Collect and Preserve Documentation

SJAC collects and preserves documentation of violations of human rights, humanitarian, and international criminal law in Syria in order to facilitate transitional justice and accountability efforts. Unlike in previous conflicts, information and communication technologies — especially mobile devices — have enabled widespread documentation of violations, such that lack of documentation is not a primary challenge. Rather, key challenges are capturing and preserving the massive quantities of data, along with ensuring that documentation is comprehensive, credible, and of high enough quality to be useful in future transitional justice processes.

Documentation is collected from trusted individuals and organizations from all over Syria. SJAC also captures documentation from displaced persons, as well as documentation published publicly on the internet. SJAC gathers documentation of all violations — regardless of the affiliation of victims or perpetrators. To promote credible and high-quality documentation, SJAC also provides guidance and expertise to documenters and other actors working toward similar goals.

Once collected, SJAC stores documentation in a secure database, which will be made available once justice and accountability mechanisms are established. The security of victims and those who report violations is paramount. SJAC therefore has strict security and data-sharing protocols designed to ensure that sensitive personal information is protected, and only shared with accountability institutions under specific circumstances, each requiring a case-by-case determination.

Additionally, the preservation of this documentation will facilitate the telling of victims’ stories — in accountability and memorialization processes, but also to be remembered by all Syrians, historians, and the broader global community.

Catalogue and Analyse Documentation

SJAC has collected and archived terabytes of documentation. Each incident in the database is processed and catalogued so that it can be analysed and used to facilitate immediate, short-term, and long-term justice and accountability efforts.

SJAC’s cataloguing methodology is based on international legal standards and best practices. For example, each piece of documentation is tagged and labeled with source information, temporal markers, geographical data, information about types and methods of violations, and actor identifiers with respective roles. Each piece of documentation also undergoes a multi-tiered reliability assessment.

After documentation is catalogued, the SJAC database enables linking documentation based on correlation. For example, documents or videos may be linked with particular perpetrators, or with each other in connection to particular incidents. Documentation can be retrieved, filtered, sorted, and aggregated, as well as analysed using big data techniques — allowing SJAC data scientists to report on patterns of violations and shed light on facts.

Promote Justice & Accountability

One of SJAC’s main goals is to ensure that documentation and analysis is used to drive justice and accountability processes. Above all, such processes must be based on the interests and needs of the Syrian people.

SJAC provides resources and expertise to Syrians concerned with accountability during transition, to generate dialogue and debate. This includes collecting reports and studies of other countries’ transitional justice experiences into a Transitional Justice Library, and analysing options that may be available in Syria. SJAC also conducts a variety of public consultation initiatives to inform its work, identify Syrians’ perceptions and concerns, and influence international and domestic policy.

Also important is that justice and accountability processes are driven by facts. SJAC therefore envisions using the documentation it collects and analyses to provide facts based on data analysis. This includes shedding light on trends in violations, examining underreported areas, and exposing major violations. Collation of factual information can drive processes, such as addressing rampant violations (such as torture) or major concerns (such as those of displaced persons who have lost property). SJAC’s purpose is to use data to:

  • Remind perpetrators and assure victims that perpetrators will be held accountable
  • Prevent recurrence of violations in a future Syria through principled reform
  • Ensure that a narrative of victims’ stories is heard not only in accountability processes but throughout history