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EyeWitness app helps record war crimes for court cases

A new app will help record and document evidence of war crimes taking place, so that the perpetrators can ultimately face justice.

EyeWitness to Atrocities is launching in the Google Play store today and aims to make video footage captured on smartphones usable in court.

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Due to the prevalence of smartphones, amateur footage is playing an increasingly important role in news reporting, but these video clips are often difficult to prove as authentic. For example, late last year a video purporting to show a Syrian boy saving his sister from an onslaught of gunfire was revealed to be a fake.

EyeWitness has been developed by the International Bar Association and legal team at LexisNexis in order to make video evidence more secure and reliable. It works similarly to any other photo app, but also includes a secure mode which means that footage cannot be seen, or tampered with, if a recording device gets into the hands of a security official.

The app also adds GPS coordinates, time and other identifiers to each recording, as well as information on whether the video has been edited in any way. The app developers have also set up a secure database where individuals can upload their footage and have it examined by a team of legal experts.

The app is only being made available for Android phones, as the focus of the project is identifying human rights abuses occurring in developing countries, where lower end handsets dominate the market.

Although EyeWitness could have uses in developed countries, such as recording instances of police brutality, the project’s leader Wendy Betts told the BBC that the focus remains on areas where human rights abuses are widespread, such as war zones.

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The app is likely to prove useful for journalists, human rights campaigners and anyone else bearing witness to atrocities.