The IIIM is mandated to preserve evidence of serious crimes committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011. To do so, the IIIM has designed and implemented preservation facilities for large quantities of evidence in multiple formats. These include traditional evidence preservation facilities, such as a lab, archive room, and vault, as well as digital preservation facilities. All evidence and potential evidence is preserved to an evidentiary standard, satisfying the highest requirements under the laws of evidence prevalent in the jurisdictions cooperating with the IIIM, as well as under international law. These materials remain safely preserved with the IIIM while legal accountability proceedings are ongoing.
The IIIM takes seriously its obligation to safeguard the evidence it collects and preserves. It has made substantial investments in information and cyber security, and its information security officers work closely with counterparts in the UN Office in Geneva and the Secretariat’s Office of Information and Communications Technology, as well as with industry-leading private sector service providers. The IIIM follows a holistic approach to information governance. This means that technical tools are deployed alongside tailored processes, procedures and workflows, in line with international standards for information security.
Once collected evidence is preserved, the information contained in that evidence must be made accessible to IIIM investigators, analysts, and legal officers. This processing is done by evidence officers working in a lab, using a range of tools and methods depending on the nature of the source material. At present, the majority of the evidence preserved by the IIIM is digital. Digital processing often entails extracting layers of text from scanned documents or imagery, in several languages and from images of variable resolution. But digital processing also includes other steps, like de-duplication, which checks received information and evidence to see if it is already contained in the IIIM’s central repository to ensure more efficient review. Processing also includes extracting additional information from digital materials, such as audio files, images, non-text files, or videos. The extracted information makes the material more searchable, which in turn makes critical information within the evidence easier to locate by investigators, analysts, and legal officers.
After evidence has been processed, it is consolidated in the IIIM’s Central Repository. Each piece of preserved evidence is represented digitally in a centralised database. Investigators, analysts, and legal officers work with evidence officers and support staff to search the Repository and annotate its contents. Analytical products contain links to records in the Repository, helping analytical efforts stay coordinated and efficient. Evidence officers also assist with automation of certain kinds of evidence review tasks. For example, evidence officers deployed automatic machine translation on a large portion of the documents; then they built and deployed a tool that automatically examines the quality of those translations, flagging documents that may need a further translation by a staff member. This automatic triaging process, one of many like it, saves the IIIM time and resources, and makes otherwise cost-prohibitive analytical tasks possible.