About


The Syrian Archive is a Syrian led initiative that works to promote sustainable peace and respect for human rights within Syrian society through facilitating justice and accountability efforts.

This includes evidence gathering and documentation of incidents; the acknowledgment that war crimes and human rights violations have been committed by all sides; the identification of perpetrators to end the cycle of impunity and the development of a process of justice and reconciliation. 

We believe that visual documentation of human rights violations that is transparent, detailed, and reliable are critical towards providing accountability and can positively contribute to post-conflict reconstruction and stability. Such evidence can humanise victims, reduce the space for dispute over numbers killed, help societies understand the true human costs of war, and support truth and reconciliation efforts. 

Visual documentation is also valuable during conflict. Verified visual evidence datasets can feed into:

  1. Humanitarian response planning by helping to identify areas of risk and need as well as contribute to the protection of civilians;
  2. Mechanisms that support increased legal compliance by conflict parties and reductions in civilian harm;
  3. Strengthening the reporting and advocacy campaigns of conflicts by journalists and human rights defenders.

Mission

The Syrian Archive aims to support human rights advocates and citizen journalists in their efforts to document human rights violations in Syria by developing new tools and methods for evidence based advocacy campaigns, potential prosecutions, and human rights reporting and research on Syria. To do so, the Syrian Archive works with several well-established Syrian human rights organizations, media activists, journalists and lawyers to collect, verify,  analyse, and preserve visual documentation relating to human rights violations in Syria committed by all actors in the conflict according to international standards.

Research methodology is based on the following core principles:

First: Content acquisition and standardization 

The Syrian Archive discovers relevant sources and aggregates them in a structured way. The acquisition is done in two different ways:

  • By building collaboration with documentation centers, media offices, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists to acquire and preserve their material.
  • By acquiring material which is published on social media platforms and other websites on a daily basis.

Second: Secure long term preservation

The Syrian Archive preserves documentation of human rights abuses in Syria committed by all actors by storing them on a secure server online and with offline backups. Working with low-cost and reliable hosting partners, in addition to open source software will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the storage, ensuring the material will continue to be available for analysis now and in the future to advance justice, accountability and reconciliation efforts.

Third: Cataloging and metadata enrichment

The Syrian Archive organizes the preserved materials by mainly cataloging them according to the categories used by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic set up by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The categories include:

  • Massacres and other unlawful killing
  • Arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention
  • Hostage-taking
  • Enforced disappearance
  • Torture and ill-treatment of detainees
  • Sexual and gender-based violence
  • Violations of children’s rights
  • Unlawful attacks
  • Violations against specifically protected persons and objects
  • Use of illegal weapons
  • Sieges and violations of economic, social and cultural rights
  • Arbitrary and forcible displacement

Additional value is added to the material by recording as much metadata and chain of custody information as possible, including location, date and origin. This contextualises material by addressing the questions of when, where and what happened in a specific incident which will help viewers to identify and understand it.

Fourth: Accessibility and raising awareness

The Syrian Archive makes the material open, accessible and fully searchable for use by human rights advocates, journalists, researchers, investigators, lawyers and historians to promote discussions, debate and raise awareness on issues related to human rights, justice, equality, accountability and other issues. There will also be engagement with citizen journalists, activists, lawyers and organizations to establish best practice in archiving.

Vision

Through collecting, curating and investigating visual evidence of human rights violations in Syria, the Syrian Archive aims to preserve data as a digital memory, to establish a verified database of human rights violations, and to act as an evidence tool for legally implementing justice and accountability efforts as concept and practice in Syria.