Document Sample
					                                                                             Tw o

                   MONITORING FOR THE
                           P U B L I C I N T E R E S T:
                             GUIDELINES FOR
            E F F E C T I V E I N V E S T I G AT I O N
                   A N D D O C U M E N TAT I O N

This chapter explains:
   • what monitoring is and its purpose and importance
   • factors for preliminary consideration
   • how to prepare a monitoring project
   • steps in conducting an investigation
   • methods of analyzing data gathered
   • procedures for documentation
   • how to present project findings effectively

1 . W H AT     IS MONITORING?                 two principal elements: investigation and
                                              documentation. Generally, human rights
Monitoring is a broad term, used in many      monitoring involves investigating inci-
contexts, that describes various stages of    dents or government practices by gather-
collection, verification, and analysis by     ing evidentiary material to identify and
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)          document the types, prevalence, and caus-
of information concerning public interest     es of human rights violations in an entire
issues, including civil, political, social,   country, in a particular region where there
and economic rights. Monitoring, some-        has been conflict, or at the site of an indi-
times called fact-finding, encompasses        vidual incident.

    There are a variety of methods for          or activity, accurate information concern-
conducting monitoring activities. Inves-        ing the violation(s) in question will
tigation can occur, for example, through        always be necessary. An effective public
interviews with victims and witnesses of        interest campaign thus depends on fol-
human rights violations; observation of         lowing certain fundamental steps to
events such as trials, elections, and demon-    investigate and document the actions or
strations; or the use of more scientific sur-   violations on which it is based.
vey techniques. It can also involve visits to
relevant sites, including refugee camps or
prisons. Documentation of the information       2. WHY        I N V E S T I G AT E
and evidence gathered can take the form of      AND DOCUMENT?
a written, printed report or an open letter,
or it may serve as the basis for a public       Monitoring is important for many rea-
meeting. Selecting the appropriate moni-        sons. Monitoring exposes human rights
toring methods and forms depends not            abuses or other public interest problems,
only on the objectives of the public interest   providing a vital public education tool by
organization, but also on a myriad of exter-    helping to dispel the myth that such
nal and internal factors, described in more     problems do not occur or that they are
detail below.                                   rare. With respect to human rights issues,
    One cannot overemphasize how criti-         not only can such exposure compel recal-
cal it is that the information gathered is      citrant governments to cease violations or
accurate and reliable, and that it is pre-      decrease their numbers; it pressures other
sented in as timely a manner as possible.       states and human rights organizations to
In the context of human rights advocacy,        act as well. In addition, monitoring assists
challenges to the accuracy of the monitor-      in securing effective legal recourse and
ing process and its results can undermine       other remedies.
an entire campaign effort. All human                Most relevant to the immediate con-
rights advocacy activities, from the sub-       cerns of public interest advocates, moni-
mission of complaints before national,          toring is vital to developing effective
regional, or international bodies to leg-       advocacy strategies, as it allows advocates
islative initiatives and public education       to become fully informed of the nature
efforts, rely on the veracity and thorough-     and extent of human rights abuses or vio-
ness of the underlying investigations and       lations of other rights. Through monitor-
documentation. Regardless of the strategy       ing, for example, an advocate is able to

discern whether a specific violation is an      3.1 Purpose of the
isolated event or falls within a larger pat-    monitoring project
tern of abuse. Once an advocate is knowl-
edgeable about the facts concerning a           At all stages of both strategic and short-
public interest issue and understands           term planning, it is extremely important
what requires attention and reform, the         to state with the greatest possible preci-
advocate can devise an appropriate plan of      sion the actual goals that the organization
action. Such a plan may include efforts to      intends to achieve, both through the pub-
change the law (for example, to improve         lic interest campaign as a whole and at
poorly written or harmful legal provi-          each consecutive stage. The most common
sions), its interpretation (for example, to     mistake is to define the goals too broadly,
correct mistaken or overly narrow inter-        potentially weakening further stages of
pretations of the law), or the practice of a    planning and the effects of monitoring.
state entity (for example, to stop one indi-    Planning should start with a careful selec-
vidual’s abusive conduct or general prac-       tion of the aims of those activities, that is,
tices that violate rights), or it might         with identification of what the organiza-
include a larger-scale plan to mobilize         tion intends to change. Moreover, advo-
public opinion.                                 cates should assess the scope of their pur-
                                                pose in conducting a monitoring project
                                                in relation to the broader goals of the pub-
3 . P R E L I M I N A RY                        lic interest organization. Selecting moni-
C O N S I D E R AT I O N S                      toring as an immediate priority of project
                                                activity depends on, among other issues,
Preparation is a major component of any         the possibilities for action, the severity of
monitoring project. Even before such            the problem, the number of people affect-
preparation begins, however, advocates          ed, and the realistic chances of bringing
should examine several issues. Preliminary      about change in that area within a reason-
considerations should include, but are not      able period of time.
limited to, the purpose of the monitoring           The choice of monitoring also depends
project, the intended use of project find-      on the availability of sufficient human
ings, the political situation in the country,   and financial resources. An organization
region, or locality where the monitoring is     must carefully evaluate the manpower
to take place, and some important ethical       needed to conduct a monitoring project,
issues.                                         as well as realistically assess its budget

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                    •   47
with respect to the organization’s entire     the project must be planned somewhat
scope of activities. The resources needed     differently from one designed for other
to conduct a monitoring project may           purposes. For example, an organization
affect the project’s purpose in view of an    may seek to challenge in domestic court
organization’s overall plan of action. For    the constitutionality of a selected legal
more detailed discussion of resource eval-    provision, or it may bring an action before
uation, allocation, and management, see       an international tribunal to prove that
chapter 1, “Setting Up a Public Interest      state’s violation of a convention or treaty
Law Organization,” and chapter 4,             provision. If advocates intend that project
“Campaigning for the Public Interest.”        findings will lead to litigation, the project
    The choice is further influenced by       must emphasize the need to uncover a vio-
such factors as popular attitudes, the        lation or pattern of violations that will
number and impact of potential allies, the    satisfy the organization’s criteria for
response by state officials and other deci-   selecting the best test case.
sion makers, and the political needs of the        Where advocates plan to use findings in
group in power. Other considerations may      support of public education activities, the
include whether the state under observa-      monitoring project should be tailored
tion is nearing any deadlines for submis-     accordingly. For example, if findings are to
sion of reports on the implementation of      be revealed at a public meeting for infor-
international agreements; whether there       mational purposes, the impact will be
are announced visits by any international     greater if such findings are presented in a
missions; and, more generally, whether        more direct, tangible manner. Or the proj-
the state is under international scrutiny     ect might seek to identify victims of human
because of a public interest issue.           rights violations who would be able and
                                              willing to appear in public and share their
3.2 Intended use of findings                  experiences with people, and whom the
                                              public would find credible. Likewise, the
Monitoring is part of a broader spectrum      project should endeavor to identify sympa-
of advocacy activities aimed at changing      thetic victims if the findings will appear as
the status quo; it is not an aim in and of    part of a press campaign. Of course, advo-
itself. The intended use of a monitoring      cates should be careful not to pressure a vic-
project’s findings affects the construction   tim to appear publicly if they believe there
of the particular project. When findings      is a risk of negative consequences from pub-
are intended for use in a legal proceeding,   licizing that person’s particular situation

