How crowdsourcing is helping to keep track of war crimes in Syria
There were two great examples of crowdsourcing initiatives coming from Syria this week. Both are using the Ushaidi platform, which provides open source software to collect and map information.
The first one is Syria Tracker, a platform that monitors human rights abused committed by the government. You can embed the map on your website just like this:
Reports can be submitted on the platform, by email or by tweets.
The second one, Women Under Siege, documents instances of sexualized violence. It’s an initiative from the Women Media Center. The organisation has actually been working on several conflicts such as Darfur-Sudan, Bangladesh and Bosnia, where sexual crimes have been especially prominent. Read this Mashable article to know more.
Women Under Siege advises participants to observe extreme caution when submitting a report and even discourages people based in Syria from accessing the website. There are obvisouly security concerns for those who report abuses.
Documenting crimes in conflict areas is tricky but of considerable importance. One of the specificities of wars like the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which take a heavy toll on civilians, is that such crimes often take place in remote areas where the media and NGOs don’t have access. In Syria, the problem is not so much remoteness as the danger that prevents foreigners from conducting their work on the ground. The lack of documentation makes these crime invisible to the rest of the world, and the work the populations have to achieve in order to deal with trauma impossible.
Coincidentally, I listened last week to the March 16th episode of On the Media, which contained a segment about statistician Patrick Ball, whose job is to determine body counts for international criminal courts and war crimes tribunals. Ball explains the importance of figuring out casualties of wars and war crimes. To listen to the segment, click here.