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Sri Lankan atrocities compel developers to build war crimes reporting app

Mass atrocities carried out during the final phase of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka compelled developers to launch a new smart phone app that allows war crimes to be documented and verified instantly.

Named “eyeWitness to Atrocities”, the app was designed after developers saw mobile phone footage of Sri Lankan soldiers executing Tamils who had surrendered in May 2009. It will allow users to instantly upload photo and video footage of potential war crimes to a secure database and to legal experts, so that evidence can be used in the prosecution of war criminals.

"This could be a real game-changer in the fight for human rights and international justice ... and provide a solution to the evidentiary challenges surrounding mobile phone footage," said International Bar Association (IBA) executive director Mark Ellis. "It will also allow media outlets to use the footage and remove any doubts regarding authenticity that may have previously prevented them from showing mobile phone videos."

The app adds a time stamp and embeds a GPS location to any uploaded footage ensuring it can be used almost anywhere in the world. Furthermore, it has a secure “panic” mode if the user’s device is about to be searched by security forces, or the potential perpetrators of such crimes.

“There will be no trace to show that a particular video was there,” said Ian McDougall, general counsel of Lexis Nexis told the Guardian. “There will be a team of lawyers from the IBA in London who will review the footage and decide if it should be submitted to an international war crimes tribunal.”

The final stages of the armed conflict saw mass killings of Tamils by Sri Lankan security forces and numerous other atrocities including the execution of those who surrendered. Many of the crimes were caught on mobile phone footage by both the victims and perpetrators.

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