(see section 3.4 below). In contrast, where       which time and resources are available to
monitoring results are compiled in govern-        provide such aid.
ment or shadow reports or counter-reports,
and submitted to legislatures or institu-         3.4 Importance of ethical issues
tions such as the United Nations or the
Council of Europe, the monitoring project         Ethical considerations constitute another
should try to gather statistics and figures, to   vital aspect of the preliminary factors that
the extent possible.                              must be examined. Those involved in mon-
                                                  itoring human rights violations must
3.3 Effects of political climate                  remember that their ultimate duty is to
                                                  ensure the rights and interests of the victims
Another important factor to consider as a         of human rights abuses whom the monitor-
preliminary matter is the political cli-          ing project is meant to serve. This means
mate. The manner in which human rights            keeping in mind the security and welfare of
monitoring, particularly investigation,           the people who provide information.
occurs depends on the political environ-          Advocates should consider whether the dis-
ment or circumstances existing in the             semination of certain information will cause
country or region to be monitored. In a           any victims further harm. People likely to
state where civil society is well developed       be affected by the monitoring process
and relations between governmental and            should be consulted on matters that may
nongovernmental actors are good, local            affect them as a result of the project. The
governmental institutions and agencies            security of monitors and all other people
may prove to be reliable sources of assis-        responsible for the execution of the moni-
tance. On the other hand, where this is           toring project must also be considered care-
not the case, government officials are            fully. Such risks should be kept at a mini-
unlikely to provide assistance, forcing a         mum. Other ethical issues are addressed
monitoring project to conduct its own             later in the chapter (see section 5.1).
independent, sometimes secret, investiga-
tions. A state’s willingness or likelihood
of providing assistance is not solely a mat-      4 . P R E PA R I N G    A
ter of political circumstances, but may           MONITORING PROJECT
also hinge on other issues such as the per-
ceived need for reform, the level of              Careful planning and preparation are
bureaucratic formalities, and the extent to       essential to the success of any monitoring

                                MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                    •   49
project. Although unexpected difficulties      advocacy strategies might emerge from
may always arise, thorough preparation         the findings of the investigation.
contributes to the efficacy of the investi-        In identifying the initial focus of the
gation and helps to ensure that the proj-      investigation, it is critical to consult with
ect’s objectives are accomplished. The         those likely to be affected by it.
following steps are general guidelines for     Consultation should involve, at a mini-
preparing a monitoring project:                mum, discussion with victims and sur-
                                               vivors of human rights violations, as well
   4.1 Set investigation objectives            as any other groups already working on
   4.2 Specify the issue                       the issue. This type of advance consulta-
   4.3 Identify key actors                     tion helps clarify the investigation’s
   4.4 Determine informational needs           objectives and lays the groundwork for
   4.5 Analyze the law                         further cooperation.
   4.6 Select research tools and techniques        Since the goal of a particular investi-
   4.7 Assemble and train monitoring           gation or advocacy campaign may be very
       team(s)                                 specific or very broad, an organization
   4.8 Make logistical and other               must tailor the investigation procedures
       arrangements                            accordingly. A narrower objective is usu-
                                               ally easier to achieve than one that is more
4.1 Set investigation objectives               extensive, but a limited monitoring effort
                                               can still bring attention to broader issues.
Determining what the monitoring project        For example, an investigation into
will investigate and document clarifies        instances of a specific human rights abuse,
the direction that the organization has        such as a highly politicized trial, may
chosen in its campaign and specifies the       shed light on broader defects in the judi-
type and amount of human and financial         cial system as a whole. Yet sometimes a
resources necessary to accomplish project      narrower focus is neither possible nor
aims. Setting objectives also provides a       expedient. Generally, the broader the
better understanding of the size and scope     goal, the more expansive the investigation
of the project itself. Although the objec-     must be. The breadth of the inquiry will
tives may change as the inquiry progress-      in turn affect the time allocated for the
es, it is best to begin with a clear idea of   effort, the human and financial resources
what issues are to be investigated, what       necessary, and the ability to articulate a
the monitoring seeks to achieve, and what      clear and achievable remedy.


   An organization may choose from a broad scope of objectives for its monitoring
   project, which can evaluate a state’s status in protecting and promoting

       • one specific right in a specific geographic area, such as the right to
         personal integrity, the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy, or the
         right to freedom of speech;
       • any or all rights of subjects of various open or closed institutions,
         such as correction facilities, hospitals, military units, or welfare homes;
       • rights of members of social minorities, such as national, ethnic, or
         religious minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees, migrant workers,
         homeless people, people with physical or mental disabilities, people
         infected with the HIV virus, or people addicted to drugs and alcohol;
       • rights of people in incidental contact with state institutions, such as
         the search or arrest of a person by police, seizure of property by a court
         officer, or participation in litigation;
       • rights of people in incidental contact with quasi-governmental
         officials, such as private investigators, bodyguards, restaurant, shop, and
         club guards, or ticket collectors in public transportation vehicles;
       • rights relating to measures undertaken or supervised by state
         institutions, such as elections, or activities aimed at stifling social
       • compliance with human rights standards through the promulgation
         of laws, including laws enacted by legislative and executive government
         at all levels;
       • implementation of newly enacted laws addressing the protection
         of human rights, such as a mental health act, a labor code, or a penal

   To initiate public discussion on a          court system or practices of local police,
broad issue, such as the operation of the      and advocate significant changes, it is

                             MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                   •    51
often sufficient to focus on a relatively       itors may ask whether the detainees were
small number of incidents. A project’s          permitted to be examined by a doctor of
success in relation to one important aspect     their choice. If the investigation objective
of its objective may bring about success        is identifying and removing the causes of
on other levels. Consider, for example,         violations of the right to a fair trial, tasks
that police officers who respect the right      may include examination of the length of
to privacy or the right to have a lawyer        proceedings, an assessment of the impar-
present during questioning are unlikely         tiality and independence of the court,
to behave brutally during arrest or deten-      analysis of the procedural correctness of
tion. Thus, in aiming to improve human          proceedings, and observance of the right
rights observance by a state institution, it    of access to courts for underprivileged
is not always necessary to include all          people.
spheres of that institution’s activity in the
monitoring. Improvements in a few but           4.2 Specify the issue
well-chosen areas often lead to reform of
the entire institution.                         It is often more difficult than it seems to
    Furthermore, an organization can for-       identify the issue that will come under
mulate specific tasks within the overall        investigation. For example, international
objective of the investigation, in order to     human rights law generally binds the
structure and focus investigation efforts.      state, but not individuals. For a specific
For example, if the monitoring project’s        violation to constitute a human rights
objective is identifying and removing the       abuse, the monitoring findings must
causes of widespread rights violations by       therefore connect the violation to some
the police, the project can divide its inves-   form of state action or inaction.
tigation into tasks such as examination of      Investigations must show either that the
police brutality, observance of the right to    state, through its officials or other repre-
privacy during searches and seizures, and       sentatives, is committing human rights
compliance with existing procedures             violations or that private individuals are
related to arrest. With regard to the last      committing violations while the state is
two tasks, monitors may ask, for example,       consistently failing to respond to those
whether detained people were allowed to         violations. Thus, in cases of domestic vio-
contact a lawyer and notify their family or     lence, for instance, the actual violation is
someone else as to their whereabouts. If a      not only the domestic abuse itself but also
medical examination was necessary, mon-         the state’s failure to prevent or punish

such abuse. Defining the nature of the          types of information may be needed and a
violation at an early stage can help advo-      variety of people must be interviewed,
cates formulate appropriate questions and       depending on the particular situation and
be alert for information that either con-       relationship of the perpetrator to the
firms or refutes that initial definition.       state. Demonstrating state responsibility
                                                often requires a broad range of interviews
4.3 Identify key actors                         to support the contention that a given
                                                violation was not an isolated incident but
The process of setting objectives, including    part of a pattern of behavior for which the
advance consultation with potential             government is directly or indirectly
sources of information, will help to identi-    responsible.
fy key actors in the situation. Relevant
actors should be identified as soon as possi-   4.4 Determine informational
ble. Waiting until after the investigation      needs
has begun may add needless time and pres-
sure to the process and thus may lead to a      Determining what kind of information
less complete investigation. Determining        should be gathered is often easier than
the players in advance also helps with          determining from whom the information
resource allocation and selection of inter-     can be acquired. Yet in every investiga-
viewers. Key actors will generally include      tion, some likely sources of information
victims and survivors of human rights vio-      are readily apparent. Generally, potential
lations, their families or representatives,     sources of information include individuals
other advocates working on the issue, indi-     who provide information through inter-
viduals or entities suspected of perpetrat-     views or surveys, observations of events by
ing such violations, and people with direct     monitors, and official documents collect-
knowledge of the violations or with             ed from and by institutions, such as court
responsibility for addressing them.             files and records maintained by a prison
    Identifying the alleged perpetrator(s)      administration or other relevant agency.
is also critical to the planning process.       Other sources may include human rights
Governments may be directly account-            organizations and other groups in the
able for particular issues or indirectly        locality or country that may already have
responsible as a result of their failure to     documentation based on preliminary or
act in preventing human rights violations       local investigations, and lawyers, courts,
or punishing private actors. Different          or government officials who may have

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                 •   53
information about applicable laws and             be identified in advance, the more effec-
state actions or responses to the violations.     tively investigators can utilize their time
The more clearly and specifically they can        during the actual investigation.


