New Documents Show Syrian Government Used Schools for Military Purposes

The devastation of the Syrian conflict on the country’s education system has been widely reported since the early days of the conflict. Schools have been targeted by military airstrikes, become impromptu shelters for displaced persons, and been used for military purposes by both government and opposition forces. Today, in recognition of the International Day of […]

SJAC Shares New Human Rights Training in Arabic

  For more than 9 years, Syrian activists and human rights groups have collected documentation and evidence on violations of human rights and international law in Syria. This documentation is vital to the success of justice processes, but in order to be usable it needs to meet international quality standards.  However, many of the human […]

SJAC Launches Missing Persons Program in Northeast Syria

SJAC, in collaboration with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), has begun providing technical trainings in mass grave exhumation and documentation to the First Responders’ Team (FRT) working to open mass graves in Northeast Syria. These trainings are part of SJAC’s larger efforts to address the thousands of missing persons in the aftermath of ISIS’s […]

REPORT RELEASE: SJAC Unmasks Decision-Makers Behind ISIS Brutality

The ISIS Bureau of Justice & Grievances played a central role in the governance and decision-making of administrative, civil, and criminal matters, terrorizing local communities by facilitating the establishment of the organization’s draconian rule over parts of Syria and Iraq, said the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) in a new report published today. The […]

SJAC’s Database: How SJAC is Using Technology to Transform the Field of Human Rights Documentation

  The Syrian conflict has been documented by civilians and eyewitnesses at an unprecedented scale. Perpetrators, victims, and eye-witnesses have captured millions of videos and images, many of which have been disseminated in real-time across the internet. The ability to capture and publicize such massive amounts of documentation has profound implications for the human rights […]

Breaking the Cycle of Enforced Disappearances

On Friday, August 30, the United Nations will observe the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. For Syrians, this day serves as a stark reminder of the tens of thousands who remain missing after years of conflict. While widespread disappearances are a defining aspect of the present conflict, the Syrian government is responsible […]

Anti-migrant Political Climate in Turkey Triggers Deportation of Syrian Nationals

Since July 12th, Turkish authorities have begun a crackdown on migrants living in Istanbul, following statements from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on new deportation policies targeting Syrians refugees accused of committing crimes. The policy has transformed into the removal of all unregistered Syrian nationals from Istanbul, and has led to the forced deportation of some […]

Meeting the Challenges of Northeastern Syria

In recent months, discussions on Northeastern Syria have centered on one question: who will control the region after a United States military draw down? The answer will undoubtedly shape the future of the region. Yet as these discussions carry on, local communities are facing a number of immediate challenges that, if ignored, will irreversibly hinder […]

Report Release: An Analysis of Survivor Accounts of SGBV in Syria

  Since the earliest days of the conflict in Syria, rumors and reports of sexual and gender-based violence have been rampant, but collecting high-quality documentation of such crimes has proved challenging. Since 2014, SJAC has made a concerted effort to access survivors of SGBV and document their experiences, in an attempt to understand how SGBV […]

The Dangers and Difficulties of Counting Victims in Syria

  The plight of thousands of detained Syrians has come to public attention in recent months, as the government has begun to update civil registries with previously unreported deaths in custody. Many of the news reports covering this issue include the number of those who are currently believed to be held in government-run detention facilities. […]

What SJAC has Learned from Documenting the Role of Children in the Syrian Conflict

SJAC’s database contains over 1.8 million pieces of documentation, covering a wide cross section of human rights violations being committed in Syria. To make sense of this huge volume of data so that it can be searched, linked, and filtered in the future, SJAC’s Data Analysis team labels and analyzes each piece of documentation with […]

The Responsibility of Technology Companies in the Age of Digital Human Rights Documentation

Over the past few weeks, the video streaming website YouTube has removed thousands of videos and numerous channels of organizations and individuals documenting atrocities from the Syrian conflict. Although some channels and videos were restored following complaints, many significant videos are still missing. The purge is part of a Google effort to implement machine learning […]

Bridging the Digital Divide of Human Rights Documentation in Syria

This week in Brussels, human rights and technology organizations convened at RightsCon to hear about the latest developments at the intersection of the Internet and human rights. At the same time, a collaborative effort between Amnesty International, Benetech, and The Engine Room released the Arabic version of DatNav: How to navigate digital data for human […]

Human Rights Documentation in the Age of Digital Data

In May 2016, the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC), along with 12 other organizations, gathered in Berlin to create a guide that would help human rights defenders navigate responsible data collection in the digital age. The project was a result of collaboration between Amnesty International, Benetech, and The Engine Room. The groups worked for […]

Monitoring is Needed for All Detention Facilities in Syria

Inside Saydnaya: Syria’s Torture Prison, Video of Amnesty International   Prisons are by their very nature isolated and concealed spaces where abuses can go unnoticed, and in countries with ongoing conflict, prisons are often rife with human rights violations. Already, a former photographer with the Syrian military police showed the world evidence of widespread torture […]

Securing Archives at Risk: Event hosted by Swisspeace

On October 1, the Executive Director of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC), Mohammad Al Abdallah, delivered a keynote address at a Swisspeace-hosted conference on “securing archives at risk.” The conference, held in Bern, Switzerland, addressed the complexities of securing and protecting records of human rights and international criminal law violations when those records […]

For Documenters: Top 7 Takeaways from Witness’s Guide to Filming SGBV Survivors

  Syria Justice and Accountability Center is currently working to improve efforts to effectively document sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), including its documentation strategy and coordination with different types of SGBV responders. Witness, a nonprofit organization that trains people on filming human rights-related video, recently released a Guide on how to film interviews with […]

Seven Key Questions to Document the Effects of Airstrikes in Syria

  Whether used for advocacy or justice, documentation of attacks will be much more effective if it is strictly factual and uses uniform terminology and standards. Military determinations of legitimate targets, as well as international legal determinations of whether attacks are lawful, follow strict principles that should be reflected in reporting. Therefore, if reporting is […]

Armed Opposition’s Indiscriminate Attacks in Aleppo

Since the Syrian army entered Syrian cities in mid-2011, most cities have been divided between regime-controlled areas and armed opposition-controlled areas. Syrian city inhabitants are the primary sufferers of this division. This division is present in Aleppo, which is divided into Eastern and Western sections, and in the Damascus region, with damascene suburbs and the […]

Reparations: Founded upon Data and Dialogue

Today’s post highlights the fourth installment of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre’s “Memorandum Series.” For more on Documentation and Truth-seeking, download and read the full memorandum, “Using Data, Documentation, and Evidence in Reparations Processes,” prepared for the SJAC by Christalla Yakinthou. Reparations processes need not be considered a post-war activity; in best-case scenarios, much […]

Participate in funerals or get arrested.

 The Syria Justice and Accountability Center works to collect and document cases from different sources concerning the arrests and abductions of Syrian citizens. The center is highlighting some of these cases to demonstrate the systematic nature of these actions, to illustrate the center’s work, and to encourage other victims to testify, given the importance of […]

On the way to work, a trip to death.

The Syria Justice and Accountability Center works to collect and document cases from different sources concerning the arrests and abductions of Syrian citizens. The center is highlighting some of these cases to demonstrate the systematic nature of these actions, to illustrate the center’s work, and to encourage other victims to testify, given the importance of […]

Sexual and Gender Based Violence: Awareness Promotes Avenues for Justice

As in most conflicts zones, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) has been prevalent in the current Syrian context. A December 2013 Amnesty International memo, for example, reports “most of the Syrian women refugees [Amnesty International] has spoken to in refugee camps said that their main reason for leaving Syria was fear of rape and […]

