Physical and psychological examinations by their very nature may re-traumatise an individual by provoking and/or exacerbating psychological distress and symptoms by eliciting painful memories. The interview must be structured so as to minimise the risk of re-traumatisation. According to the Istanbul Protocol:
Several basic rules must be respected (see chapter III, sect. C.2 (g). Information is certainly important, but the person being interviewed is even more so, and listening is more important than asking questions.— (IP, §134)
The clinician needs to balance two important requirements which should be complementary, but may sometimes conflict: the need to obtain a useful account, and the importance of respecting the needs of the person being interviewed. The primary goal of documenting allegations of torture is to create an accurate, reliable, precise and detailed record of events by taking into account the personal situation and the psychological condition of the individual.
Interviewers should show sensitivity in their questioning and watch out for signs of tiredness or distress. A subjective assessment has to be made by the clinician about whether and to what extent pressing for details is necessary for the effectiveness of the report in court, especially if the interviewee demonstrates obvious signs of distress.