    Although it may be impossible to anticipate all of the information that investiga-
    tors will need to obtain, having a strong sense of the goals of the investigation, the
    violations to be investigated, and the main players involved can help determine
    informational needs.
        Most investigations must include certain fact-finding aspects, including the fol-

        •   the nature of the violation
        •   whether the violation is an isolated incident or part of a pattern of abuse
        •   the violator(s)
        •   any actions taken by those affected by the violation
        •   government action or response
        •   actions taken by any third-party governments or institutions

        As factual information is obtained, other informational needs become apparent,
    including the following:

        • relevant laws, regulations, and procedures, both local and national
        • the common practice with respect to those laws, regulations, and
        • relevant international law
        • the government’s obligation, if any, under the law

        Many investigators and advocacy organizations develop checklists of the kinds
    of information that investigators are most likely to need. This helps to guide inves-
    tigators in planning the investigation and in managing their time, by helping them

   to remain focused as they gather information, thereby increasing the likelihood of
   obtaining useful results and reducing the need for follow-up work, which can be
   quite costly.

       Adapted from Women’s Human Rights Step by Step: A Practical Guide to Using International
   Human Rights Law and Mechanisms to Defend Women’s Human Rights, Women, Law & Development
   International and Human Rights Watch, 1997, Washington, D.C., chapter 6.

4.5 Analyze the law                                4.6 Select research tools
                                                   and techniques
The analysis of relevant law begins during
the preparation stages of a monitoring             Choosing among a broad range of inves-
project and continues through the com-             tigative tools depends on almost as many
pletion of the project. In accordance              factors as does the initial decision to con-
with the hierarchy of sources of law,              duct a monitoring project. Selecting such
analysis of the law for monitoring pur-            tools not only depends on what the proj-
poses should include both international            ect intends to investigate and examine
and domestic law.                                  but also hinges on such factors as politi-
    Who should conduct the analysis of             cal conditions in which the monitoring
the law is frequently a concern of advo-           project will operate; the size of the com-
cates involved in a monitoring project.            munity, country, or region; the level of
Legally trained professionals, of course,          attention to the issues being investigated;
are essential to a comprehensive under-            safety issues involved in conducting an
standing of the relevant legal provisions.         investigation; and even the need for
It is equally important, however, for oth-         translators.
ers with specialized knowledge about the               Analyzing such factors to determine
particular matter being monitored to be            the most appropriate research tools and
involved. Legal analysis should be a coop-         techniques is critical to preparing an
erative interdisciplinary effort, in order to      investigation. Research tools and tech-
maximize knowledge of the law as well as           niques should ensure not only that all nec-
of the relevant social, political, and eco-        essary information is gathered, but also
nomic situation.                                   that it is collected in a way that is appro-

                               MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                        •   55

        1. Ensure the impartiality of investigators. To the extent possible, the
           chosen technique(s) should reveal all facts and make certain that all
           relevant parties are heard. An investigation that appears unbalanced can
           lead to conclusions that are unsupported and thus readily challenged or
        2. Check and recheck facts. The strength of any advocacy campaign
           depends on the facts on which it is based. Investigators should agree on
           a research method that promises accuracy by incorporating the steps
           and time needed to guarantee it. Thus, any reliable research tool should
           include questions or some other means of testing the veracity of both
           the monitor and the individual providing information. One incorrect
           piece of information could undermine the credibility of the entire
        3. Seek specificity. The more specific an investigation’s findings, the
           more useful they will be. Advocates should employ research tools that
           enable the investigation team to target and gather data that is detailed
           enough and that can be directly relevant to the particular human rights

priate to the circumstances. Thus, choos-      may result in missing key questions that
ing research techniques is a series of         should have been asked of the officials.
strategic decisions based on an informed
assessment of what needs to be accom-              4.6.1 Uniformity in documentation
plished and of the most effective way to       and presentation. The success of the
accomplish it. Choosing the order in           investigation will ultimately depend on
which interviews will occur, for example,      the effectiveness of the effort to document
can make all the difference in the effec-      and present research findings. Advocates
tiveness of the investigation. Speaking to     must therefore be careful to select tools,
relevant government officials before inter-    such as mailed or in-person question-
viewing those most affected by the abuse       naires, surveys, and specialized instruc-

tion for monitoring teams, that will max-      only to improve access to and dissemina-
imize the results of the research. The         tion of human rights information through
selection and consistent use of a particular   effective information-handling tech-
research tool will also have consequences      niques, but also to help establish the
regarding what method of analysis can be       infrastructure necessary to organizations
employed and whether the information           investigating and documenting human
obtained will be comparable for purposes       rights information. This network provides
of determining patterns.                       basic tools, including directories, stan-
    It may be helpful to utilize research      dard formats for recording various types of
tools such as diagrams or charts to catego-    information, and standardized terminolo-
rize information obtained from official        gy, in addition to expert advice on techni-
documents, which can state precisely           cal, organizational, and managerial prac-
what type of information is obtained from      tices. HURIDOCS also sponsors meet-
what documents or parts thereof, as well       ings, seminars, consultations, and even
as the principles of classification of such    training courses.
information. A standardized form describ-
ing important traits of examined docu-             4.6.2 Interviews. Information ob-
ments, such as the timeliness in receiving     tained from individuals may be gathered
the document or the physical characteris-      in the course of an interview. Generally,
tics of the document that may imply the        there are three forms of interviews: (1) the
frequency of its use, can also be useful.      unstructured interview, in which the
Most importantly, monitoring teams that        monitor and the individual have free-
utilize the same research tools consistent-    flowing conversation on a specified sub-
ly are able to more easily compile and ana-    ject; (2) the semi-structured interview, in
lyze their findings. With this aim, several    which the monitor and the individual
regional networks, such as the European        engage in dialogue that follows a general
Coordination Committee for Human               pattern decided in advance; and (3) the
Rights Documentation, provide NGOs             structured interview, in which the moni-
with basic tools for information handling      tor asks the individual previously written
and documentation control.                     questions in a specific order.
    An organization of particular note is          Monitors can decide how many inter-
the Human Rights Information and               views to conduct based on statistical
Documentation Systems, International           methods chosen in advance or on the prin-
(HURIDOCS). HURIDOCS seeks not                 ciple of saturation. Under the principle of

