A Toxic Legacy – Chemical Weapons and Birth Defects in Syria

  Since 2012, chemical weapon attacks by the Assad government have killed and injured thousands of Syrians. Such attacks are not only deadly but also psychologically terrorizing for victims. However, emerging evidence suggests that these weapons may have a further, long-term impact that has been under-examined and rarely documented. In early 2021, a doctor in […]

What Afghanistan Portends for Syria

  As of this writing, Afghanistan remains in crisis with victims reeling from ISIS-Khoresan’s attacks on civilians and U.S. soldiers at the Kabul airport. Numerous efforts are underway to evacuate U.S. citizens, as well as Afghans whose assistance was crucial in facilitating the work of the U.S. efforts at state-building. The disturbing reality of the […]

Why the US Should Expand Sanctions in Northern Syria

  The recent imposition of U.S. sanctions on the Turkish-backed armed group Ahrar al-Sharqiya represents a step forward in protecting human rights in northern Syria. Reactions to the sanctions by affiliates of Ahrar al-Sharqiya and its allies show that the designation may be a powerful tool to change behavior, and the U.S. should extend sanctions […]

NGOs are Not Prepared to Fill the Gap if UN Votes to End Cross Border Aid

  Since the beginning of Syria’s conflict, international bodies have struggled to provide sufficient humanitarian aid to Syrians throughout the country. Humanitarian mechanisms and NGOs have encountered a host of problems, including, but not limited to, unstable security conditions on the ground, attacks against humanitarian aid personnel, insufficient donations, and challenges reaching those in remote […]

Foreign Aid and Demographic Change in Northwest Syria

Recent media reports from Northwest Syria have once again raised concerns about the prospect of forced demographic change in the country and the role of foreign aid in facilitating this process. These reports specifically focus on the role of Kuwait and other regional governments in financing Turkish-led reconstruction efforts on land in Afrin belonging to […]

Brussels V: Prolonging the Present Crisis

The fifth annual Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the Region’ (Brussels V) concluded on March 30 with disappointing results. Although participants put forth an admirable vision for improved humanitarian prospects in Syria and neighboring countries, pledged donor aid fell. Moreover, the aid did not come with the international political commitments needed to ensure that the funds can effectively reach those who need them. The conference rather promised to extend for another year the problematic system […]

Brussels Conference Attendees Should Call for EU Member-States and Agencies to End Policies that Risk the Deportation of Refugees to Syria

The Brussels Conference provides an opportunity for European Union member-states to voice their support for negotiated peace in Syria and to pledge humanitarian aid for communities devastated by the ten-year conflict, both within Syria and in host countries. This past year, however, European states have not fulfilled their own obligations as host states to protect […]

Building Pressure Against EU Treatment of Refugees and Migrants

  Over the last decade, EU treatment of Syrian refugees has been ambivalent. On the one hand, some states have shown generosity by accepting and supporting large numbers of Syrians fleeing conflict. For example, Germany has accepted 1.5 million Syrians, providing support to many. On the other hand, as domestic political pressures have mounted, there […]

ISIS and Cycles of Violence: Attaining Security by Protecting Rights in Syria and Iraq

  The continued failure to obtain justice in the Syrian conflict is contributing to cyclical violence beyond the country’s borders in neighboring Iraq. Both the January 21 suicide bombings in Baghdad—part of a wider resurgence of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria—and the Iraqi government’s subsequent decision to summarily execute hundreds of prisoners on terrorism […]

Syrian Organizations Respond to the UN Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures

  A full PDF of this statement is available here. The undersigned organizations stress the need to strategically assess the prevailing argumentation surrounding a renewed debate about US sanctions policy in Syria. Neither the recent criticisms of US sanctions by the UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, nor the response by US officials, adequately […]

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 […]

A Historic Apology: The YPG Acknowledges Wrongdoing in Amouda

On June 27 and 28, 2013, The People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces killed six civilians associated with protests against the arbitrary detention of Yekiti Party members in the Northeast town of Amouda. The killings in Amouda have long been public knowledge; Human Rights Watch and the US State Department have both written about the crimes. […]

Turkey Has Opened the Door to the European Court of Human Rights for Syrian Victims

As most readers will be aware, Syrian victims of the nine-year conflict in their country have scant opportunities for justice. Russia has repeatedly vetoed efforts to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and we are left with a patchwork of trials in Europe under universal jurisdiction. To date, those trials have focused […]

