Syria: NPWJ concludes second Training Course on “Forensic Investigations of Cases of Political Violence and the Disappeared”

14 Feb, 2014 | Press Releases

Gaziantep, Turkey, 14 February 2014

Accountability and redress for past and ongoing human rights violations committed against the civilian population must be put on the central stage if there is to be any hope for reaching lasting stability, reconciliation and peace in Syria. To that end, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) is supporting the efforts and enhancing the capacity of Syrian civil society groups, human rights and democracy activists to document and report on crimes and abuses committed in Syria, including with a view to laying the foundation for future criminal investigations and prosecutions.

As part of that work, NPWJ organised a training course on “Forensic Investigations of Cases of Political Violence and the Disappeared for Syria”, on 11-14 February 2014, together with Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC) and the Kirkayak Art Center, and with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  The training took place in the city of Gaziantep, Southern Turkey, where a number of International NGOs and International Organisations have been based since the start of the crisis in Syria.

This course is the second implemented by NPWJ on forensics and the disappeared for Syria and was designed in response to specific recommendations which emerged at the first held in November 2013. Participants included lawyers, medical doctors and representatives of informal associations and NGOs working on investigation and documentation inside Syria, from Aleppo, Damascus and its surrounding country-side and Idlib, as well as defected Syrian police officers based in Turkey. The presenters for the Training Course were experts in each of the specialised areas addressed by the course: Mercedes Salado Puerto and Analia Gonzalez Simonetto, both members of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), and Toby Cadman, a well-established international criminal law specialist.

The course provided in-depth training on all relevant aspects of forensic evidence in criminal investigations, with an emphasis on cases of political violence and enforced disappearances. Specific areas discussed included the recovery of ante-mortem data from relatives of the deceased; issues relating to the missing and disappeared; the survey and recovery of crime scenes; forensic archaeology, anthropology and genetics; identification of human remains: preparation of reports and the presentation of medical evidence; and the interaction between forensic science and international criminal law.

As with other courses, this training was also devoted to practical exercises and revolved around a factual scenario that was constructed on the basis of procedures, best practices and challenges faced in previous investigations carried out in Syria. The presenters showed samples of material used in their work on the field, explaining the correct storage and conservation techniques for organic samples. This scenario underpinned the remainder of the training course, providing a practical set of facts through which to examine the various international and Syrian laws and standards on forensics and the disappeared. These included international humanitarian and human rights instruments and their national equivalents, to acquaint participants with the international and Syrian legal framework.


NPWJ’s Syria Project on Justice and Accountability
This four-day training course is part of an NPWJ project aimed at reducing the expectation and rewards of impunity and at building a culture of accountability. The purpose is to equip citizens to demand accountability and justice for violations taking place on a daily basis for the past two and a half years and, at the same time, to equip the judiciary and legal profession to answer that demand.
The mainstay of the project is a series of advocacy and training events, which are being held in Gaziantep, Turkey, near the Syrian border, with Syrian judges, lawyers and civil society activists from Syria who can bring the skills and (perhaps more importantly) aspirations for justice back to their work and their constituents inside Syria.
The long-term goal of this project is to promote democracy and human rights protection through incorporating justice and accountability in decision-making on conflict resolution and stability, development, and reconstructing planning in Syria. The project’s strategic objective is to support Syrian civil society playing an active role on justice and accountability issues, including advocacy and documenting human rights violations, including receiving, gathering, collecting, collating, processing and securely storing information, documentation and materials and analyse it for the purpose of establishing what happened and reconstructing decision-making processes that resulted in violations international humanitarian and human rights law in Syria since March 2011.

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For further information, contact Hadi Al-Khatib on or Nicola Giovannini on or +32-2-548-3915.