This training will focus on documenting violations of the legal obligations of an occupying power. It will introduce key legal conventions and review the essential types of evidence needed by activists to properly document violations. Importantly, this training will cover violations committed by affiliates of an occupying power which often operate in an administrative grey area.
Concepts covered will include how to document enforced disappearances, forced deportation, forced enlistment, destruction of public or private property, infringement of religious rights, and maintaining competent courts. We hope that this training will enable activists to collect documentation that can serve as admissible evidence in future legal proceedings.
Initially, this training will be administered to SJAC’s own documentation teams who will assist in adjusting the content, testing its applicability in the field, and eventually adapting it for public release within the first half of 2024.
SJAC published two new training videos this quarter. While much of our documentation training focuses on collecting witness and survivor statements, these new videos teach specific skills on open-source data analysis.
Field documentation is a critical tool for activists, however, conditions on the ground may prevent access to witnesses and survivors. In these situations, the analysis of open-source data, including images, videos, and social media posts can become an important resource for investigating claims of war crimes and human rights abuses.
In the first video, SJAC’s documentation analysts demonstrate the process of identifying unknown actors in videos and images. This can be a valuable skill for revealing the identity of perpetrators who appear in videos, as well as victims whose fate may have otherwise been unknown.
The video illustrates two practical examples of identifying individuals who are suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It then details tracking these individuals through various sources, such as their own social media, to uncover their identity, affiliations, and roles in the crimes.
The Second video focuses on the process of geolocating images and videos to corroborate their authenticity. The large amount of digital documentation produced during the conflict can lead to mislabeling and misattribution, both intentionally to mislead viewers, or accidentally as videos get shared between multiple people. As documentation activists work to build a comprehensive picture of atrocities, it is necessary to identify videos and images that support their investigation and use geolocation skills to link this media to the events under investigation.
The video presents two scenarios where geolocation is necessary and guides viewers through the process of verifying the authenticity and credibility of imagery and using specialized open-source tools that aid in the geolocation process. With these skills, activists can lead credible investigations that reveal the true extent of crimes committed in a conflict.
Although these videos are currently accessible on YouTube, they will eventually be included in SJAC’s documentation training platform where SJAC plans to post additional data-analysis trainings in the coming months.
SJAC made significant progress over the last quarter to develop new training resources for Syrian documentation activists. Thanks to our donors, we launch a new and improved documentation training page. The new platform includes courses on international humanitarian law, violations documentation, and transitional justice.
This recent update combines new and old courses into comprehensive modules that help activists better understand each lesson. Additionally, an improved user interface helps guide users through each module.
Additionally, SJAC streamlined the certificate request process so activists can easily receive certifications showing successful completion of each course. Since launching the platform in May, two activists have earned certificates, with several more actively working on completing all course requirements.
New courses added to the platform cover topics like transitional justice and the role of civil societies in memorialization, victim compensation, and institutional reform. Although this platform was originally designed to teach the basics of documentation collection, additional courses help activists understand the role of documentation in larger peacebuilding efforts.
SJAC will continue to improve its training platform and develop new courses to expand the capacity of activists documenting the Syrian conflict and conflicts across the region.
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