Razed Neighborhoods

Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report, “Razed to the Ground: Syria’s Unlawful Neighborhood Demolitions,”  with satellite imagery documenting the destruction of entire neighborhoods in Damascus and Hama. The images, when juxtaposed against images from a few months before, offer stark evidence of the destruction of at least 145 hectares of neighborhoods. Many of […]

Seeking the Truth with Documentation

Today’s post highlights the third installment of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre’s “Memorandum Series.” For more on Documentation and Truth-seeking, download and read the full memorandum, “Data Collection and Documentation for Truth-seeking and Accountability,” prepared for the SJAC by Patrick Ball and Megan Price, here. The need to establish the truth around events is […]

Memorializing with Documentation

Today’s post spotlights the second installment of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre’s “Memorandum Series.” For more on Documentation and Memorialization, download and read the full memo “Documentation and its Role in Memorialization,” prepared for the SJAC by Ereshnee Naidu, here. Successful transitional justice aims to ensure peace, respect for human rights, and the rule […]

Institutional Reform Needs Documentation

Today’s post spotlights the first installment of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre’s “Memorandum Series.” For more on Documentation and Institutional Reform, download and read the full memo “Syria: Data, Documentation and Evidence to Support Institutional Reform,” prepared for the SJAC by Daniel Serwer, here. Documentation lies at the center of the SJAC’s work, and […]

Polio spreads as targeting of health workers continues

In the latest example of Syria’s dire health crisis, ten cases of polio were confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) this week. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise given the circumstances. While the conflict puts many Syrians at risk, two particular kinds of tactics—the targeting of health workers and the denial of access to […]

Hezbollah’s executions highlight violations against detainees

    As a stark reminder of the pervasive climate of impunity in Syria, a video recently posted online is said to show Hezbollah militants summarily executing their captives. Though unverified, the video may depict what could possibly constitute yet another war crime committed during the Syrian conflict. Mistreatment of detainees is a rampant problem, […]

The Short and the Long View: Documentation for Accountability

Recent days have seen a flurry of activities that have the potential to drive forward accountability in Syria. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 2118 requiring the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program, and there is renewed interest in the possibility for a Geneva II. But the efforts currently underway are unlikely to meet many […]

“On the Basis of Evidence”

The United Nations published yesterday its official “Report on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus.” The report owes its existence to a series of events culminating in the Syrian government granting UN investigators permission to visit the site of alleged chemical attacks east of Damascus. In return for permission […]

Chemical weapons aren’t the only lethal weapons in Syria

With international condemnation once again narrowed in on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, other grave human rights violations escape such attention.  As American comedian Jon Stewart sarcastically put it, “you can’t use chemicals to kill your own people, you have to do it organically.” The satire underlines the unfortunate reality that, while deserving […]

Ghouta Attack Underlines Value of Documentation

In addition to exposing and recording the reality of a horrifying chemical weapons attack, the photos, videos, and written reports from Ghouta also brought increased attention to the power of documentation itself. The concentration of documentation from Syrian citizens, journalists and groups– and not by foreign reporters, western NGOs, or even official organizations – produced […]

Musab AlShabib documents violations in Idlib

Much of the work of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre is founded on the critical role of documentation in supporting transitional justice. But where does this information come from, and who does the documenting? This week, we shed some light on this work by interviewing Musab AlShabib, a Syrian conducting documentation work with the […]

Fighting on the Coast Needs Documentation

The conflict in Syria took another turn last week when the country’s coastal region witnessed the outbreak of intense fighting between rebels and government forces. Not only do the clashes portend increasing violence in what had been a comparatively stable region, but it also highlights an area where documentation is markedly poor. Fighting in the […]

The Shallow and Deep Ends of Transitional Justice

At the outset of 2013, the SJAC commented on the need to keep up the momentum of transitional justice efforts in Syria. We wrote that “talking about transitional justice in the future is good, but it is the concrete efforts that Syrians are making today to document and disseminate information that will drive the success […]