Syria Flag


Syria_-_Location_Map_(2013)_-_SYR_-_UNOCHAOn the heels of the Arab Spring revolutions, which began in December 2010, armed conflicts began in Syria in March 2011. What started as protests demanding that President Bashar al-Assad resign resulted in the deployment of the Syrian Army to stop the uprising. Since then, violent conflict has been raging in Syria. Amid this continuing violence and humanitarian crisis, local human rights activists and citizen journalists risk their lives to document human rights violations. The grave challenges they face are compounded by the regime’s active suppression of information flow out of the country. As a result, there is considerable uncertainty about the total number of violations and their patterns over time and location.

In 2012, at the request of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), HRDAG undertook a comparison of seven datasets documenting killings in Syria. Based on this analysis, we found 59,648 unique, identifiable records of killings between March 2011 and November 2012. The full preliminary report, published in January 2013, describes the datasets analyzed and methods of comparison. [report] [Benetech news release] [UN news release] [BBC] [Reuters] [NYTimes]

UNIn the first half of 2013, the team continued to gather updated data from existing sources and explore potential new data sources. This updated analysis, published by the OHCHR on June 13, 2013, includes records from eight data sources documenting a total of 92,901 reported killings. [report] [blogpost] [UN news release] [AP] [BBC] [NPR]

In August, 2014, HRDAG released its third report commissioned by the UN OHCHR on the reported killings in the Syrian conflict. HRDAG identified 191,369 deaths from the start of the conflict in March 2011 to April 2014, more than double the 92,901 deaths cited in their last report, which covered the first two years of the conflict. [report] [blogpost] [FiveThirtyEight] [NYTimes] [PBS News Hour] [Washington Post] [Neue Zürcher Zeitung]

In August, 2016, HRDAG published a technical memo about the data analysis used to support Amnesty International’s “It breaks the human: Torture, disease and death in Syria’s prisons,” a report detailing the conditions and mortality in Syrian prisons from 2011 to 2015. The HRDAG team used data from four sources to find a total of 12,270 documented, identifiable people killed while in detention; they used multiple systems estimation (MSE) to estimate the number of undocumented killings in the prisons during the same time period—the estimated total (documented and undocumented) deaths is 17, 723. In effect, 25 percent of the killings in detention were unreported. [memo] [blogpost] [CNN] [DW]


Click here to read all blogposts about HRDAG work in Syria.

Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.