If you are taken in for interrogation by the police


If hardening yourself as a target has failed and you are kidnapped or simply just picked up by the police and taken in for questioning, a new chapter is about to open in your life.  Every human psychological and physical resource that you have will be needed to help you survive a kidnapping or a police interrogation.

Throughout the history of the human rights movement well-known persons who have been taken suddenly into police custody or even kidnapped by unknown people have usually been released in response to loud, public alarms about those disappearances and detentions.   However, most cartoonists will not fall into this category of well-known persons.  People who are lesser-known and find themselves kidnapped or taken in for questioning must have their support networks fight for some media attention.   If your fate is immediately known to the helping organizations and you have been counted as a missing person, you will have a much better chance of survival.  If you are picked up for questioning by the police, your family should immediately contact all of the network members and issue a press release explaining your danger.   They should also send letters of protest to both the head of state and to the police station nearest to the incident.  

The experience of others who have found themselves in police custody informs us of the importance of conducting yourself in a certain way.  Do not get angry.  Do not challenge your captors.  Answer their questions simply and as honestly as you can.  You should never sign anything while in captivity.  It will come back to haunt you later.  Neither should you reveal the names of colleagues or friends who may be involved in your Facebook network or who are producing cartoons with you or sharing a website with you.  Often the purpose of an interrogation is to get you to reveal the names of other people so the police will have a fresh list of people to interrogate.  Giving out the names of your friends or colleagues during interrogation means the same horrible fate will probably fall on them.  

Keep in mind that this is a temporary situation; typically the police can't hold you forever contrary to the due process of the law.  And if this is simply because of drawing cartoons of political figures, there will soon be political pressure brought to bear to get you released.  Try to survive as best you can without giving any incriminating statements.  Keep foremost in mind that what you are doing as a cartoonist is a job worth doing, it is protected by international law, and that in fact you are deeply committed to your love of country.

Do not get overly talkative.  Do not make challenging eye contact or facial movements.  Give them absolutely no reason to make them hit you or use other more drastic interrogation techniques on you.

Interrogations usually start very politely and very nicely.  They will try to befriend you, try to make you feel safe, and tell you that as soon as you answer a few simple questions they will let you go.  You can play along with this.  But bear in mind, the questions will soon become more and more threatening as your interrogators fail to get the kind of information from you that they want.  Eventually, they may try to get you to confess to something that you probably didn't do.  Never confess to anything in response to their promise that once you sign a confession, they will let you go.  These interrogators are trained experts and they are convinced that what they are doing is for the better good of the state.  They fear no punishment or criticism for what they are doing to you.

As soon as possible have photographs taken of any wounds or bruises resulting from physical beatings.  Any evidence of their mistreatment that can later be used in a court of law against the police should be recorded immediately upon your release.  If you have to go to a hospital, take pictures of yourself in the hospital bed.  Prominently show any bandages that are wrapping wounds.  Be absolutely sure to have copies of the hospital discharge statement documenting your wounds and the doctor’s name.  

It is an excellent idea for you to go online and explore search terms like interrogations, surviving interrogation, police interrogations, methods used in interrogations, etc.


  • Be mentally prepared if there is a tradition of the police arresting and interrogating journalists in your country.
  • Be sure that the leader of your support network knows what to do in the event of your being abducted or detained.

Previous Segment     Table of Contents     Next Segment