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                 •   57
saturation, monitors interview many dif-        mentation. A related factor in planning
ferent individuals until they find that sev-    interviews is the location of the inter-
eral of the individuals in succession fail to   view. Monitors should make sure the
augment the already-obtained informa-           location is safe and allows the inter-
tion. Monitors may choose to select whom        viewed individual to feel comfortable.
to interview on the basis of the snowball       Interviewers should endeavor to talk to
principle, whereby the monitor asks each        individuals in private, or at least outside
individual during the interview to name         the presence of any actors involved in the
other individuals whose information or          subject under discussion.
opinion could assist the investigation and          Monitors should seek to interview
who may be willing to participate in an         witnesses of events, as they are often good
interview.                                      sources of information. When interview-
    When planning interviews, monitors          ing a witness to an event, monitors might
should decide in advance how to docu-           consider asking the witness for a written
ment the information obtained. For              and signed statement describing that
example, the monitor could choose to            event. On the other hand, if the individ-
take notes during the interview or to           ual could potentially suffer negative con-
conduct the interview while another             sequences from his or her testimony,
monitor takes notes. Interviews could           being asked to put such a statement in
also be recorded, though monitors               writing may discourage the witness from
should be aware that this form of docu-         providing information.
mentation often contributes to an indi-
vidual’s reluctance to speak freely or is           4.6.3 Consent and confidentiality.
simply rejected by the individual to be         Monitors must make many important
interviewed. In the event that monitors         decisions regarding confidentiality. They
cannot document an interview in any             need to decide what information will be
form while it is conducted, the informa-        made public, through the publication of a
tion obtained should be documented as           report or otherwise, and what information
soon thereafter as possible. Waiting to         will be kept confidential. This decision
reconstruct the details of the information      applies not only to particulars of an insti-
obtained in an interview, particularly if       tution under investigation but also to
monitors delay doing so until after other       individual data. The decision to make cer-
interviews have been conducted, could           tain information public must involve con-
sacrifice accuracy and precision in docu-       sultation with and consent of all sources of

that information. In order to obtain con-       they gather; whether they intend to dis-
sent, monitors will need to explain to          close the source of the information, such
their sources both the organization’s need      as the identity of the individual; and how
or desire to make the relevant information      and to what extent they are able to guar-
public and the potential effects of doing       antee the safety of the individual.
so. Monitors will face the difficulty of bal-   Monitors involved in a project in which a
ancing the need to obtain more informa-         risk of retaliation exists assume responsi-
tion against the possible effects of pub-       bility for these actions.
licly naming a person, group, or institu-
tion with a record of rights violations.            4.6.4 Observation. The observation
Decisions regarding confidentiality             of events by monitors is another research
should be made as early as possible in the      technique. Observation as a monitoring
monitoring process so that they can be          technique can be either “external” or
applied consistently throughout the             “participatory.” Monitors conduct exter-
process.                                        nal observation when they want to inves-
    Sources should be informed prior to         tigate the work of state officials in a pub-
being interviewed what degree of confi-         lic setting, such as a judge’s implementa-
dentiality is being promised (for example,      tion of the due process principle in the
the information will not be made public,        courts or police conduct during street
or the information will be made public          demonstrations. During external observa-
but the name of the source will be with-        tion, monitors usually use an observation
held). Once the information is obtained         sheet prepared in advance, specifying
from a source on the basis of a particular      what is to be observed, noted, and docu-
understanding, it should never be used in       mented, and the form the documentation
a different manner without obtaining the        should take, such as photography, video
express consent of the person who provid-       recording, or sound recording. Monitors
ed it. Doing otherwise would be unethical       should select the subjects of observation
and would potentially undermine the             with utmost care.
organization’s ability to obtain sensitive          Participatory observation involves the
information in the future.                      monitors’ direct participation in the event
    It is particularly important for moni-      being observed. When conducting partic-
tors conducting a secret investigation to       ipatory observation, a monitor plays the
inform each individual being interviewed        role of a person who would ordinarily
how they intend to use the information          attend the event being observed. For

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                  •   59
example, a monitor investigating police        tor’s task would then be to regularly take
conduct during a demonstration or sport-       notes on data specified in advance.
ing event would assume the role of a pro-      Participatory observation requires more
tester or sports enthusiast. Monitors          flexibility in that it involves looking for
should be careful to look inconspicuous,       different things or occurrences and
not to stand out among the other partici-      requires different levels of analysis and
pants or spectators at the event. A moni-      less recording.

   M O N I T O R I N G P O L I C E C O N D U C T:
   B E R K E L E Y , C A L I F O R N I A ’ S C O P WAT C H

   Copwatch is a community organization whose stated purpose is “to reduce police
   harassment and brutality” and “to uphold Berkeley’s tradition of tolerance and
   diversity.” Established in 1990, its main activities are monitoring police conduct
   through personal observation, recording and publicizing incidents of abuse and
   harassment, and working with Berkeley’s civilian review board, the Police Review
       Copwatch sends teams of volunteers into the community on three-hour shifts.
   Each team is equipped with a flashlight, tape recorder, camera, “incident” forms,
   and Copwatch handbooks that describe the organization’s nonviolent tactics, rel-
   evant laws, court decisions, police policies, and the actions that citizens should
   take in an emergency. At the end of a shift, the volunteers return their complet-
   ed forms to the Copwatch office. If they have witnessed a harassment incident,
   they call one of the organization’s cooperating lawyers, who follows up on the
       Copwatch holds weekly meetings, and its activists attend public hearings of the
   Police Review Commission. It publishes a quarterly newsletter, Copwatch Report,
   which features a “Cop Blotter” column describing examples of alleged police mis-
   conduct gleaned from Copwatch incident reports.
       Although the group’s impact has not yet been studied independently, Copwatch
   activists are convinced that their monitoring activities deter and thus reduce harass-
   ment and abuse.

   C O P WA T C H I N C I D E N T R E P O R T F O R M

   Date_______________ Time_______________ Place_____________________
   Officers (names & numbers)________________________________   ___________
   Police Car License No.___________________________________   ____________
   Arrestee/Victim’s Name___________________________    ___________________
   Other information__________________________________________________
   Suspected charge___________________________________________________
   Witnesses (names & phone numbers)___________  _________________________
   Injuries?___________________ If yes, describe_______
   Photos or tapes?____________________________________________ _______
   Does arrestee need a lawyer?__________________________________________
   Description of incident __________________ ____________________________
   Name of Copwatcher_____________________________________________

       For more information, please contact Copwatch, 2022 Blake St., Berkeley, CA 94704, USA;
   tel: (1 510) 548 0425; E-mail:; Web:

    Investigators examining police con-              at penal administrative commissions or
duct can obtain further information by               courts.
(1) monitoring admissions of victims of
police actions to hospitals, as well as              4.7 Assemble and train
medical help rendered to such people by              monitoring team(s)
emergency departments; (2) determining
under what circumstances the police                  Another important activity in planning a
summoned ambulances; (3) visiting                    monitoring project is assembling one or
police stations where arrested people are            more monitoring teams for the investiga-
brought; and (4) attending proceedings               tion. In addition to carrying out the proj-

                                 MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                             •   61
ect objectives, the monitoring team(s)          tivity, impartiality, and training in inter-
will be seen as representatives of the          viewing and data collection, the team as a
organization conducting the investigation       whole should include a diversity of skills,
and will interact with other advocates, vic-    knowledge, and backgrounds.
tims, government officials, and anyone              For example, a team investigating
else who is involved. A successful investi-     prison conditions would ideally include a
gation relies on the ability of such moni-      lawyer, a physician, and someone who is
tors to carry out an investigation in a         familiar with the internal workings of a
knowledgeable, directed, and respectful         prison, such as an expert in prison admin-
manner. It is also critical that monitors use   istration, a former prison guard, or a for-
information gathered during the investi-        mer inmate. A team investigating child
gation only for the purposes of the investi-    labor would ideally include not only a
gation and do not make independent use          lawyer and a physician, but also a child
of that information without prior consent       psychologist or specialist; in addition,
from the monitoring project leaders.            that team should include someone who is
                                                familiar with company practices regard-
    4.7.1 Assembling teams. Monitoring          ing children who are subject to forced
is often carried out by several teams that      labor, such as a parent, former company
work independently from one another but         officer, or former victim of forced labor.
within the framework of a single project.           It is also important that a team
Individual monitors should possess not          include individuals who are well prepared
only the necessary professional qualifica-      to deal with people or places that the team
tions, but also strong interpersonal skills     will likely encounter. A team investigat-
and the ability to work well as part of a       ing public demonstrations, for example,
team. It is important that all team mem-        should not include a monitor who fears
bers be able to trust and respect one anoth-    large crowds or seeing physical violence.
er. Thus, individual members of a moni-         Likewise, a team investigating psychiatric
toring team should be chosen strategically      hospitals should not include a monitor
and should not be replaced during the           who is uneasy with or unable to handle
project unless absolutely necessary.            situations involving mentally ill people.
Equally important, the nature of the inves-         Each monitoring team should appoint
tigation will shape the composition of the      a team leader responsible for coordinating
monitoring team(s). While all individual        the team’s activities and for making deci-
monitors in a team should possess objec-        sions, particularly in unexpected situa-

