The primary goal of documenting allegations of human rights violations is to create an accurate, reliable and precise record of events. The uses to which this record may be put are varied, but all rely on the quality of the record which has been established. Factors which contribute to the quality of information are:
- The source of the information. Was the information obtained directly from the victim? The further away from the alleged victim or incident the information comes, the less reliable it is likely to be.
- The level of detail. Is the allegation very detailed? Are there unexplained gaps in the account? The more detail obtained, the better, because it helps others to understand what happened, and it also helps to prevent allegations of fabrication. Psychological and/or organic explanations for gaps should be kept in mind.
- The absence or presence of contradictions. Minor inconsistencies are common and should not affect the overall quality of the information, but major inconsistencies or contradictions should prompt seeking further clarification of the information.
- The absence or presence of elements which support (corroborate) or disprove the allegation. Are there witness statements, medical certificates or any other supporting information? The more supporting documentation that is provided, the more likely it is that the allegation will be found credible, but its absence is not evidence that the ill-treatment did not occur.
- The extent to which the information demonstrates a pattern. Is the allegation one of a number alleging similar facts? Where there is evidence of a practise, there may be a greater presumption that the information is true.
- The age of the information. Is the information very recent? Does it relate to facts which occurred several years previously? The fresher the information, the easier it is to investigate or verify the facts alleged.