Improving witness interviewing for the investigation of disappeared persons due to armed conflict

Derek Congram,Maria Mikellide, Matthew Vennemeyer (ICRC)
Publication Year
Thematic Area
Families / Forensics / The Search Process
Family Needs / Identification / Protecting/Restoring Family Links / Psychosocial Support / Recovery of remains / Excavation / Exhumation / Religious Aspects
Open access

Investigating missing persons who are presumed dead in conflict contexts almost always involves witness interviews. Interviews can be critical both to locating burial sites and to positively identifying bodies that are located. Despite the importance of interviews, the authors have found that investigators in these contexts seldom have formal training on interviewing. This article highlights three principal problems that the authors have experienced relative to interviewing as part of missing persons investigations in armed conflict contexts: that interviewing is not treated as a professional activity; the tendency to overvalue technical tools in the search for burial sites; and a lack of awareness about cultural and contextual factors that impact interviews. The article concludes with five recommendations on how to improve witness interviewing.