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Countering erasure: can the arts contribute to restoring justice in Syria?

Syria is one of the few countries where local and international actors are testing and advancing certain elements of the TJ toolkit while the
abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law are ongoing. Before 2013, anticipating the fall of the regime, Syrian civil society organisations conceptualized a comprehensive approach towards TJ, insisting on accountability, remedy and reconciliation. As
prospects for a transition faded after 2013, Syrian TJ entrepreneurs were compelled to focus primarily on fact-finding and documentation.
The documentation efforts have laid the groundwork for the preparation of criminal cases, turning criminal prosecution into the dominant
TJ mechanism.

This project will explore how artistic expressions can enrich TJ mechanisms in situations of unabated violence, where the implementation of
traditional TJ mechanisms is marred by difficulties due to the continuation of the conflict. The main question is to what extent artistic practices, and literature in particular, can contribute to TJ, by countering the narrative silencing of victims. It will tentatively be argued that there is scope to strengthen current TJ efforts in Syria. Firstly, cooperation between Syrian and international actors could be refined by strengthening the methods of data-collection. Secondly, artistic practices could play a role in the development of complementary, innovative strategies for seeking justice. The project foregrounds artistic practices based on the hypothesis that they can help rethink existing approaches to TJ by understanding and utilizing evidence differently, thus feeding the transitional imagination in ways that are more representative of victims’ experiences.