The Violations Documentation Center in Syria VDC

The Violations Documentation Center in Syria VDC, was born in June 2011 to ensure a careful and independent documentation of all kinds of violations of human rights taking place in the country both in the past, present and future, with the goal of becoming a reference not only for the media but more importantly for all future accountability and justice-related procedures that will be much needed for Syria.By 2012 arbitrary killings and other acts of violations of human rights, including  political arrests, violations committed against journalists, imprisonment without trial, travel ban, forced exile, deprivation of Syrian nationality, torture and killing, grew alarmingly fast, while the situation in Syria turned into an armed conflict (as per the ICRC’s legal qualification), thus with the applicability of the Geneva Conventions and customary International Humanitarian Law. As a result of this and of an aggressive campaign by the government to intimidate, harass, detain and crackdown on all those perceived to be reporting on the situation (journalists, bloggers, writers…) has prompted the VDC to expand and include the coverage of these new systematic violations.The VDC is one of the biggest organisation with staff members and contacts inside Syria, in most cities, relentlessly documenting human rights and humanitarian law abuses by the Government of Syria and by a number of the most prominent armed opposition groups.  As such, the VDC is a credible reference to legal and media practitioners because of its standard sturdy methodology, its absolute adherence to legal standards when documented abuses, regardless of its perpetrator.Finds of the VDC are often cited in international media and UN and other justice-related mechanisms, and the VDC is often called upon to provide in-depth briefings to most world forums such as the United Nations Security Council.

While the VDC was originally an offshoot of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), it moved into being an independent entity after the SCM was raided by the Syrian security forces and 16 staff members including the head of the organisation, Mr. Mazen Darwish, were arrested.

On December 9, 2013, at about 10:40 p.m., a group of armed men stormed into the office of the Violations Documentation Center in Syria VDC in Douma and abducted Razan Zaitouneh, the head of the center, and her colleagues – Wael Hamada, who is also her husband, Samira al-Khalil, and Nazem Hamadi. The four VDC human rights defenders have not been heard of since.

Despite this tragic disappearance, the VDC’s staff (circa 35 people) continued working unabated, under the guidance of a board of directors that ensured the institutionalisation of the VDC by: 1. Registering it as a non-profit association in Switzerland, 2. Liaising with donors to ensure funding, 3. Drafting and adopting internal regulations to effectively set working modalities and standards for monitoring and reporting on the work itself.

In December 2015, the VDC’s board of directors recruited Mr. Husam Alkatlaby as a Chief Executive Director in charge of strategically guiding the VDC and running its daily operations.