Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering launched
After almost four years NCHR together with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI) have the pleasure of unveiling the ‘Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering’, referred to as the ‘Mendez Principles’.
Some of the working group members during a meeting in Oslo in 2019.
‘In my time as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, I observed that the most frequent setting where torture and coercion take place is the course of the interrogation of suspects and for the purpose of obtaining confessions’ Juan E. Méndez says in the foreword of the Principles.
To address this, in his last report to the UN General Assembly in 2016 Juan E. Méndez called for the adoption of new guidelines to replace coercive interrogation with rapport-based interviewing and implementation of safeguards.
Replacing coercive interrogation methods
The Mendez principles provide a normative basis for a practice that is spreading fast across the world. As state and non-state actors work to implement practices in keeping with effective interviewing, the Mendez principles offer timely guidance and help to preserve the integrity of the practice.
The initiative to draft the principles has previously been welcomed by The United Nations General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the UNODC Crime Congress, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Effective interviewing was also brought to the attention of the UN Security Council in February this year. This underscores the existing interest and support for the principles and bodes well for the advocacy work being undertaken to secure endorsement by the United Nations.
Increasing public trust
The principles aim to transform the relationship between States and their citizens. They are intended to change how public authorities conduct interviewing and as a result improve trust in the State. Grounded in science, law and ethics, the Principles propose a concrete alternative to interrogation methods that rely on coercion to extract confessions. They provide guidance on obtaining accurate and reliable information in full respect of the human rights and dignity of all, including through the implementation of legal and procedural safeguards in the first hours of police custody.
The Principles have been drafted by a Steering Committee composed of 15 women and men from different regions and different fields of expertise such as interviewing, law enforcement, human rights, psychology or intelligence. Mark Thomson, former Secretary General of the APT joined Juan Méndez in co-chairing this initiative.
Materializing the presumption of innocence
The principles provide guidance on how to implement practices that solve for instance a long-standing challenge for interviewing officers, namely how to presume your suspect to be innocent.
"This conundrum alone is responsible for violations of multiple human rights. The principles provide guidance on an understandable, affordable and practical approach to interviews and investigations. Enhancing the core competencies the principles promote is key to achieve progress toward SDG 16.3 - promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all", says Gisle Kvanvig, Head of the UN Police Secretariat at NCHR.
The NCHR supported the process since its inception and together with the APT and ATI facilitated the meetings of the Steering Committee, drafting workshops and advocacy efforts.