWitness to Atrocities app, which could help prosecute Vladimir Putin and other Russian military leaders at the International Criminal Court.
The eyeWitness to Atrocities app allows people to take photos or videos with the time, date and location recorded to prove their authenticity.
The materials are then stored encrypted so that they cannot be edited, thus increasing their probative value.
Evidence from the application could be key
The app was launched in 2015, and the amount of content submitted to the app has grown exponentially this year. Wendy Betts, head of UK-based charity eyeWitness, says 13,000 videos on the app have captured potential criminal behaviour.
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates possible war crimes or crimes against humanity in Ukraine, the evidence could prove crucial.
„That’s certainly the hope. There are civilian objects and things that have been destroyed and other types of potential war crimes. Now that needs to be combined with the investigations. In the investigations, the footage will be combined with other evidence. Hopefully that will help confirm and strengthen those cases. Betts said.
Evidence from the application was used for the first time in a military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Betts says eyeWitness has been in contact with ICC investigators for years and continues to do so in connection with the war in Ukraine. The application was developed by the International Bar Association and the legal data company LexisNexis. The app increases the likelihood that a video will be admissible as evidence by ensuring that it cannot be altered from the moment it is taken.
Evidence gathered by eyeWitness was first used to secure convictions at a military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018, in connection with a massacre in 2012. Photos of the aftermath taken at the time were difficult to verify, so their probative weight was limited. But five years later, eyeWitness technology captured verifiable photos and videos, including mass graves and injuries to surviving victims, that helped confirm the photos.
To date, eyeWitness has handed over 28 files to investigative bodies around the world, including material relating to Ukraine, Palestine and Nigeria. While international investigations can be slow to progress, Betts hopes the app can help change that.
„One of the questions behind our idea was whether we could help speed up the time to investigation and trial with an immediate and more accessible amount of evidence. I think these technological advances that are being used in Ukraine really help that process,“ Betts told The Guardian.