tions. In dangerous communities or under        that the institution’s staff members treat
threats by police or other officials, for       the monitors appropriately and seriously.
example, teams often confront certain dif-      A team investigating specific social or
ficulties or disagreements. A team leader       geographic communities, such as ethnic
is indispensable to and responsible for         minorities, should acquire some knowl-
resolving such problems between the             edge of community-specific customs.
team and others or among team members
themselves in a safe and efficient manner.          4.7.3 Conducting pilot surveys. In
                                                large-scale and elaborate monitoring proj-
    4.7.2 Training teams. A project             ects, monitors may conduct a pilot survey
should spare no time or energy in training      prior to dispatching the monitoring
its monitors. The quality of an investiga-      teams to conduct the actual investigation.
tion’s results, and thus of the project         A pilot survey is a survey conducted by a
itself, greatly depends on the preparedness     team to test the utility and effectiveness of
of the monitoring teams. Monitors should        the selected research tools and techniques.
understand the purpose of the monitoring        Those who developed the selected
effort and how it relates to an organiza-       research tools should participate in the
tion’s project goals and overall mission.       pilot survey, along with people who did
Monitors must understand the objec-             not have a direct role in the project’s plan-
tive(s) of the investigation, and who and       ning and preparation. The latter group
what are subjects of the inquiry. They          can provide an objective perspective in
should receive appropriate instruction and      appraising the use of specific research
training for utilizing the selected research    tools. A pilot survey is beneficial in that it
tools so that each team’s results are com-      can reveal difficulties that may not have
parable to those of another team.               been foreseen during project planning,
Monitors should also be acquainted with         and it also tests the rationality of the time
relevant law, including international law       period and amount of funds allocated to
as well as pertinent domestic provisions.       carry out the project.
For example, a team investigating state             Pilot survey findings should be ana-
institutions should understand, among           lyzed with the aim of confirming or fine-
other issues, the institution’s internal doc-   tuning the selected methodology for the
umentation procedures and terminology.          investigation. In many cases, pilot survey
Team members should conduct them-               results demonstrate flaws in research tools
selves with the utmost professionalism, so      and intended methods of analysis. Project

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                    •   63
participants can then make any necessary        being interviewed, will remain objective,
changes to research tools, techniques, or       and is willing to follow the monitor’s
methods of data analysis, and they may          instructions carefully. Interpreters must
even reappraise scheduling and budget           be carefully instructed to translate every-
considerations accordingly.                     thing that the monitor and interviewee
                                                say, literally and completely. This ensures
4.8 Make logistical and other                   that the monitor, and not the interpreter,
arrangements                                    will be able to judge the relevance of the
                                                information provided and the proper
An organization must also examine in            sequence of the questions.
some detail the financial and technical
resources required for investigators’ trav-
el, lodging, and other expenses related to      5. CONDUCTING              THE
gathering data and other information.           I N V E S T I G AT I O N
Project leaders, in consultation with mon-
itors, must determine what equipment            Preparing a monitoring project can be a
and other things will be needed to prop-        substantial undertaking. The real sub-
erly obtain information, such as paper,         stance of a monitoring project, however,
postage fees, recording devices, and the        lies in conducting the actual investiga-
like. Assessing travel needs is yet another     tion. Conducting interviews, observing
consideration. Once these and other             events, visiting sites, and gathering sec-
expense-related questions are posed, advo-      ondary information form the essence of
cates can decide whether additional fund-       human rights monitoring. Each of these
ing is required and, if so, make plans to       steps, however, must take into account
secure such funding.                            relevant ethical concerns and security pre-
    Because language skills are critical to     cautions.
the accuracy of interviewing and of gath-           Generally, monitors must observe two
ering other information, a monitoring           principles in the course of conducting an
project in another country, and even in         investigation. First, monitors must dis-
some communities in the same country,           tinguish facts from opinions, suspicions,
must often select interpreters. The key         and hypotheses. Information without a
issues in the selection of an interpreter are   reliable basis can undermine the final
whether he or she can elicit honest and         report and compromise the efforts of the
complete information from the individual        entire monitoring project. Second, and

related to the selection of proper research        Arguably, even the source’s consent to
tools, monitors need to maintain impar-        disclose information that he or she has
tiality. Monitors cannot allow themselves      provided is not the final word on the
to become emotionally involved. Fellow         issue. A monitor may still need to further
monitors and team leaders need to be alert     evaluate the ethics of disclosure.
to this possibility and consider removing      Ultimately, decisions such as these have to
a monitor who experiences this problem.        be based on a balanced appraisal of each
                                               particular situation.
5.1 Balancing ethical concerns                     How monitors resolve certain ethical
                                               problems may also depend on the polit-
Monitors often face ethical problems in        ical circumstances in which they are
the course of monitoring. For example, a       operating. Monitors sometimes en-
monitor who has learned from a victim          counter difficulties in obtaining court or
that a state functionary has committed a       other legal documents, for example.
serious offense must decide whether to         They must assess the need for the infor-
reveal that information to the appropriate     mation contained in such documents,
authorities against the wishes of the vic-     and then decide whether to obtain them
tim. In many countries, social organiza-       through illegal means if necessary. Such
tions have an obligation to report offenses    a decision clearly depends on each spe-
they discover in the course of their activi-   cific case. In a totalitarian regime, where
ties. Enforcement of this obligation, how-     human rights allegedly are violated on a
ever, is practically nonexistent.              mass scale, monitors may decide it is
    Making such a decision is most diffi-      morally justified to take such action. In
cult in cases where the monitor, in dis-       a democratic regime, monitors should
closing the information, has to reveal the     consider taking such action only if there
identity of the source, thereby exposing       is a legitimate public interest in doing
that person to the risk of repression and      so and if disclosure of the information is
even physical harm. Aside from concerns        consistent with human rights guaran-
for the safety of a victim, monitors also      tees, including the right to privacy.
may have to weigh the need for in-depth        Sometimes monitors withhold portions
inquiry—for example, into homosexual           of the information they obtain, such as
rape in prison—against the desire to           individual identities, if disclosure would
minimize any interference with a victim’s      interfere with privacy rights or put indi-
privacy.                                       viduals at risk.

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                •   65
5.2 Taking security precautions                necessary, is another essential security
Project leaders should reassure monitors
that they will take all possible measures      5.3 Conducting interviews
to guarantee their safety, a particular con-
cern during difficult interviews, such as      Conducting interviews is one of the most
ones with severely mentally disabled peo-      crucial stages of the monitoring process. It
ple or dangerous criminals, and during         is important that the monitors conducting
projects carried out in communities expe-      the interviews are well prepared and that
riencing violent social conflict. Security     the individuals being interviewed are fully
precautions should be a key component of       informed about the process. Moreover,
any investigation, and it may be neces-        interviewing is a skill that benefits from
sary to implement a check-in procedure,        experience and extensive practice. Each
for participants in the monitoring project     monitor conducting an interview, in addi-
to contact colleagues or family members        tion to adhering to fundamental principles
on a regular basis, or to create a mecha-      of consent, confidentiality, impartiality,
nism for protecting notes and other doc-       and security, should consider several
uments. Monitors and their families            guidelines and tailor them to his or her
should have recourse to all legal, econom-     own skills and judgment.
ic, and medical assistance available in the        When the objective of a monitoring
event that they fall victim to repression      project is to investigate the functioning of
by authorities.                                a state institution such as a court, chil-
    Where safety concerns prohibit field       dren’s home, or prison, there are some spe-
visits or where the government denies          cial issues to consider in conducting inter-
entry to foreign monitors, testimony           views. First, monitors must obtain the
may still be gathered from displaced           necessary consent from the proper author-
people, refugees, or others who have left      ities to interview subjects and staff at the
the country. Methods for obtaining             institution. Interviews with state staff
information under such circumstances,          members should include inquiries into
though less reliable than in-person testi-     their safety, the conditions of their work,
mony, include telephone calls and signed       the relationships with their superiors, and
statements of witnesses and victims.           the like. If the investigation seeks to
Here again, protecting the identity of a       examine the observance of students’ rights
source of information, should that be          or prisoners’ rights, for example, monitors

may be unable to rely on the cooperation          represent the conditions and other aspects
of staff members, as they may tend to mis-        of the institution for which they work.

