Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
9 June 2021
I am honoured to open this global event to launch the Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering.
I thank the Government of Norway, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for their long-standing partnerships with my Office on a wide range of human rights issues, including in supporting the development of these principles. I also pay tribute to Juan E. Méndez, Mark Thomson and members of the Steering Committee of Experts for their dedication to countering torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
The principles we are launching today provide concrete guidance for States to improve their law enforcement interviewing practices to ensure that they fully respect international human rights law. They result from four years of consultations with over 100 investigators, academics and human rights lawyers from all over the world.
During his mandate as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez observed that torture and coercion most frequently take place during the interrogation of suspects for obtaining confessions or declarations against others. Pressure from politicians, supervisors, judges and prosecutors to solve high volumes of cases – and law enforcement cultures that focus only on the number of convictions, or crimes “solved” – can create perverse incentives for coercive interviewing.
Globally, these abusive practices lead to flawed decision-making, wrongful convictions, and gross miscarriages of justice.
The Principles on Effective Interviewing advise how to shift mindsets and institutional cultures away from confession-driven practices, and towards rapport-based interviewing. This method is more effective in obtaining accurate information, and more respectful of the human rights of those being interviewed.
These principles elicit reliable information that is more likely to be admissible in court cases. because they do not rely on coercive methods, such as torture and ill-treatment, which lead to false confessions and unreliable information.
There is another crucial element. Use of these principles can increase confidence in public institutions, and help eliminate the distrust and resentment that erodes the social contract between the people and their government.
For many communities, law enforcement is the primary interface between the State and its citizens. The Principles can contribute to people perceiving State authorities – starting with law enforcement personnel – as agents that respect, protect and promote human rights, not as an unjust or oppressive force.
The Principles being launched today are an important contribution to human rights in the administration of justice. I hope that policymakers will grasp their validity and potential. I encourage Governments across the world to take the necessary steps to review and reform the interviewing and information-gathering practices of law enforcement personnel, administrative authorities, or any other person acting in an official capacity.
I look forward to continued collaboration with you as we strive to enhance law enforcement practices that strengthen respect for human rights, reinforce the rule of law and contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.