Effective Interviewing

Although the prohibition of torture is absolute, it frequently occurs during questioning by authorities and for the purpose of obtaining a confession and solving crimes. Around the world, false confessions and unreliable information arising from torture and ill-treatment during questioning have led to wrongful convictions, wasted resources, and miscarriages of justice. To address this, in 2016, Professor Méndez presented his last thematic report to the General Assembly as Special Rapportuer on Torture, calling for the development of a universal protocol on investigative interviewing and attendant legal safeguards. Professor Méndez advocated that non-coercive, ethically sound, evidence-based and empirically founded interviewing practices will enhance human rights compliance, optimize policing efforts, and make communities safer. After over four years of collaborative effort, we are pleased to share that the Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering, which will be referred to as the "Mendez Principles," were launched during an online event on June 9, 2021. 

A website dedicated to the Mendez Principles can be found here.


Developing the Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering

Following strategy meetings in 2017 and 2018, the Anti-Torture Initiative, Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) formed an institutional partnership to coordinate the development of and advocacy around the Mendez Principles. The ATI and its partners assembled a group of renowned experts to comprise the working groups of the initiative, representing geographical diversity, gender balance, diverse perspectives, and deep expertise in the substantive thematic areas that comprise the Mendez Principles. This included a Steering Committee (15 multi-disciplinary experts tasked with overseeing the development of the principles), an Advisory Council (+80 experts who provide technical and substantive input on various drafts), a Drafting Group, and an Editorial Group. 

Drafting of the document began in 2018 and was completed in May 2021. The Mendez Principles, which are grounded in science, law and ethics, provide guidance on how to conduct rapport-based interviewing, which is more effective in obtaining accurate information and more respectful of the human rights of persons being interviewed. The Mendez Principles aim to transform the relationship between States and their citizens and are intended to change how State authorities conduct interviews and as a result improve civic trust in the State. 

Broad in their scope and flexible in their application, the Mendez Principles apply to all interviews by information-gathering officials and are suitable for uncomplicated interviews as well as interviews that are more complex. The guidance provided in the Mendez Principles is intended for policymakers, interviewing professionals, and authorities involved in the conduct of interviews, including law enforcement and intelligence-gathering agencies. The goal is for the 6 principles elaborated in the document to be incorporated into States’ domestic laws, regulations, practices, and trainings.

The Mendez Principles will assist authorities around the world to improve the effectiveness and fairness of their investigations. By moving away from a culture of accusatory, coercive and confession-driven practices, States can draw upon the principles’ best practices and help ensure that the presumption of innocence is respected, that only guilty persons are convicted, that wrongly accused persons are freed, and that justice is served for victims and society at large.

Click here to read the Mendez Principles


Events & speaking engagements

March 9, 2022: The ATI participated in a side event to the 49th Session of the Human Rights Council. Panelists discussed how the Mendez Principles can strengthen human rights and uphold the rule of law across UN Member States.

December 10, 2021: To mark Human Rights Day, the ATI participated in an online event on the application of the Mendez Principles in Brazil. 

October 27, 2021: The ATI participated in an online presentation of the Mendez Principles in Mexico.

June 9, 2021: The Principles were officially launched during a high-level online global event that featured the participation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

March 7, 2021: The ATI participated in a side event to the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice that was co-sponsored by OHCHR, UNODC, APT, NCHR, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, and the Swiss Confederation. During the virtual event, Prof. Mendez introduced the content of the Principles and provided background on their development.

February 2020: An article authored by Prof. Mendez entitled “Hacia un Protocolo Universal para Entrevistas No Coercitivas,” on the impact of the Principles on Latin America was published in the edited volume of articles released by IBAHRI: Responding to Torture: Latin American perspectives on a Global Challenge

January 11, 2020: NCHR and UN Police Conference in Oslo. The NCHR and the UN Police (UNPOL) held a conference in Oslo, Norway to discuss the forthcoming UN Police Manual on non-coercive interviewing. Professor Méndez gave the keynote address and he and other members of the Steering Committee discussed the draft Protocol with specialists and practitioners from around the world.

November 28, 2019: 5th Colloquium of Police Law in Bern Professor Méndez gave a presentation entitled “A Universal Protocol on Non- Coercive Investigatory Interviews,” at the 5th Colloquium on Police Law in Bern, Switzerland, co-sponsored by the Swiss Police Institute and the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights.

