Recent reports indicate that the conflict in Syria continues to be characterized by
gross human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.1
This primer is designed to assist groups engaged in documenting human rights and
humanitarian law violations in the context of the Syrian conflict to do their work
effectively, safely, and professionally. The focus is on conducting interviews of
persons who have been affected by the conflict, referred to throughout this primer
It is principally concerned with techniques for interviewing victims of, and
witnesses to, human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war. It is intended
for use by groups working in Syria or among refugee populations in bordering
countries to document the human rights and international humanitarian law
violations experienced by civilians affected by the conflict in Syria.
I. What is human rights documentation?
Human rights documentation is one component of the human rights monitoring
process. Human rights monitoring refers to the observation and analysis of the
human rights situation in a particular country or context. 2 Human rights
documentation is the systematic collection and analysis of information for the
purpose of improving human rights protection.
Why rely on international human rights and humanitarian law?
This primer will rely on international human rights law and international
humanitarian law for the standards against which
the conduct of all parties to an armed conflict,
International human rights
whether State or non-State actors, is measured. An
law continues to protect
civilians in Syria, even
documentation team should obtain to demonstrate
during the current conflict.
violations of international human rights and
For example, torture and illhumanitarian law appears in Section D below,
while a detailed table of Syria’s international legal
prohibited. Conduct that
obligations is in Annex C.
might amount to torture
under international law is
International human rights law is a body of law
that sets out the minimum standards that States discussed in Section D.
must meet in their treatment of citizens, including
vulnerable groups such as children, women, and
refugees. Examples of human rights include freedom from cruel or degrading
treatment, the right to be given a fair trial, and the right to be able to freely associate
with others. The core documents setting out international human rights law are the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural