New Principles on Effective Interviewing: A gateway to strengthen torture prevention worldwide

On 19 May 2021, H.E. Ramses Joseph Cleland, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations in Geneva delivered a statement at an online side-event on “Implementing the New ‘Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering – Towards Better and Fairer Administration of Justice’”, organised by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), a key partner of CTI; the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF); the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) and the UNODC Justice Section.

Held on the margins of  the 30th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) taking place in Vienna on 17-21 May 2021, the event aimed to raise awareness on the new ‘Principles on Effective Interviewing’ (Méndez Principles). A key development in the torture prevention field, the Principles provide practical guidance on how to replace coercive interrogation by non-coercive and rapport-based interviewing techniques and the effective implementation of safeguards from the first hours of police custody throughout the interview process. They are intended to assist authorities to improve the effectiveness, fairness, and outcomes of investigation and intelligence gathering processes, whilst protecting the inherent dignity and human rights of persons being interviewed. The event  provided a platform to explore avenues for implementation and future collaboration between States and their criminal justice and law enforcement agencies, international organizations and civil society. Speakers discussed the important role of the Principles in strengthening the normative framework on law enforcement and human rights, how to develop operational national procedures in line with the new Principles as well as upcoming training tools on investigative interviewing.

In its work towards universal ratification and improved implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), CTI has made it one of its key strategic priorities to support States in their torture prevention efforts through the implementation of safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment in the first hours of police custody, including on investigative interviewing techniques. Throughout the development and drafting process, CTI has been very supportive of the new Principles and has, through its various activities, raised awareness among State actors about their benefits to effective policing and the prevention of torture. In addition, Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat, has actively contributed to the drafting of the new Principles as an expert to the Advisory Council. 

CTI has held a number of regional seminars where States have shared their experiences and challenges in implementing safeguards against torture and ill-treatment, including investigative interviewing. Examples include CTI’s Global Seminar on Cooperation and Innovation in Policing, held in October 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the regional seminar for Asia-Pacific countries held in November 2019 in Bali. CTI regularly receives requests for further training and awareness-raising on the benefits of non-coercive interviewing techniques.

As part of its UNCAT Implementation Tool series, CTI  partnered with the NCHR to develop a training tool on ‘Investigative Interviewing for Criminal Cases’ to provide guidance to police, other law enforcement officers and criminal justice actors involved in the investigative process on ways to conduct coercion-free questioning of suspects, witnesses and victims. CTI has also developed a tool on ‘Safeguards in the first hours of police detention’. To further support independent, effective and human rights-oriented police service, CTI is now preparing a practical resource toolkit gathering existing resources, standards and good State practices.  

In his statement at the event, Ambassador Cleland specifically mentioned CTI’s professional training workshop on investigative interviewing for West African States held from 13-15 April 2021 in partnership with with the NCHR and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa, hosted by the Government of Ghana as a CTI Core State. Speaking about the workshop’s success, Ambassador Cleland noted the considerable interest in effective interviewing shown by West African countries and the capacity for change within law enforcement.

On behalf of the six CTI core States, Ambassador Cleland welcomed the completion of the new Principles and highlighted:

The implementation of the ‘Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering’ in practice will lead to better outcomes for investigations and, at the same time, a reduction in the risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

H.E. Ramses Joseph Cleland, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations in Geneva

CTI will continue supporting States to implement non-coercive investigative interviewing and will be organizing regional seminars on this topic in the near future.

Ambassador Cleland’s full statement is available here.

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