November 11, 2019: Meeting at UN Headquarters in NY. The ATI, collaboration with the APT, NCHR, and OHCHR, organized and co-sponsored a meeting at UN headquarters in New York City to update Member States and civil society on the progress to develop the Protocol. The meeting included the participation of Professor Méndez, APT Secretary General Barbara Bernath, Drafting Group member Alka Pradhan, UN Police Adviser and the Director of Police Division Luis Carrilho, Senior Investigator from the Oslo Police Ingeborg Hansen, and former Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour.

September 3, 2019: Side event to Steering Committee meeting in Bangkok. The ATI, APT, NCHR, and the Thai Institute of Justice (TIJ) held a side event entitled “Professional Forum on Future of Investigation: Investigative Interviewing and Associated Safeguards for Thailand.” The high-level event sought to raise awareness on the Protocol and its importance as a tool to prevent torture and ill-treatment, to create momentum on the national level regarding the need to implement legal and procedural safeguards, to facilitate discussion between national actors, and to highlight good practices. Professor Méndez gave the keynote address.

June 26, 2019: International Investigative Interviewing Research Group Conference. Professor Méndez gave the keynote address at the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group annual conference in Stavern, Norway. During his address, he discussed the Protocol, the rationale for why it is necessary, and the progress made to date.

December 12, 2018: Side event to Steering Committee meeting in Tunis. Parallel to the Steering Committee meeting in Tunis, the APT and the Danish Institute against Torture (Dignity) organized a high-level side-event on the Protocol and the issues of investigative interviewing and safeguards in the early hours of detention. The event raised awareness around the Protocol at the national level and informed Steering Committee members about national-level practices and challenges of relevance to the Protocol’s prospective applicability The side-event consisted of a public session featuring the participation of Tunisian government representatives, including the Director of the Ministry of Interior’s Human Rights Department; the Chief of Cabinet of the Ministry for Relations with Constitutional Institutions, Civil Society, and Human Rights; the President of the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (INPT); and of Steering Committee members, including Professor Méndez. Following the public session, a closed round-table session between Steering Committee experts and representatives of the Ministry of Interior and INPT was held, which focused on the implementation of legal safeguards in Tunisia, particularly the right of access to a lawyer.

October 16, 2018: Progress on the Development of the Universal Protocol on Investigative Interviewing and Associated Safeguards. This side event at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, co-sponsored by the ATI, APT, and NCHR, provided an update on the progress being made toward drafting the Protocol, and reiterated the importance of implementing human rights-based standards and guidelines for investigative interviewing and associated safeguards, with a view to minimizing the use of torture, mistreatment, coercion, and intimidation against persons in custody and/or during interviews with law enforcement.

October 6, 2018: Interrogation and Torture: Integrating Efficacy with Law and Morality. Professor Méndez gave a keynote address before the International Managers of Police Academy and College Training (“IMPACT Section”) of the International Association of Chiefs of Police at the group’s Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.

September 20, 2018A Universal Protocol for Investigative Interviewing: An End to Interrogation and Torture. Professor Méndez gave a keynote speech about the importance of investigative interviewing and the development of the Protocol at a Conference hosted by the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  

Sept. 5, 2018: Protocol on Non-Coercive Interviews: Discussion with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBHARI). Former Special Rapporteur Méndez and fellow Steering Committee Members Psychiatrist Pau Perez-Sales and IBHARI’s Senior Program Lawyer Veronica Hinestroza discussed the development of the Universal Protocol for Investigative Interviewing and Associated Safeguards.
June 28, 2018: Roundtable on Investigative Interviewing in Brazil. The ATI and IBHARI hosted a roundtable in Brazil, with the support of the APT, Conectas Direitos Humanos and Brazil’s Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção e Combate à Tortura. The roundtable featured a discussion about the recent international developments on human rights standards for the conduct of interviews and investigations by law enforcement officials around the world and attendant legal and procedural safeguards. Local participants from institutions such as the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, Human Rights Secretariat, National Preventative Mechanism, and other local United Nations agencies were able to exchange good practices and lessons learned from their experiences with investigations, interviews, and the implementation of legal and procedural safeguards, and able to foster partnerships with other key stakeholders seeking to develop and implement their work.

