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Hans-Christian Plambeck—DER SPIEGEL
February 17, 2021 6:55 AM EST

“Transformation starts from accountability,” says Syrian journalist Hadi Al Khatib, who collects, preserves and verifies digital records of war crimes and human-rights abuses. But accountability has proved elusive in Syria, where Bashar Assad’s government muzzles the press, while social media platforms remove footage documenting atrocities for violating their content-moderation policies. That’s why, in 2014, Al Khatib set up the Syrian Archive: an open-source repository of digital documents for journalists, lawyers and activists in the region to draw upon. His Berlin-headquartered team has archived more than 3.5 million videos from Syria and painstakingly authenticated more than 8,000—showing strikes on medical facilities, barrel bombings and other war crimes. (His team has since opened sister archives covering Yemen and Sudan.) In October, Syrian Archive and other rights defenders used some of those verified videos to file a criminal case against the Syrian government for two of the worst sarin-gas attacks it carried out in 2013 and 2017, allegedly killing more than 1,400 people. Al Khatib says that seeing some top regime officials’ roles in the atrocities acknowledged is an important first step toward accountability. —Joseph Hincks

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