What NHRIs do
Complaints handling and investigation
Manual - Undertaking effective investigations
Requirements for an effective investigations team
Identifying issues and deciding whether to investigate
Planning an investigation
Setting up the interview
Organising the interview
Interviewing individuals who fall into a special category
Six principles for effective interviewing
Collecting physical evidence
Visiting a scene and collecting evidence
Writing an effective investigation report
Mainstreaming gender in NHRI investigations
Conducting Virtual Investigations
Conducting investigative interviews virtually
Mendez Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations
Engage with the international human rights framework
How NHRIs work
Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA)
SCA Rules of Procedure
Statement of Compliance (SOC) Template
SCA Procedure for Challenge Before the Bureau
SCA Practice Note 1 - Deferrals
SCA Practice Note 4 - NHRIs in Transition
SCA Practice Note 2 - Special Reviews
SCA Practice Note 5 - Sources of information to assess the performance of NHRIs
SCA Practice Note 3 - Assessing the Performance of NHRIs
A practical guide to the work of the SCA
Gender disaggregated data
Mental Health for NHRI Staff
Human rights issues
Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)
Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs)
Women Human Rights Defenders protection approaches
Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders
Establishing HRD focal point staff at NHRIs
Protection of Human Rights Defenders: Best practice and lessons learned
Report violations to the international human rights machinery on HRDs
NHRIs and the Protection of HRDs: Insights from Indonesia and Thailand
Secure management of information from HRDs
Monitoring the situation of HRDs: Case study from Kenya
NHRI reprisals as HRDs
Mongolia: Human Rights Defenders Law
The Situation Of Human Rights Defenders Working To Address Violence Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity In Kenya
The Marrakech Declaration
The APF Regional Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders 2019
Front Line Defenders 2020 Global Analysis
Operational Guidelines - Regional Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders (RAP)
NHRIs are HRDs
What is an Early Warning System (EWS) for HRDs?
Defining Human Rights Focal Points
Model law on Human Rights Defenders
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders 2016
Countering narratives against HRDs
UN declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)
Business and Human Rights (BHR)
Emergency measures and COVID 19 - guidance document
The human rights dimensions of COVID-19
COVID-19 and NHRIs study
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Guiding principles on internal displacement
Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons
The Pinheiro Principles
Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC)
Understanding sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics
Being L, G and B in Asia Pacific
Being transgender in Asia Pacific
Being intersex in Asia Pacific
International and regional developments in human rights law
The Yogyakarta Principles
The APF’s response to the Yogyakarta Principles
What more NHRIs can do
COVID-19 & LBGTI people
The right to a healthy environment
Intergovernmental mechanisms project (IGM)
Fact Sheet Series - Engaging with IGMs on the right to a healthy environment and climate change
IGM Fact Sheet 1 - NHRIs: Trusted partners for change
IGM Fact Sheet 2 - Introducing the right to a healthy environment
IGM Fact Sheet 3 - ASEAN and human rights
IGM Fact Sheet 4 - The Pacific Islands Forum
IGM Fact Sheet 5 - Climate change and human rights
IGM Fact Sheet 6 - The Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights
Introducing the Intergovernmental Mechanisms Project
IGM Project - Baseline Assessment
NHRI engagement with regional mechanisms
NHRIs and environmental rights course
The human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment - HRC resolution
The Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment
How are human rights impacted by climate change?
The Aarhus Convention
The UN Special Rapportuer on the Right to a Healthy Environment
The Human Rights to Healthy Environment in Southeast Asia: National Human Rights Institutions
Escazú Regional Agreement
Human rights and climate change
Compendium of actions to address climate change and protect human rights
GANHRI Statement - Climate Change: The role of National Human Rights Institutions
Addressing Climate Change – UN Special Procedures
NHRI COP26 Symposium
Practical Guidance for NHRIs on Climate Change
Climate change and Human Rights: Contributions from NHRIs
Climate mobility and displacement
NHRIs in Humanitarian action
International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
Humanitarian action definition and terms
Human Rights Based Approach to disaster management in New Zealand
CHR Philippines and Typhoon Yolanda
Integrating humanitarian action into general operations - Philippines Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
Gender considerations in humanitarian action
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)
IASC Operational Guidelines on Protection of Persons in Natural Disasters
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)
IASC Guidelines on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action
Vulernable groups in humanitarian emergencies
Humanitarian principles and standards
- All Categories
- What NHRIs do
- Complaints handling and investigation
- Collecting physical evidence
Collecting physical evidence
Updated by Faso Aishath
- The investigator needs to consider what physical evidence may exist that is relevant to the case.
- NHRIs may need to seek expert assistance when collecting and storing physical evidence.
- Collecting evidence at a scene requires planning and specialised skills.
Physical evidence is anything tangible – that is, anything that can be touched or held – that may have some relevance to the investigation. It could be a sample of earth from the banks of a polluted river. It might be a computer hard drive or the SIM card from a mobile phone. It could be cartridge cases found at the site of a mass grave or a fragment of a bone. If it is relevant to the issue being investigated, it is evidence.
HOW IMPORTANT IS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE?
Physical evidence is very important to certain human rights investigations, particularly when they intersect with criminal investigations. Physical evidence is often crucial to investigations involving extra-judicial killings, torture, police brutality, systemic rape and similar allegations.
Physical evidence may not be as relevant in other types of human rights investigations, such as those focused on issues involving economic, social and cultural rights. However, there may be exceptions. For example, an investigation into pollution that is allegedly destroying economic livelihoods in certain communities may well involve the collection and forensic analysis of physical evidence.
WHAT SHOULD INVESTIGATORS KNOW ABOUT PHYSICAL EVIDENCE?
NHRI investigators should consider the possible existence of physical evidence as they plan and carry out their investigation. There may also be occasions when investigators:
- Are given physical evidence
- Go to a scene and discover previously uncollected physical evidence
- Realise that unless they secure physical evidence, it may be destroyed, removed or contaminated.
While NHRI investigators may rarely have to collect physical evidence or submit it for forensic examination, there is always the possibility that this might be required. It is important to seek expert assistance in collecting physical evidence, if at all possible.
ENSURING THE INTEGRITY OF PHYSICAL EVIDENCE COLLECTED
- Take photographs and video everything as you find it.
- Prepare a detailed diagram of the scene.
- Measure distances to record the scale of the scene and the relative position of different items of evidence.
- Always wear gloves when touching or handling an item.
- Bag any item that may be relevant – one item at a time – and seal the bag.
- Do not put items together in the same bag.
SECURING PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
Physical evidence should be identified and secured as quickly as possible. Most physical evidence is perishable, to some extent. It can be deliberately or naturally destroyed or contaminated.
Ideally, each item of potential evidence should be bagged and sealed, using a unique seal number. Sealing the evidence in a bag preserves the item for any forensic testing that may be necessary. ‘Bagging and tagging’, as it is sometimes known, should be done by an investigator who has received training in how to collect and preserve evidence.
It is very important to take photographs and video of physical evidence before it is moved. It should also be mapped and diagrammed, preferably using GPS technology.
Physical evidence should be preserved in a way that keeps it as close as possible to the condition it was in when it was found.
COLLECTING EVIDENCE AT SCENES
A scene is a place where something happened. It may contain valuable physical evidence, even if time has passed since the incident under investigation occurred.
Processing a scene means examining it in a methodical fashion to minimise the possibility of evidence being overlooked. Processing should be done in a way that avoids destroying or changing any physical evidence.
The first task is to protect the scene from contamination. That includes limiting who can enter the scene and, if it is outdoors, protecting it from the elements.
Persons trained in scene processing will often work with the lead investigator to create a crime scene investigation plan. The plan will describe the area to be searched, what is being looked for and the order in which evidence will be collected
A scene should be photographed and videoed before anything is moved. It should also be measured, preferably using GPS technology.
A scene can also be processed using grid search methods. This is where the scene is divided into a grid, with each segment thoroughly searched for possible evidence.
NHRI investigators usually need expert help to process a scene to ensure that they do not miss crucial evidence or collect it in a way that leaves it compromised. For example, exhuming bodies from a mass grave may involve a variety of experts, including forensic pathologists, anthropologists and entomologists.
FIND OUT MORE
Chapter 20, Undertaking Effective Investigations: A Guide for National Human Rights Institutions (APF, revised 2018)