The Caesar Act: Impacts and Implementation

In late December 2019, President Donald Trump signed a $738 billion defense policy bill that included legislation to further the existing sanctions regime targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Passed as part of the new law was the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, a nod to the pseudonym used by the Syrian military […]

The reality of displacement in Idlib: “Only the children were laughing”

The governorate of Idlib in northwest Syria has been under bombardment by Russian and Syrian forces since April of 2019, with an increased assault in December. Since December 16th, over 250,000 civilians have fled the bombardment in Idlib and many have been killed. One of SJAC’s team members based in Idlib was displaced from his […]

VIDEO: Return is a Dream

The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre’s report, ‘Return is a Dream,’ explores the history of property ownership and administration in Syria and examines property related crimes committed throughout the conflict. This video highlights the history, research, and recommendations on property restitution in Syria made by SJAC. Some of the recommendations outlined in this report include […]

SJAC Launches Universal Jurisdiction Guides

On September 4, 2019, SJAC launched its Universal Jurisdiction guides at an event at the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin organized by SJAC in partnership with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and the Caesar Files Group. Legal practitioners, activists, and ordinary Syrians joined the discussion on the rights […]

“Their only sin was to want to live in dignity:” Urgent Action is Needed in Idlib

  In June, SJAC’s Documentation Team Lead crossed the border from southern Turkey into Northwest Syria in order to spend the Eid holiday with her family. The Team Lead manages SJAC’s field team and network of documentation partners, and she is well-aware of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, where indiscriminate airstrikes are placing over three […]

The Astana Process Has Failed Idlib

Over the past two weeks, Russia and the Syrian government have significantly escalated airstrikes on the de-escalation zone in Northwestern Syria, pounding the last rebel-held territories in southern Idlib and Northern Hama. The humanitarian costs of these attacks have already been devastating. The Syrian government, once again, is fighting with an utter disregard for civilian […]

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 […]

Understanding the Role of Sanctions in the Syrian Conflict

  Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, foreign countries have imposed economic sanctions on the Syrian government, implementing what has been called “some of the most complicated and far reaching sanction regimes ever imposed.”  While the countries in question claim that such sanctions place targeted pressure on the Assad government and its allies […]

A New Constitution is Not the Solution for Syria

The leaders of Germany, Russia, Turkey and France participate in a press conference in November, where they endorsed the prompt creation of a constitutional committee. Source: the Kremlin   In late November, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura announced that he would delay his resignation to make one final push to create a constitutional committee. […]

Revitalizing Civil Society Engagement in the Geneva Process

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura addresses the press in January 2018. Source: UNIS Vienna   When the UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura first decided to form a Civil Society Support Room (CSSR) in 2016, many human rights organizations, including SJAC, were excited to have the opportunity to participate. Civil society organizations […]

De Mistura’s Mistakes: What the New UN Special Envoy Should Learn from the Past Four Years

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura during the Munich Security Conference in 2017. Source: Wikimedia   On November 1st, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the appointment of Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen to the position of UN Special Envoy for Syria. As the international community prepares for Staffan de Mistura’s departure from the position at the […]

#EyesOnIdlib: Prioritizing Syria at the UN General Assembly

The UN General Assembly Hall in New York City, where the high-level week will take place this month. Source: Wikimedia   Next week, heads of state and foreign ministers will gather at the United Nations in New York for the annual high-level week during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. In the backdrop […]

What Kofi Annan Understood about Syria

In the days since the death of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, many have written touching tributes about his historic tenure at the United Nations and his role in mediating peace in Kenya and East Timor. Annan’s role as the UN Special Envoy for Syria, however, has received comparatively little attention. Annan was the […]

Race to the Ballot Box: UN Must Learn from Past Mistakes, Avoid Pre-Mature Elections in Syria

Last week, the eighth round of UN-sponsored peace negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition began in Geneva. Leading the talks, Syria Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura prioritized discussion of elections. In March 2016, de Mistura had proposed an 18-month timeline for the election date, and the issue has continued to be on the […]

De Mistura versus the Commission of Inquiry: Where does the Syrian conflict actually stand?

  On August 30, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura delivered a Security Council briefing regarding the situation in Syria, wherein he spoke of de-escalating violence, advancing the political process, and combatting terrorism. In doing so, the Special Envoy painted an illusorily warm portrait of the current situation. The same week, the UN […]

Public Participation is a Must for Drafting Syria’s Next Constitution

In December 2015, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2254 with the goal of creating a roadmap to facilitate a political transition in Syria. In the recent round of peace talks, the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura prioritized elections and a new Syrian constitution as key steps to implement the Resolution. The United […]