December 7, 2017: Launch of “Changing Police Mindsets: From Coercion to Justice". The ATI and APT initiated work on the production of an animated video portraying the importance of using non-coercive methods to interview suspects and the implementation of legal safeguards during the first hours of police custody, which has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of torture.

October 5, 2017: Truth Without Torture: A Role-Play on Investigative Interviewing. The ATI co-sponsored and the Convention Against Torture Initiative organized a simulation and open debate about rapport-based investigative interviewing techniques at the International Committee of the Red Cross Museum in Geneva.

September 22, 2017: Torture During Interrogation: Illegal, Immoral, and Ineffective. The ATI co-hosted a high-level panel along with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Police and Convention Against Torture Initiative. The panel sought to develop standards during investigative interrogations by police and other law enforcement agencies to help States meet their obligations to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

November 30, 2017: North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture Public Hearing. Former Special Rapporteur Méndez testified at a public hearing held by the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT), alongside other witnesses, including a former detainee and former U.S. government agents, who condemned the use of coercive interrogation.

June 9, 2017: Universal Protocol Technical Roundtable The ATI hosted a roundtable with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the staff of UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour. Practitioners from five continents attended the roundtable and discussed the development of the Protocol. Participants agreed that a universal protocol on investigating interviewing would not only ensure better compliance with key human rights obligations (most notably the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment), but also optimize policing, produce better results in criminal investigations and prosecutions, strengthen trust in public institutions, and increase security and public safety.

January 27, 2017: Universal Protocol Strategy Meeting. The ATI and APT co-sponsored a strategy meeting in Geneva with leading anti-torture experts to discuss and establish a blueprint of action for the development of the Protocol. Experts at the meeting shared national experiences and considered the best options to make the Protocol a reality.

October 19, 2016: A Universal Protocol for Investigative Interviewing and Attendant Legal Safeguards. This side event at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly sensitized Member States to the need to develop a model of investigative interviewing that is non-coercive, ethically sound, evidence- and research-based, and empirically founded.

July 13, 2016: Expert Consultation for the Thematic Report on Investigative Interviewing. The ATI and Special Rapporteur Méndez hosted an expert consultation to inform the drafting of the Special Rapporteur’s final thematic report on investigative interviewing to the United Nations General Assembly. During the meeting, practitioners, academics, advocates, and experts from around the world discussed standards for investigative interviewing practices by law enforcement and associated legal safeguards applicable in criminal justice, counter-terrorism, and armed conflict.

Drafting Process

May 2018: First in-person Steering Committee meeting held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Committee elected its Co-Chairs (Juan E. Méndez & Mark Thompson), decided on the format and scope of the Protocol, the composition of the Drafting Group (comprised of two sub-working groups), a working timeline for the project, and the project’s main advocacy goals.

September 2018: First Drafting Group Workshop held in Geneva, Switzerland. The Drafting Group prepared an expanded outline of the Protocol, established anticipated drafting deadlines, and assigned sections to respective drafters.

December 2018: Second Meeting of the Steering Committee in Tunis, Tunisia. The Steering Committee reviewed the first draft of the Protocol and continued discussions on key issues of substance and strategy regarding the Universal Protocol’s future status and endorsement.

April 2019: Second Meeting of the Drafting Group in Oslo, Norway. The Drafting Group met to review the second draft of the Protocol and establish next steps for the completion of the third draft.

September 2019: Combined working meeting of the Steering Committee and Drafting Group in Bangkok, Thailand. The Steering Committee, along with members of the Drafting Group, met for a third time to review the third draft of the Protocol and advocacy approaches and strategies for endorsement were discussed.

June 2020: Fourth Meeting of the Steering Committee, held remotely. The Steering Committee discussed the current draft, having been reviewed for comments by the Advisory Council, made additional decisions regarding pending substantive issues and advocacy moving forward.

2021-2022: The Steering Committee held meetings as needed to discuss strategies for dissemination and endorsement.

Resources & News

Special Rapporteur Against Torture’s UN Report on Investigative Interviewing, U.N. Doc. A/71/298, (Aug. 5, 2016) 

Press Release, Set Universal Standards for Interviewing Detainees without Coercion, UN Anti-Torture Expert Urges States (Oct. 18, 2016).