Syria/France Arrest Warrants: NGOs Involved in the Case
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) was established by Mazen Darwish in Damascus in 2004 at a time when there was little public space for activism and civil society work. Beginning in 2011, SCM’s work shifted focus to a greater emphasis on documenting human rights violations and more active support for the media and freedom of speech activism. In June 2011, Mr. Darwish created the Documentation Center for Violations in Syria (VDC) as a project of SCM.
On 21 August 2013, the SCM’s head office was located in the city of Douma, not far from the impact sites of the chemical attacks. Working under the leadership of Razan Zaitouneh in the hours and days after the Ghouta sarin gas attack, the VDC team documented the scene, capturing extensive original photographs and video footage of the immediate aftermath, the attack site(s), and statements made by victims and witnesses alike. Ms. Zaitouneh was later kidnapped with three other colleagues–Nazem Al Hamadi, Samir Al Khalil and Wael Al Hamadah- during a raid of SCM’s office in Douma and has been missing ever since.
Journalists and human rights defenders working in conflict zones undertake unfathomable risks to capture evidence and share the footage online, asking global audiences to bear witness. Syrian Archive ’s mission is to urgently preserve and then maximise the evidentiary potential of the millions of disparate records posted to social media that document human rights violations and international crimes committed in Syria. The Syrian conflict has been called “the first social media war,” and the 21 August 2013 sarin gas attack on Al Ghouta is by far the most- and best-documented incident in our open-source archive. Our groundbreaking work producing detailed maps of online loyalist networks and deployments, created in collaboration with Security Force Monitor, corroborate other evidence on the command structures and operations of the Syrian army units responsible for this attack. The results of these investigations are a testament to the integral role of social media documentation for international criminal accountability and the strengths of online open-source information as evidence.
Established in 2014, Syrian Archive is a Syrian-led project that works primarily on digital open source and user-generated content with the aim of preserving, enhancing and memorialising documentation of human rights violations and other crimes committed by all parties to conflict in Syria for use in advocacy, justice and accountability.
To date, the project has preserved an estimated 40 years of open-source video claiming to document human rights violations and other serious crimes in Syria. Given this breadth of documentation and recognising an acute need, Syrian Archive designed and built highly regarded mass data archiving tools and methodology for collecting, preserving, processing, and verifying such material as potential evidence.
Mnemonic: a global organisation promoting human rights and accountability through the preservation and verification of open-source digital information. Mnemonic also hosts the Yemeni Archive, Sudanese Archive, and Ukrainian Archive.
Open Society Justice Initiative
The Open Society Justice Initiative is the strategic litigation program of the Open Society Foundations. Its lawyers, advocates, and staff specialize in documenting human rights violations, building complex cases, and pursuing strategic litigation in support of the broader mission and values of Open Society. The Justice Initiative has been involved in supporting accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria for over nine years, including through case development and representing victims before European courts. The work on Syria builds a record of support for international criminal justice efforts that dates back to Open Society’s support for the Yugoslav and Rwanda tribunals in the 1990s and includes supporting civil society engagement with the International Criminal Court.
Civil Rights Defenders
The Civil Rights Defenders, Is a politically and religiously independent human rights organization based in Sweden. CRD partners with and supports human rights defenders who work in some of the world’s most repressive regions.
The Association of Victims of Chemical Weapons (AVCW) is a group of victims, families of victims, and survivors of chemical attacks allegedly committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime using chemical weapons as crimes against unarmed civilians and aims to prosecute all those responsible.