This is the sixth installment of our Video as Evidence Field Guide Series. Read more about the Field Guide here or below.

In the newest section of WITNESS’ Video as Evidence Field Guide, “Developing a Collection Plan for Gathering Video Evidence” (downloadable PDF available here), we cover how to create a Video Collection Plan to ensure the footage you collect supports justice and accountability instead of being irrelevant or duplicative. Because justice systems differ around the world, it is important to keep in mind that a Collection Plan doesn’t guarantee that your video will be used as evidence, but it can significantly strengthen the chances.

A Collection Plan is essentially a list that is created by investigators, lawyers, and in some cases human rights activists, to detail:

  • The Elements of a Crime or Defense, which are the specific things that a lawyer has to prove to:
    1.  find a defendant guilty; or
    2.  free someone who has been falsely accused of a crime.
  • Any type of evidence (i.e. video, photos, medical records, testimony) the lawyer has already collected to prove each element, or in other words, the “Completed” List; and
  • Any type of evidence the lawyer still needs to collect to prove each element, or in other words, the “To Do” List.


Collection planning is an advanced practice for human rights activists who intentionally seek to capture video footage for human rights documentation and use as potential evidence for long-term justice and accountability. Collection planning isn’t for an eyewitness who unexpectedly documents a human rights violation.

While it’s not mandatory, it’s ideal for activists to undertake the collection planning process in collaboration with local lawyers that they trust and want to work with moving forward. If you are able to work in a team, collection planning builds a stronger bridge between activists, non-governmental organizations, investigators and lawyers. Collection planning will strengthen and streamline this collaboration by:

  • Helping investigators and lawyers to better advise activists on the ground about what footage the activists should collect if they would like their video to be useful to the judicial process.
  • Helping activists to better understand what they should spend their time and effort on filming so it’s more likely the footage will be useful.


Most importantly, regardless of whether you have a legal partner or not, if you find this planning process outlined here too cumbersome, no worries – just keep in mind the Take Home Points on page 3 of the full section and when you have more time or need to implement the process more fully, the steps are here for you.

Additional information on the Video as Evidence Field Guide Series:

Content in the Video as Evidence Field Guide Series is drawn from our work with input from attorneys, investigators, analysts, legal scholars, funders and our peers documenting violations on-the-ground. The Field Guide provides step-by-step guidance and case studies on using video to document human rights abuses for evidentiary purposes. It aims to improve the reliability and effectiveness of video shot for human rights documentation and for the use as evidence in criminal and civil justice processes. Click here to read all posts in the series.

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