Come contare le vittime in Siria? Il Vdc torna online!

Several weeks ago, our website, the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), was hacked by Assad’s Syrian Electronic Army thugs.

The VDC team immediately held meetings to agree on how to restructure the new website, including defining new standards and processes.

The new website is the result of intense collaboration with several organizations and activists involved in documenting human rights violations in accordance with international standards, while taking into account the complexities of the Syrian situation as well as the data with which we build the databases of human rights violations in Syria. Thus, we are more accurate and objective.

New Classifications

The new website classifies victims in two major types, according to the regime authority that committed the crime. Consequently, we have two separate tables and statistics for the revolutions’ martyrs and the regime’s fatalities.

In the first type, “The Revolution’s Martyrs,” there are two sub-classes: Civilian and Non-Civilian. The latter contains information on defected recruits and officers, and Free Syrian Army (FSA) non-military volunteers. Those types of Non-Civilian victims can be easily differentiated via the “Military Rank” field: if it has a value, the victim is a recruit or an officer. If it does not, the victim is an FSA volunteer.

In the second table, named “The Regime’s Army,” a value in the “Military Rank” field indicates that the fatality was one of a recruit or an officer. If no value is associated, the the fatality is non-military.

Moreover, we have adopted new types (values) for “Cause of Death,” as follows:

Gunfire: when the cause of death is intermittent gunfire during raids, dispersal of demonstrations, or sniper fire, and so on.

Shelling: when the cause of death is artillery shelling and use of heavy weaponry.

Field Execution: when the victim is intentionally assassinated or slaughtered in a planned and deliberated massacres (e.g., stabbings, when activists are being killed, etc.).

Kidnapped-Executed: when the victim is kidnapped, executed, and dumped without any clear indication of which official security branch committed the crime. This method is usually used by shabiha.

Kidnapped-Tortured-Executed: similar to the previous type, except for the fact that the victim was tortured before being executed.

Kidnapped-Tortured: similar to the previous type, except that the victim was tortured to death and not directly killed (gunfire or slaughtered).

Detained-Executed: when there is clear evidence that a security branch was responsible for the kidnapping and execution.

Detained-Tortured-Executed: similar to the previous type, except for the fact that the victim was tortured before being executed.

Denied Medical Care: this applies to cases when the victim has an illness unrelated to with direct injuries (gunfire or other) and the death is caused by a lack of medical assistance due to security siege or other. For example, a pregnant woman who needs to go to the hospital to give birth but cannot reach it due to checkpoint delays and/or a security siege.

Explosion: in the case of terrorist bombings.

Other Causes: this applies to other types of death, such as inhaling tear gas, etc.

After the initial classification of the reason of death, notes can be added in the designated section.

It is important to note that in case of multiple causes of death, we use the first direct cause. For instance, when the victim is shot and left till (s)he bleeds to death, we use “Gunfire” as the cause of death, and then add a note that the victim was left to bleed to death.

Data Gathering and Validation

In any case, after the preliminary re-organization of the databases, as per the new classification, the VDC definitely needs more time in the coming few weeks to audit and populate the tables.

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 victim and their families, we adopt, in the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria, the documentation of several stages of in order to reach an acceptable degree of precision within the complex amid difficult circumstances we are facing in Syria for more than a year.

Data gathering and documentation is done by a group of human rights activists and field correspondents’ volunteers in various areas. All the information received by them to is recorded and sent to the management team of the website to make sure they are not repeated and to search for related details in a variety of sources.

This is the first phase of the documentation. In the second phase, this information will be completed during the following days in terms of collecting video clips, pictures of the martyrs, or any other details about the victim by the supervisor of the team website. The third stage is in the periodic auditing where data is sent to the activists as per their areas in order to ensure that they are free of errors and to complete the missing information, if available. These three stages are important but they do not present the possibility of a complete and fully checking of the information in any way.

This is due to the complexities of the Syrian situation, the siege of the areas and what the activists are suffering from due to the bad security situation is bad. In addition to and the fragmentation of cities and regions, parents are afraid to give more details of their children because of security threats, and being engaged with new data of the victims who are the dozens on a daily basis, which reduces the possibility of working on older victims data.

However, we seek through the three stages to overcome a number of these 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. (Violations Documentation Center, 25 aprile 2012).