Introduction about the Center
Violation Documentation Center in Syria is an independent, civilian non-profit, non-governmental organization that started its work of monitoring and documenting the violations of human rights in Syria in April 2011.
The center is monitoring and documenting all crimes and violations against human rights in Syria, and attempts-at the same time- to protect and enhance these rights in the culture of the Syrians. The center has- since its been established- shouldered responsibility to document the Syrian martyrs' names as well as the names of the revolution's detainees, missing and kidnapped. It also documents the violation committed by informal bodies in addition to the regime's casualties whether of the Syrian Army, the so-called "The Army of National Defense" or even Militiamen and other foreign armed men fighting alongside the regime's army.
The center periodically publishes statistics on the database it has in the form of weekly, monthly and yearly reports in the form of percentages and illustrations, in addition to the release of dozens of human rights reports on different topics and violations in Syria
The center is led by a number of human rights activists inside and outside Syria. The daily Field monitoring Team consists of the center's activists inside Syria, while the main coordinators of the Administrative Office consist of some activists who live outside Syria and others who live inside the country.
The center includes more than 30 activists in several Syrian and cities and regions.
1-The victims;the killed: the center classifies the victims into two main types according to the party that was "claimed" to have committed the crime. Consequently, we have two separate tables and statistics:
a-The Revolution's Martyrs: who were killed by regime forces and thugs. This classification is divided into two main sub-classes: Civilian and Non-Civilian.The former includes the names of all the documented civilians who are thought to be murdered by the regime forces, while the latter includes the names of officers, defected soldiers and volunteers in the Free Syrian Army(FSA). However, this classification also includes all other armed elements of brigades and battalions that do not directly affiliate to the Free Syrian Army's command, and the foreign fighters that are fighting against the regime forces.
b-The Regime's Casualties: who were killed by anti-government fires. This classification includes the officers and soldiers of the regime's army, in addition to all the foreign elements that are fighting alongside the regime's forces, the members of the so-called "The Army of National Defense" and the militiamen who are considered semi-governmental members, and whoever has a rank that refers to the fact that he is an officer or a soldier. It also includes the civilians who were killed by anti-government forces in the operations announced by those forces.
*The Center also Documents the Following Cases:
A)The Detainees: all citizens that are arbitrarily arrested by the regime forces or disappeared involuntarily and there is compelling evidence that they have been taken by the security forces. These cases are being documented according to the date of their occurrence, and when a citizen is arrested more than once, a new document is created for each arrest after verifying the case
b)The Missing: VDC defines "The Missing" as follows: Every person on the Syrian Territory with whom contact has been lost, and whose family know no more about, and no information about his\her unknown destiny is available; whether detained, kidnapped or other.
c)The Kidnapped: VDC defines "The Kidnapped" as follows: Every person that is being abducted by an informal party. And it differentiate between "the missing" and "the kidnapped" according to the evidence and witnesses of the kidnapping for kidnapping usually has direct causes such as having a ransom, blackmailing or holding a hostage.
D - Violations of Non-Official Parties : Keeping to work in line with the international standards of human rights, VDC has allocated a special form to deal with the "violations of non-official parties " i.e. other than the regime forces, however, the database of this section is unannounced and the access to it is limited to the center's activists.
As for the criteria observed by VDC, they comply to the International standards regarding documentation mechanisms as the web is administrated by a number of human rights activists, led by the Lawyer Ms.Razan Zeitouna, while the other activists have undergone many international training courses in several international cities, in addition to the practical training on the detailed modern documentation mechanisms adopted by the international bodies and organizations, headed by the United Nations.
Based on our principle that accuracy of the information related to victims of human rights violations is a human right, ethical and humanitarian duty and a right for the victims and their families, we- Violation Documentation Center in Syria- adopt a multiple-stage process of documentation in order to achieve the highest accuracy possible amid the difficult complicated circumstances we have been going through in Syria since March 2011
1-The first stage: gathering and documenting information by a group of human rights and field activists and reporters assigned by the center in different places, in addition to depending on reliable sources like field hospitals, cemeteries, casualties' families and some of the media centers, which are highly credible, in order to get the information which -in turn- is sent to the website administrative team, after making sure it is neither repeated nor even old, and looking for related details from various sources. This is the first stage of documentation, which can be called the primary stage of validating the received information.
2-The second stage : information, including all photos, videos and any other details about the casualties, will be completed during the very first day of violation or in the few upcoming days by the website administration team.
3-The third stage: (The one that distinguishes VDC in Syria) is the daily, weekly and monthly checking as all the information is sent to the field activists to ensure that it is free of errors and to complete the missing information, if available such as photos, videos or information like the career, the mother's name, the age....etc. Employees who do that are called the 'Daily Verifiers' and they are, also, asked to bring complete lists of information of casualties in different cities and villages to be compared with information that the center already has to verify the violation and its perpetrator.
Added to the previous stages is the stage of making sure that the data entry has been done properly to overcome the factor of human error in this field.
These three stages are very essential and important, however, we –by no means- consider them as a complete mission due to the complexities of the Syrian situation, the siege imposed on the areas and what the the bad security situation the activists are living, in addition to the seperation of the Syrian cities and villages, the fear of the victims families of providing us with more details because of security threats, and the cut-out of electricity and internet connection in most of liberated areas.