   I N V E S T I G AT I O N I N T E R V I E W S

       1. Be clear about who the interviewers are and what they are doing.

       •   Explain in advance the nature and purpose of the monitoring project.
       •   Provide information on the NGO(s) conducting the investigation.
       •   Clarify whether and how the project’s findings will be made available.
       •   Detail whom the information obtained in the interview will be disclosed
           to, unless nondisclosure is requested.

       2. Seek affirmative agreement to conduct interviews, with as much
          privacy as possible, one at a time.
       3. Guarantee that the interview is confidential and that no information
          will be shared without express consent. Ask individuals being
          interviewed whether they wish to remain anonymous. Explain that
          anonymity will preclude the individual’s participation in legal actions
          in which the state requires complainants to be named.
       4. Reassure individuals that they are safe with interviewers.
       5. Determine whether photography or recording devices may intimidate
          individuals, encroach on their cultural norms, or otherwise interfere
          with obtaining the most accurate information possible.
       6. Use a series of open (not leading) questions when interviewing witnesses,
          including “What happened?” and “What happened next?” Ask questions
          beginning with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.”
       7. Use leading questions, which suggest an answer, only when interviewing
          witnesses likely to provide information opposing the monitoring proj-
          ect’s objectives, including “Isn’t it true that . . . ?” and “Are you
          denying that . . . ?”

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                   •   67
        8. Use directing questions—such as “Could you describe more about . . . ?”
            and “Can you explain what is important about . . . ?”—when
            interviewing witnesses who are nervous, lack verbal skills, or have
            difficulty remembering details; however, do not provide answers for
            them to affirm or deny.
        9. Take careful notes, including general impressions of an individual’s
            demeanor and credibility, as well as the circumstances in which the
            interview is conducted.
        10. Maintain a list of sources and contact information.
        11. Create a tracking or cross-referencing system to compare the comments
            of several individuals regarding the same incident, in order to assess the
            credibility and reliability of information obtained.
        12. Maintain a list of additional information to collect, and request
            documents necessary to substantiate gathered information.
        13. Utilize interview protocols included in monitoring instructions to
            sustain focus.
        14. Do not share information on or given by one individual with another
            individual, and determine when to withhold information that may
            jeopardize the safety or well-being of an individual being interviewed
            or a third party.
        15. End each interview by thanking the individual for participating in the
            investigation and asking if there is anything that he or she would like
            to add to the information.

        Adapted from Women’s Human Rights Step by Step: A Practical Guide to Using International
   Human Rights Law and Mechanisms to Defend Women’s Human Rights, Women, Law & Development
   International and Human Rights Watch, 1997, Washington, D.C., chapter 6.

Monitors should consider simultaneously             gating the staff and subjects of the insti-
investigating the violation of the rights of        tution separately.
all people who fall under the framework of              Monitors investigating a state institu-
the state institution, rather than investi-         tion, such as a corrective facility or a mili-

tary unit, confront an ethical dilemma in        other research tasks, monitors should
addition to those regularly encountered.         obtain information needed to supplement
Even though monitors may have specific           any gaps that may have been left while
and quite limited information they need to       accumulating direct evidence. Monitors
obtain, and therefore would need to con-         should carefully document evidence from
duct only a rather narrow inquiry, authori-      all sides, verify facts, and corroborate sto-
ties may condition their consent to an           ries so that charges of abuse are well
investigation on terms that would impede         founded and a strong basis for the overall
the ability of monitors to obtain the neces-     advocacy effort exists. Credible reports of
sary information. However, monitors              other governmental organizations and
should not simply accept terms that ham-         NGOs, interviews with other witnesses,
per their investigation, but rather should       complaints by other individuals or enti-
negotiate assertively with the authorities.      ties about similar violations, and evidence
    Whatever may be the objective of the         of physical abuse are all sources of corrob-
investigation, the testimony of the victim(s)    orative evidence. The investigation should
of abuse is crucial. Such direct testimony       represent only what can be verified. In cir-
usually must be gathered in some detail,         cumstances where it is hard to arrive at
and other firsthand testimony of witnesses       solid conclusions, it is important to state
is also relevant. Investigating a representa-    this and explain why.
tive number of cases can demonstrate the             Secondary information can also be
seriousness of the problem. Even in circum-      obtained through depositions and subpoe-
stances where monitors are not attempting        nas. Other supporting evidence may be
to show a pattern or practice of abuse, direct   identified in medical records and reports,
testimony about similar cases can help           public records, court cases, and statistical
strengthen the advocacy argument and             documents. Less formal sources of second-
highlight the need for remedial action.          ary data also include newspaper articles,
                                                 reports from local organizations, and sim-
5.4 Obtaining secondary data                     ilar documents.
and corroborative evidence                           If the opportunity arises, it can also be
                                                 helpful to conduct additional or follow-up
    The gathering of secondary data is           interviews as a way to obtain corroborative
another important, yet often overlooked,         evidence. Monitors should keep in mind,
step in conducting an investigation. After       however, that they initially determined the
conducting interviews and completing all         number of interviews to be conducted based

                               MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                   •   69
on the scope of the investigation during        from their interviews, to avoid inadvertent-
project preparation. It is thus important for   ly broadening the scope of the investiga-
monitors to have a clear sense of when they     tion, duplicating their investigative efforts,
have obtained all the information possible      or expending additional resources unwisely.

    F A C T- F I N D I N G I N Q U I R I E S B Y T H E

    Since 1990, the Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania–Helsinki
    Committee (APADOR-CH), otherwise known as the Romanian Helsinki
    Committee, has conducted monitoring activities and engaged in dialogue with gov-
    ernmental authorities in order to (1) modify existing civil rights and other relevant
    legislation, (2) promote new legislation on freedom of information, (3) provide legal
    assistance to victims of alleged human rights abuses, and (4) raise public awareness
    on human rights issues. APADOR activities focus primarily on the right to priva-
    cy, the right to a fair trial, and the rights of minorities.
        Generally, APADOR follows certain internal procedures for investigating a
    complaint and making relevant inquiries. Such procedures follow the form and sub-
    stance of the initial information that APADOR receives. A complaint brought in
    person to APADOR by an alleged victim usually prompts an APADOR representa-
    tive to conduct a discussion meant to clarify the complaint by tactfully questioning
    the person, repeatedly summarizing information, and obtaining names of potential
    witnesses. Whether or not an alleged victim has filed an official complaint with an
    authority, the APADOR representative limits assistance to providing advice on legal
    rights and procedures, possible courses of action, and potential outcomes. An
    APADOR representative examining information received by mail about an alleged
    violation is limited to the contents of the letter in deciding whether to conduct a
    fact-finding mission. In each of these situations, APADOR seeks to obtain an ini-
    tial objective and impartial assessment of an alleged human rights violation.
        In order to achieve a balance between an alleged victim’s common tendency to
    exaggerate claims and events and the authorities’ tendency to deny them, APADOR

