As the world waits to see how Syria's agony will be concluded, a group of Syrian lawyers prepares for a better future:
The young man sitting before lawyer Musa Amhan pulled out a small red notebook filled with names he had compiled of neighbors who had spied on residents and reported suspicious acts to Syrian intelligence.
The bicycle repairman rode into the neighborhood on a tank when security forces came to arrest protesters. The egg merchant set up a checkpoint to search cars for weapons. One bully extorted money by threatening to identify his neighbors as anti-government rebels.
His own uncle, the young man said, turned him [in to] security forces who interrogated and tortured him.
Across Syria and in neighboring Turkey, a small group of lawyers is quietly collecting testimony from Syrians victimized by the vast network of intelligence services that the government has used against the rebellion. They have relayed accusations to rebel-established courts in three Syrian provinces, which have issued more than 140 arrest warrants, most for war-related crimes.
The lawyers hope the written accusations will eventually be used against senior government officials in an international court, and they say the outstanding warrants include one for President Bashar al-Assad. Most, they expect, will be tried in Syrian courtrooms.
It is unclear whether the warrants, let alone the courts, have any authority in a country still officially ruled by Assad and where the entire legal system is likely to be overhauled if the regime falls. But the lawyers say that to wait for a transitional government would be to invite more summary executions.
"Many lawyers have been arrested since the beginning of the uprising,” said [Ali al-]Azir, who specialized in international commerce law. "In the name of our colleagues, it is up to us to document what has happened."
The lawyers collect testimony at refugee camps, including one in Turkey that is sheltering military officers who defected.
They are looking for the names of pilots who dropped bombs on civilian targets, officials who ordered massacres and supervisors who oversaw interrogations using torture, as well as evidence of bribery, corruption and rape.
It is an initiative to be welcomed, as working towards the rule of law in that country. The full report is here.