The human rights officer should consider who to interview, how to protect them, who
should conduct the interview, in what language, who will translate, where the
interview should be done so as to protect the witness, how the interview should be
recorded so as to protect the security of the information, what the interviewer
needs to know before the interview, how to deal with cultural differences which
inhibit communication, and how to initiate the interview.
The human rights officer should develop a rapport, introduce him/herself and
the interpreter, explain the mandate of the UN human rights field operation,
establish the purpose of the interview, discuss the ground rules for the interview, talk
about how the witness may be protected after the interview, anticipate the use
which will be made of the information, and encourage the witness to tell
his/her story in his/her own words before asking specific questions.
The human rights officer should be aware of the particular needs and characteristics of
some categories of interviewees — including for example victims of torture, women,
children, refugees and internally displaced persons, rural populations, indigenous
communities and lower-income groups — and be adequately prepared before
1. Interviewing is the most common method of collecting information about alleged human rights abuses. In addition, oral evidence is often necessary to supplement written information. In this section, various aspects of interviewing will be discussed. The basic techniques of preparing for, initiating and conducting the interview will be examined in this chapter. Topics include using interpreters, verifying information, and interviewing individuals with particular characteristics. It is important to keep in mind that interviews occur in many different contexts — office, prison, in the field and on the road. The interview process should be tailored to fit each situation. Also, HROs should think strategically about what information they need to collect.