aims to compare and corroborate versions of the allegation(s) through the following:
extensive knowledge of the relevant laws and procedures; on-site investigation of the
place of the alleged abuse(s); thorough discussion with the alleged victim, family
members, local authorities, and any other available witnesses; and collection of any
physical evidence. Information that authorities provide and any evidence collected,
such as medical certificates and photographs, is critical to support contradictions
and inconsistencies. APADOR emphasizes the need to obtain as much solid evi-
dence as possible before deciding whether and how to move forward with a case.
     For example, as a result of photographs presented to it and certain media reports,
APADOR took on a case in 1997 that involved the alleged torture of a ten-year-old
boy by municipal police. APADOR had to reconcile differing accounts of the alleged
violation given by the boy, his mother, and members of the prosecutor’s office. After
several failed attempts to contact the heads of the municipal police department
involved in the case, APADOR opted to publish a report delineating its conclusions:
that the boy had been a victim of torture; that such action was illegal under
Romanian constitutional and criminal law, as well as under several international and
regional instruments; that the police should have notified the boy’s parents of his
whereabouts; that the failure of the police to do so and the subjection of the boy to
brutality reflected insufficient training; and that cases in which the victims are chil-
dren should be adjudicated by prosecutors specialized in child psychology.
     The report received much publicity, prompting the prosecutor’s office to bring
four police officers and guards to trial that same year. APADOR hired a lawyer to
represent the boy and his mother. Several hearings were held, and four of the defen-
dants were each sentenced to one to two years’ imprisonment; however, the sen-
tences were later suspended. The court awarded the boy and his mother 10 million
lei in compensation (approximately USD 400), but the APADOR lawyer is seeking
additional compensation on appeal.
     This case is considered a success, in the sense that the original report prompted
such a quick and active response by the authorities. Although the court decided in
favor of the boy, APADOR has continued follow-up activity and appealed the deci-
sion to obtain appropriate recompense, particularly in light of the defendants’ sus-
pended sentences. Of course, advocates should be aware that governments do not

                           MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                     •   71
   always, if at all, take swift and prompt action, and whether they do is often a mat-
   ter of political circumstances.

        For more information about this case and APADOR’s activities, please contact APADOR-CH,
   Romanian Helsinki Committee, 8 Nicolae Tonitza Str., 704012 Bucharest, Romania; tel: (4 01) 312
   4528, 312 3711; fax: (4 01) 310 2178; E-mail:; Web:

6 . E VA L U AT I N G      THE                      abuses violate a right that the relevant gov-
FINDINGS                                            ernment is bound to uphold under national
                                                    or international human rights law. Where
A successful investigation will usually             regional or international instruments guar-
challenge and refine initial premises               antee the protected right, advocates must
developed about the violations during the           demonstrate that the involved state has rat-
planning stages. A post-investigation               ified the instruments and is legally bound
analysis can provide for much more pre-             to uphold them. If several rights are
cise, reliable, and defensible conclusions          involved, advocates must indicate each
regarding the premises made about the               respective violation and show that the state
nature of the abuse, the alleged perpetra-          was under an obligation in each case.
tor(s), and the relevant governmental
entity or entities accountable and respon-
sible for a remedy.                                 7. PRESENTING                THE
    The aim of post-investigation analysis          FINDINGS
is to carefully examine the facts gathered in
order to demonstrate that a violation of            A central aspect of any public interest
human rights has occurred; assert that the          advocacy strategy is determining how
state, whether by commission or omission,           best to present the findings of a given
is accountable for the abuse; and make clear        investigation. This decision will depend
all required or recommended remedies.               on the overall goals of the advocacy
Clear and convincing arguments here will            strategy and the audience that the find-
greatly assist the overall advocacy effort.         ings are intended to inform. Several
    With regard to human rights issues,             forms of presentation exist, including
advocates should show that the investigated         public meetings in which advocates

inform attendees of the project’s find-        should be made based on a careful analysis
ings, either verbally or through the dis-      of the facts and the state’s legal obligations.
tribution of printed materials; written        These arguments should be well defended
reports delineating the findings and rec-      using authoritative sources such as local
ommending potential solutions; memo-           court decisions, government position
randa, informal written notes, records,        papers or statements, and international
or statements that may contain selected        instruments. Linked to specific interna-
information, such as legal arguments           tional obligations, the arguments can lead
based on the project’s finding; open let-      to recommendations to the government(s)
ters; and newspaper articles.                  responsible for the violations and to the
                                               international community. In designing rec-
7.1 Preparing written reports                  ommendations, advocates should seek to
                                               make them as specific as possible, and
A report is the most common form of pre-       efforts should be made to identify remedi-
senting investigation findings. In a report,   al steps that are firmly grounded in nation-
clear arguments asserting any violations of    al or international law and capable of
domestic violence or international law         implementation and success.

   TIPS     F O R P R E PA R I N G M O N I T O R I N G R E P O R T S

       1. Decide who will participate in the writing, editing, and publication of
          the report.
       2. Note any disagreements among the participants as to findings or
       3. Describe the following: objective(s) of the investigation, circumstances
          surrounding the gathering of evidence, research techniques utilized by
          the monitors, and methods applied and sources used to verify the
          monitoring findings.
       4. Support descriptions of violations, where possible, by direct quotations
          from individuals who provided an account during an interview.
       5. Include varied sources of evidence, if possible, and specify each source
          unless a confidentiality or anonymity agreement was made.

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                    •   73
    Moreover, a report should detail any       cific manner, and advocates should make
government response or lack thereof.           sure their report is written in accordance
Related to this point, advocates might         with those specifications. If there are no
consider advancing a copy of the report to     such requirements, of course, organiza-
the relevant state agency, providing the       tions are free to design their report as they
opportunity for comment before the pub-        see fit. Depending on the focus that advo-
lication of the final report. In some          cates choose, a report can take a variety of
instances, however, doing so would be          forms, structures, and arrangements. For
unwise because of a likelihood that the        example, some advocates choose to arrange
government would attempt to suppress           findings that demonstrate violations of
the report or discredit it before it were      rights contained in international instru-
even published. Finally, the project           ments, such as the Universal Declaration
should distribute copies of the report to      of Human Rights and the European
individuals who provided information,          Convention on Human Rights, according
either through interviews or otherwise, or     to the order in which those rights appear
their representatives; relevant national,      in the relevant instruments.
regional, and international governmental           As to terminology and syntax, the
institutions and organizations; other          contents of a report should be written to
NGOs that may have cooperated with the         conform to the target recipient’s use and
project’s efforts; the media; and any other    definition of certain words and legal
interested or implicated governments.          terms. A report prepared for the media
    Frequently, advocates must tailor the      may contain so-called buzzwords: words
presentation of findings to appeal to          or phrases that journalists frequently use
and influence a narrower audience, such        to describe a particular person, event, or
as decision-making institutions. This          phenomenon. A report prepared for offi-
involves making determinations regarding,      cials should usually be persuasive but
among other things, the structure used to      neutral—in other words, unemotional—
present the findings, the terminology and      and not contain any personally inflam-
syntax of the content, and the languages in    matory remarks. Basing a report on accu-
which the report should be printed.            rate, reliable data and presenting it in a
                                               rational yet compelling manner will
    7.1.1 Structure and terminology. An        maximize its effectiveness and potential
international organization may require the     impact. Reports intended to elicit broad
contents of a report to be set out in a spe-   public support, however, may emphasize

more emotional and human interest               disseminate the findings of an investiga-
aspects.                                        tion. A project can choose to make its
                                                findings public through press conferences,
    7.1.2 Languages. Reports should be          press releases, and other media-related
printed in the language(s) of the intended      forums, using them as an alternative to
recipient(s). When a report is submitted to     other forms of presentation. A project can
an official organization, tribunal, or other    also use media coverage to supplement
institution at the international level, advo-   and broaden exposure of its efforts, dis-
cates should print the report in the insti-     coveries, and conclusions as a way to bol-
tution’s official languages. An organiza-       ster the presentation of its findings and
tion may want to print its report in sever-     generate public pressure in favor of its rec-
al languages even if it is not required, in     ommendations.
order to maximize the number of people              In dealing with the media, advocates
who can read and learn from it.                 should focus on identifying, and clearly
                                                and concisely communicating, the main
7.2 Working with the media                      message of the organization and of the
                                                project. They should explicitly detail
The media is an effective implement for         what information is official or unofficial,
any monitoring project. Both broadcast          distinguishing between information that
and print media can be used as forums to        is “on the record” and “off the record.”


