In 2013, as the scale of arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture reached unprecedented levels in Syria, Synergy for Justice Founding Directors, Ingrid Elliott and Christy Fujio, and Medical Director, Dr. Coleen Kivlahan, began training Syrian doctors and lawyers on how to apply international best practices and laws to medically document human rights violations, including sexual violence and torture, and hold perpetrators to account.
Practicing the clinical interview
Discussing survivor needs

Christy, Coleen, and Ingrid trained Syrian doctors and lawyers on the principles and methodology of forensic medical documentation for the ongoing torture and sexual violence in Syria. Specifically, they led a multi-disciplinary team that taught doctors to conduct medical expert documentation according to the practices and principles outlined in the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (AKA “Istanbul Protocol” or “IP”), and trained lawyers on how to use that evidence to build cases for future accountability trials. 

Knowing that training programmes met only part of the immense needs among survivors of torture and sexual violence, Christy, Ingrid, and Coleen leveraged their experience working as part of multi-disciplinary teams with legal, medical, psychosocial, and organizational development experts to establish Synergy for Justice in 2015. Grounded in Synergy for Justice's key values of diversity and inclusion, equitable partnerships, and robust accountability, Christy and Ingrid designed the organization to support and sustain the existing, local efforts of Syrian and other human rights activists and practitioners working on the front lines around the world. In 2016, Synergy for Justice received funding to implement a programme of joint partnership and organisational development of a Syrian NGO operating in Turkey. As a result, they evolved their training programme for doctors and lawyers who were new to medical documentation into a multifaceted programme in which the original trainees are now documenting cases prolifically (and in compliance with international standards), training and mentoring new cadres of medical expert documenters every year, running survivor support systems, and tackling stigma in Syrian communities. Additionally, those original trainees formed their own legally registered organization in Turkey, and with Synergy’s ongoing support, have developed key partnerships with local NGOs as well as international justice organizations. Their medical reports have been accepted by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria as well as by European courts asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction, and they continue to submit cases to Synergy’s secure storage facility, ready for use in further accountability venues.

Today, Synergy for Justice continues to be led by a group of expert women practitioners who believe in the power of partnering with local organizations to support survivors of violence and enhance justice and accountability for human rights violations. Synergy is expanding, and our directors are working with local partners and as thought leaders to enhance justice and accountability around the world. Our founding ideology – that synergies exist in multi-disciplinary approaches and maximise positive impact and outcomes for all parties involved – is the thread that links all of our work.  All Synergy initiatives, including capacity building, mentorship, development of tools, and provision of sustained support for local actors, capitalize on the expertise and diverse perspectives that a multi-disciplinary team brings.

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