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 24-page report, “Judge, Jury and Executioner: the ISIS Bureau of Justice and Grievances,” is based upon a review of nearly 300 ISIS documents—from judgments and sentencing documents, to arrest warrants and interrogation reports, marriage and death certificates, and statements on Ramadan and communications technology. The report looks at the ultimate jurisdiction, power, and control of this Bureau, previously portrayed by ISIS as merely a branch of the judiciary designated to hear complaints against ISIS public officials and fighters.
In May 2019, SJAC obtained 277 internal ISIS documents gathered by an independent, local activist from within abandoned ISIS administrative offices in Tabqa, Raqqa Governorate. Prevalent among these documents were death sentences imposed for minor offenses by a mysterious entity called the Bureau of Justice & Grievances (“the Bureau”). Today, SJAC publishes five such documents signed by Bureau decision-makers, unmasking the decision-making behind the mistreatment of Syrian victims.
“The prevalence of this Bureau’s name across such a wide-range of uniform judicial and administrative documents is indicative of the Bureau’s expansive responsibilities and oversight in Raqqa and beyond,” said Mohammad Al Abdallah, SJAC Executive Director of SJAC
Key documents illustrate how the Bureau imposed public lashings for allegations of theft and the death penalty for blaspheming God, uncovering the Bureau as a central actor in the perpetration of violence against those living under ISIS.
“The way the Bureau exercised control unmistakably mimics the Syrian government’s centralization of repression and control within the shadowy government intelligence services and underlines the challenge of escaping Syria’s long history of authoritarian abuses,” Al Abdallah added.
SJAC recommends that based on the findings of this report, special war crimes units and prosecutors should prioritize the extradition, investigation and prosecution of members of the Bureau. SJAC shall continue to undertake documentation and support justice efforts by identifying those most responsible for violations against Syrian victims.
The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian civil society organization working towards a Syrian state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, where citizens from all components of Syrian society live in peace without fear. Its mission is to promote justice and accountability in Syria by ensuring that human rights violations are comprehensively documented, and that documentation data is securely preserved, catalogued, and analyzed to advance transitional justice and peace-building.