       1. Identify potentially interested journalists early in the planning
       2. Encourage journalists to cover the investigation by informing them
          about the issues under examination and the organization’s commitment
          to its project and human rights generally.
       3. Send key journalists advance copies of the report or other documents
          drafted by the project that include information on the investigation.
       4. Maintain contact with journalists and follow up with telephone calls to
          prompt coverage or spur an independent media investigation.

                              MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                   •   75
        5. Draft and distribute press releases on the progress of the investigation
           and, if a final report is published, summarize key findings, conclusions,
           and recommendations of the project.
        6. Hold a press conference or other event to mark the completion of the

    Of course, the aim of a monitoring           RESOURCES
project is not merely to prepare and dis-
seminate findings, whether in a report or
by other means. In certain cases, such as
where the victims and witnesses are at           Asian Human Rights Commission, Human
risk, however rare, the monitoring report        Rights Monitoring and Fact-Finding, 2000, Hong
may best be left unpublished. Most impor-        Kong. <
tantly, monitoring is an element of a            lesson6.htm> (last accessed on July 26, 2001).
                                                     Discusses the basic elements of human
broader public campaign directed at
                                                 rights monitoring and fact-finding.
improving respect for individual rights
and freedoms, and sometimes even respect         Centre for Human Rights, Manual on Human
for monitoring itself. The role of monitor-      Rights Reporting: Under Six Major UN
ing in such campaigns is discussed further       International Human Rights Instruments, UN
in chapter 4, “Campaigning for the Public        Doc. HR/PUB/91/1, 70–125, 1991, Geneva.
Interest.” Moreover, monitoring findings
                                                 English, K., and A. Stapleton, The Human
and reports can serve to support public          Rights Handbook: A Practical Guide to
interest litigation activities. See chapter 3,   Monitoring Human Rights, Human Rights
“Strategic Litigation: Bringing Lawsuits         Centre, University of Essex, 1995, Colchester,
in the Public Interest.” No matter how           United Kingdom.
monitoring findings are utilized, ulti-
                                                 Giffard, C., The Torture Reporting Handbook:
mately the fact that public scrutiny is
                                                 How to Document and Respond to Allegations of
focused on a certain problem is one of the       Torture within the International System for the
effective techniques used to improve the         Protection of Human Rights, Human Rights
overall human rights situation.                  Centre, University of Essex, 2000, Colchester,
                                                 United Kingdom. <

torturehandbook/index.htm> (last accessed on            For use in monitoring, reporting, advocat-
July 26, 2001).                                     ing, and reacting to human rights violations
    A reference guide on taking action in           during, before, or after armed conflict.
response to allegations of torture or ill-
treatment.                                          Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
                                                    Rights (ODIHR), Election Observation
Guzman, M., and H. Verstappen, What Is              Handbook, ODIHR/Organization for Security
Monitoring, Human Rights Information and            and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 1999,
Documentation Systems, International                Warsaw. <
(HURIDOCS), 2001, Versoix, Switzerland.             ments/guidelines/election_handbook/index.
<>              htm> (last accessed on July 26, 2001).
(last accessed on July 26, 2001).                       Outlines the general methodology of elec-
     A practical guide on documenting human         tion observation under the umbrella of the
rights violations, seeking information, produc-     Organization for Security and Cooperation in
ing and acquiring documents, and related            Europe (OSCE).
                                                    Office of the UN High Commissioner for
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, What            Human Rights, Manual on the Effective
Is a Fair Trial? A Basic Guide to Legal             Investigation and Documentation of Torture and
Standards and Practice, 2000, New York.             Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
<        Punishment, 2001, Geneva. <http://erc.hrea.
htm> (last accessed on July 26, 2001).              org/Library/medical_personnel/ohchr01.html>
     Deals with the basic legal standards that      (last accessed on July 26, 2001).
should be used in evaluating the fairness of a           Contains a description of documentation
trial, and with how a trial observation mis-        methods, which are also applicable to other
sion should be prepared and carried out in          contexts. Includes annexes with principles of
practice.                                           effective investigation and documentation,
                                                    diagnostic tests, and guidelines for the med-
Mendes, E., J. Zuckerberg, S. Lecorre, A.           ical evaluation of torture.
Gabriel, and J. Clarck, eds., Democratic Policing
and Accountability: Global Perspectives, Ashgate,   Orentlicher, D., “Bearing Witness: The Art
1999, Aldershot, United Kingdom.                    and Science of Human Rights Fact-Finding,”
    Offers different perspectives on the            3 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 83 (1990).
accountability of police conduct in a liberal           Provides a comprehensive analysis of the
democracy.                                          professional standards and institutional imper-
                                                    atives of international NGOs. Part I discusses
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights,               the importance of human rights fact-finding.
Handbook on Human Rights in Situations of           Part II addresses the manner in which an
Conflict, 1997, Minneapolis.                        NGO must confront official skepticism and

                                 MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                      •   77
shifting standards of credibility. Part III         Tel/Fax: (1 202) 326 6787
describes methods of obtaining evidence,            E-mail:
interviewing witnesses, and establishing            Web:
responsibility for human rights violations.             Provides information on human rights
                                                    documentation and other human rights issues,
Spirer, H., and L. Spirer, Data Analysis for        as well as training.
Monitoring Human Rights, American
Association for the Advancement of Science          Human Rights Information and
and HURIDOCS, 1997, Washington, D.C.,               Documentation Systems, International
and Geneva. <           (HURIDOCS)
monitoring/analyse/index.html> (last accessed       48, chemin du Grand-Montfleury
on July 26, 2001).                                  CH-1290 Versoix
    A book on the use of statistics for moni-       Switzerland
toring and reporting human rights violations.       Tel: (41 22) 755 5252
In French.                                          Fax: (41 22) 755 5260
Women, Law & Development International              Web:
and Human Rights Watch, Women’s Human                   A network of human rights organizations
Rights Step by Step: A Practical Guide to Using     providing assistance and training on human
International Human Rights Law and Mechanisms       rights information handling and other rele-
to Defend Women’s Human Rights, 1997,               vant human rights activities.
Washington, D.C.
     Designed as a basic guide to the operation     Human Rights Internet
of human rights mechanisms and strategies at        8 York Street
national, regional, and international levels, the   Suite 302
manual explains why and how to use these            Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5S6
strategies and mechanisms to protect and pro-       Canada
mote women’s human rights.                          Tel: (1 613) 789 7407
                                                    Fax: (1 613) 789 7414
Organizations                                       Web:
                                                        Provides a database of information related
Canada-U.S. Human Rights Information                to human rights, including directories of
and Documentation Network (CUSHRID                  human rights organizations, funding organiza-
Net)                                                tions, human rights publications, and human
Secretariat, AAAS Science and Human Rights          rights education programs.
1200 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005, USA

International Helsinki Federation for          Women, Law & Development
Human Rights                                   International
Wickenburgg 14/7                               1350 Connecticut Avenue, NW
A-1080 Vienna                                  Suite 407
Austria                                        Washington, DC 20036-1701, USA
Tel: (43 1) 408 8822                           Tel: (1 202) 463 7477
Fax: (43 1) 408 882250                         Fax: (1 202) 463 7480
E-mail:                      E-mail:
Web:                            Web:
    Monitors compliance with the human             Provides information and resources on
rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act    women’s human rights and conducts projects
and its follow-up documents. Offers training   to empower women around the world.
and technical assistance to human rights
NGOs in the region covered by the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE).

                               MONITORING FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST                •   79

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