The Syria Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC) is an independent entity that focuses on: 1) Collection and analysis of documentation related to ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) in Syria; 2) Coordination of Syrian and international actors working on documentation and transitional justice efforts; and 3) Education and outreach on transitional justice concepts and processes.
The SJAC has built a network of nearly 70 Syrian human rights activists largely within Syria working on documentation of human rights and IHL abuses.
The SJAC has signed agreements with 10 local and international organizations, such as the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VCD) and the Syria Commission on Justice and Accountability to provide information and document abuses and violations of international law.
The SJAC is currently reviewing more than 250,000 videos and regime documents obtained through the Syria Commission on Justice and Accountability sub-grant for content related to chain of command and other variables that will assist accountability efforts. This information is being deposited into a secure database for future uses.
The SJAC is multi-lateral initiative, supported by the United States along with 40 other governments and international organizations.
The SJAC is categorizing information based on international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes) listed under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the Rome Statute)
The SJAC operationalizes the commitment made by many states to support the documentation of human rights violations in Syria at the second Friends of the Syrian People (FOSP) meeting in Istanbul on April 1, 2012.
The SJAC, led by Syrian human rights defender Mohammed Al-Abdullah, supports efforts to research and collect evidence of human rights and IHL violations for use in future Syria-led transitional justice processes.
The SJAC has secured partnerships with groups collecting data on Syria including the Syrian Center for Documentation of Violations, Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, Syrian Network for Human Rights, Sham News Network, Human Rights Watch, the Syria Commission on Justice and Accountability, Amnesty International, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The SJAC has also worked with Google Ideas to collect and verify data on defections from the Assad regime and security forces for an interactive map now featured on Al-Jazeera platforms.
The SJAC website features an interactive map that allows users to view statistics about human rights violations committed across various categories: massacres, indiscriminate killings, torture and detention, and property damage. All of the data displayed on the site is downloadable and includes links to the original sources of information. The SJAC website is updated regularly to include the latest reporting from the latest sources of information on the conflict in Syria.
Under the sponsorship of Morocco and the United States, and the co-chairmanship of the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights and the Syria Justice & Accountability Center (SJAC), a donor conference in support of the SJAC was held in Rabat, Morocco on September 14, 2012.
Forty governments and organizations participated in the conference, including Angola, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States of America, as well as the League of Arab States, the European Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
All conference participants condemned the grave human rights and IHL violations committed against the Syrian people, and called for an end to violence. They agreed upon the urgent need to document violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Syria, in order to support future transitional justice processes that might be adopted by the Syrian people.
The conference participants expressed strong support for the SJAC’s work to address this urgent need and pledged to contribute more than $3 million to support the Center, as well as in-kind contributions of transitional justice and human rights experts to train and serve as SJAC staff. Participants also expressed their sincere commitment to continuing to raise the importance of protecting the universal human rights of the Syrian people in all forums.
The SJAC is overseen by a Steering Committee that includes representation from the Syrian people as well as eminent experts in transitional justice, accountability and reconciliation processes.
The Steering Committee oversees and regulates the use of collected information through protocols in line with international standards, appropriate safeguards and recognized best practices. The body will also ensure that reports are produced regularly and made available to the public on the SJAC website, and determine the coordination and range of accountability and transitional justice processes that the SJAC will support.
There are no donor country officials on the Steering Committee, as their inclusion would contradict the intention of the FOSP to establish the SJAC as an independent entity that represents the interests of the Syrian people.
Relationship to UN Commission of Inquiry:
The SJAC complements but does not supplant the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Syria. SJAC staff has met with the COI and are in regular communication as the SJAC is implemented.
The SJAC helps coordinate other documentation efforts among various actors outside of UN-mandated efforts, a function designed to be passed eventually to the Syrian people. In this capacity, the SJAC complements the COI’s work and preserves its independence, while consulting with the chairman to prevent duplication of efforts.
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