Nuremberg at 75: Launching the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations

November 27, 2020

During a virtual event broadcast live from Nuremberg, Geneva, and Berkeley on December 1, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center will officially launch the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations, the first global guidelines for using public digital information—including photos, videos, and other information posted to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—as evidence in international criminal and human rights investigations.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Lord Mayor of Nuremberg Marcus König will open the event, which also commemorates the 75th anniversary of the use of film in the Nuremberg Trials.  

“The Protocol is, ultimately, about protecting human rights and advancing justice,” said the UN High Commissioner Michele Bachelet. “In this regard, I welcome in particular its principles of humility, inclusivity, and dignity.”

The Berkeley Protocol outlines minimum standards for the identification, collection, preservation, verification, and analysis of social media content and other digital open source information to improve its effective use in investigations. Spearheaded by the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Berkeley Protocol was shaped with input from more than 150 experts from around the world over the course of the past three years. 

“While an explosion of online information—sometimes captured by people in war zones who take great risk to do so—has shed light on human rights abuses and potential war crimes around the world, lawyers, journalists, researchers and advocates need to know how to handle this information ethically and effectively,” said Human Rights Center Executive Director Alexa Koenig. “The Berkeley Protocol is a living document that will help strengthen war crimes investigations using 21st century methods, with the goal of improving justice and accountability worldwide.”

Speakers at the event will include Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, who will be joined by diverse experts on the use of videos and other digital evidence in human rights investigations and international trials.

The Berkeley Protocol is the third document of its kind, building on the Istanbul and Minnesota Protocols, which created common global standards for investigating torture and extrajudicial killings.