However, we seek through the three stages to overcome a number of such obstacles as much as possible together with maintaining the credibility of our center and the rights of victims by conveying the truth as it is on the condition that those data and information are being regularly reviewed, checked and revised even if months have gone past on the violation.
The Classifications of Death Causes in the Violation Documentation Center
We have adopted a new classification regarding the causes of death, so that they fall within the following classifications:
*Gunshot: killing by random shooting, during raids, while despersing demonstrations, by a sniper shots, during clashes.....etc.
*Shelling: killing by artillery, tank, mortar, rocket launchers, long-distance missiles such as Scud missiles.....etc.
*Field Execution: by assassination, delibrate killing especially during the premediated massacres or at military checkpoints, in addition to slaughtering with knives.....etc.
*Kidnapping-Executing: when the victim is kidnapped, executed, and dumped without a clear indication to any official security body. The majority of such acts are carried out either by melitiamen "Shabiha" or by the forces of the so-called "The Army of National Defense".
*Kidnapping-Torturing-Execution: it matches the previous classification except that the victim is being tortured before being executed.
*Kidnapping-Torturing: it matches the previous classification except that the victim is being tortured to death and not directly slaughtered or killed with gunfire.
*Detaintion-Execution: when there is a clear evidence that an official security body is responsible for the kidnapping and the execution, or when the killing is carried out inside a secret detention center or a security branch after an arbitrary arrest.
*Detention-Torturing-Execution: it matches the previous classification except that the victim is being tortured before being killed.
*Detention-Torturing: it matches the previous classification except for that the death cause is severe torture not direct killing with gunshots or slaughtering. Also falls under this classification all those who are being tortured to death in the variuos security branches, and those who die due to chronic disease inside the detention centers and security branches all over the country.
*Deprivation of Medical Care: when the victim suffers a bad health condition that is not resuted from direct injuries (gunfires and others), and the death happens due to the lack of medical assistance resulted from a seige. For instance, a woman needs to get to a hospital to deliver, yet cannot because of checkpoint delays and/or a security siege.
*Explosion: in the case of terrorist bombings by car bombs, for example.
*Others: other death cases resulted from enhaling tear gas, "miscarriages" caused by the fear of mothers during fierce shelling, malnutrition and starvation.
*Chemical and Toxic Substances: deaths caused by exposure to chemical or toxic substances.
*Air Shelling: by military warplanes and the drop of explosive barrels.
After determining the appropriate classification for each case, other information is put in the "notes" blank-if available.
It is worth mentioning that in the case of multiple causes of death, we have often adopted the first direct cause. For example, when the victim is shot and bleeds to death we adopt "Gunshot" as the cause of death, and then add a note that the victim was left to bleed to death.
The center also saves the photos and videos safely to prevent the loss of any of the victims' information.
Since the center has been established, it has been releasing variant human rights reports that cover the entire Syrian geography focusing on the most prominent violations against the laws of the International Declaration of Human Rights, and the different pressing issues facing the Syrians, in order to reveal the facts and document them in a professional way and to highlight the most important issues .
The center is following a systematic approach - according to the type of report to be issued - adopting the international rules of validating that-without prior assumptions - researchers at the center monitor the violations the center is documenting through searching multiple sources of information, conducting interviews directly with a number of witnesses about the same incident, making sure of their consistency with the public information already available at the center, comparing the testimonies, being credible and avoid impartiality, taking into consideration the safety of the information's sources and the witness - if he\she does not want to disclose his identity – and making sure to provide photos, maps and videos, wherever possible.
The Center issues four types of reports - for publication - divided according to (the subject, the geographical area, the time), namely:
The are four types:
a)Weekly Statistical Reports: state the numbers of the martyrs who fall during one week through tables and graphs that show the category, the gender, the age and the governorate, during a specific period of time"from Saturday to Friday" with a focus on the incident of the week. These reports often contain testimonies of activists and eyewitnesses to the incident.
b)Monthly Statistical Reports: state the numbers of the martyrs who fall during one month through charts that depend on a variety of determinants.
c)Yearly Statistical Reports: state the numbers of the martyrs that fall during one year through charts that depend on a variety of determinants.
d)Special Statistical Reports: assigned for a specific death cause, classification, or gender as determinants to produce the special statistical reports from the beginning of the revolution up till now. For examples, " Children Martyrs" and "Victims of Explosions".
These reports present testimonies of former detainees conducted directly by the center's activists. Those testimonies- either videotaped or written according to the case- introduce the human rights violations to which the detainees are exposed, along with information about the detention centers, the names of their commanders, their relation with other branches and courts and transfer measures.
These reports are based on reporting all the martyrs that have fallen- since the beginning of the revolution till the date of writing the report- in one specific area in a governorate by gathering detailed information about each martyr such as the career, the age, mother's name, the detailed circumstances of the death case. These reports are greatly important because they include all the martyrs after a direct field investigation with the victim's family the councils and the coordinations.
These reports address all the topics that do not fall under the previous types. Diversity is the characteristic of these reports. The center has issued several reports on the campaigns which it carried out such as "Watheq/Document" Campaign, in addition to focusing on specific massacres, and the use of chemical weapons, to which it has assigned three reports.