The Syrian Accountability Project (SAP) is an internationally recognized cooperative effort between activists, non-governmental organizations, students, and other interested parties to document war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of the Syrian Crisis. Now in its fifth phase, the project aims to produce non-partisan, high quality analysis of open source materials and to catalogue that information relative to applicable bodies of law; including, the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and Syrian Penal Law.
The SAP primarily creates documentation products in a narrative and graphical format, as well as a quarterly and annual trend analysis of ongoing crimes. Furthermore, the SAP publishes issue-specific white papers. Its clients include the Syrian National Council, United Nations, U.S. Department of State, and the International Criminal Court.
Project Leader: Professor David Crane
Executive Director: Joseph Railey
Chief Investigator: Jasmine Greenfield
Chief Registrar: Conor Sullivan
Senior Editor: Shelby Mann
Yazidi Project Team Leader: Margaret Mabie
Special Projects Team Leader: Jordan Charnetsky
Mohammad Almania, Nate Bosiak, Sam Bubauer, William Bucha, Kelsea Carbajal, Nick Carter, William Cleeton-Grandino, Kristina Cervi, John Cronin, Emma Coppola, Brandon DeJesus, Britany Dierken, Michael Flessa, Steven Foss, Cintia Garcia, Kari Gibson, Brandon Golfman, Courtney Griffin, Kseniia Guliaeva, Christian Heneka, Jennifer Hicks, Justin Huber, Paige Ingram, Briannie Kraft, Breanna Leonard, Maggie Mabie, Nicole Macris, Aaron Maher, Natalie Maier, Shelby Mann, Molly McDermid, Alex Mena, Charlotte Munday, Samantha Netzband, Juhyung Oh, Lydia Parenteau, Clara Putnam, Aaron Records, Jade Rodriquez, Jose Estaban Rodriguez, Jenna Romine, Nichole Sands, Ethan Snyder, Zacharia Sonallah, Robert Strum, Lester Taylor, Elliot Vanier, Amit Vyas
In August 2014, ISIS fighters invaded Sinjar and engaged in a genocide campaign that deliberately sought to eradicate the Yazidi community. The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking ethnoreligious minority in Northern Iraq. Their religion combines elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and it is largely orally transmitted. The Yazidi people worship the Peacock Angel, Tawsi Melek, as a force of good and an intermediary between God and the people on Earth. ISIS soldiers counter these beliefs, and they consider the Peacock Angel a Satanic figure.
ISIS brutally invaded Sinjar in 2014. ISIS soldiers killed approximately 9,000 Yazidis in less than two months. These soldiers captured and sold thousands of others into slavery markets across the Levant. These fighters regularly used rape as a war weapon. They forced the Yazidi women to marry ISIS militants, and they forced pregnant women in captivity to abort their future Yazidi children. Evidence revealed that ISIS specifically planned this genocide campaign to eradicate the Yazidi people.
Under international law, genocide requires a specific intent to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group . . .” The international legal community recognized that ISIS committed genocide against the Yazidis. The international community now bears a burden to take all necessary steps to hold ISIS accountable for this atrocity. To do so, the international community must preserve the physical evidence of the Yazidi genocide that remains in Iraq and Syria. The Yazidi community must know that the international community will not stand silent in the face of atrocity.
On 4 April 2017, airstrikes dropped Sarin gas on Khan Sheikhoun, a Syrian rebel-held town in the Idlib governorate. The attack, which killed at least 87 people, including 28 children, and injured another 500 people, is the deadliest chemical weapons attack in the Syrian Civil War since August 2013.
This report first introduces what chemical weapons are, and describes their effects on humans. The report will then outline the historical narrative of chemical weapons throughout history and their use, particularly in the Syrian Civil War. Next, the report will lay out a timeline of what occurred on 4 April 2017, along with local and on-the-ground eyewitness accounts and the international reactions and responses. Finally, this report will discuss the relevant law associated with the ban on the use of chemical weapons in armed conflict. Using the facts of the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack and the relevant law, this report concludes that the Syrian Government violated the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the Chemical Weapons Convention, and perpetrated a war crime.
For 160 days, from 16 July through 22 December “2016, the Syrian government besieged the eastern Rebel-held portions of Aleppo. The endresult was a key victory for the Syrian government in its war a gainst armed rebellion that began more than six years ago. The siege also resulted in a brutal subjugation of the residents in eastern Aleppo, decimating its foundations.
This white paper gives a complete historical narrative of the city of Aleppo to show the transition of one of the world’s oldest cities from cultural metropolis to rubble and dust. This includes a review of the ancient city up until modern time, including a detailed look at Aleppo’s place in the Syrian Civil War from the very beginning until the end of the siege in late December 2016.
The white paper then looks at six distinct categories of incidents that are representative of the violations that occurred as an extension of siege policy: Siege Warfare, Indiscriminate Shelling, Barrel Bombs, Chemical Weapons, Attacks on Humanitarian and Medical Operations, and Extrajudicial Killings.
Finally, the paper finds that the way siege policy was carried out as pertaining to these six distinct categories amounted to war crimes, mainly committed by the Syrian government and its ally, the Russian Federation. Siege Warfare itself is not a war crime, but the manner in which the siege was undertaken by the main parties, including responses from local Rebel groups, violated international law.
Syria has reached the end of its fifth year of continuous conflict. A political end to the conflict remains elusive. The death toll is over 250,000 with millions more wounded from sustained barrel bombings, the use of chemical weapons, and traditional warfare. Yet, there are an indeterminate number of silent victims to an equally prominent form of violence: rape and its consequent physical and mental torment.
Rape and sexual violence are a means to terrorize and it is a weapon of war dating back to ancient times. Rape, however, received little mention in international law until the 20th century. Currently, rape is a violation of several international statutes and its use imposes criminal liability on its perpetrators.
While some accounts of rape in Syria exist, the majority go unreported. Underreporting is a significant barrier to finding those responsible and holding them accountable. Moreover, underreporting is often furthered by social, religious, and cultural stigmas of rape, making it particularly difficult for victims in Syria to tell their stories. Nonetheless, this snapshot analysis documents and analyzes 142 alleged incidents of rape. It describes the perpetrators, victims, and types of rapes occurring in the conflict, and applies relevant laws to highlight potential sources of liability.
Some of the key findings include:
The 142 reported incidents affected at least 483 Syrian women and girls across the country.
The Syrian Regime perpetrated 62% of the total incidents.
Shabiha, the Regime’s affiliate, was responsible for the second most rapes: 23%.
Rebel forces of the Free Syrian Army were one of the least responsible perpetrators at 2%.
The majority of rapes, 34%, occurred while the victim was detained or imprisoned.
Rapes during home raids and rapes resulting from abductions were also commonly reported.
Professor David Crane
Professor Lynn Levey