Justice for Syria: A new hope dawns

Brussels, 4 July 2017

The appointment of French jurist Catherine Marchi-Uhel to head the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM or Mechanism) to support the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed in Syria marks an important step towards justice and redress for victims in the conflict in Syria.
The IIIM was formally established by the United Nations General Assembly under the leadership of Liechtenstein last December in an unprecedented show of support by UN member States for victims in Syria in the face of inaction by the UN Security Council. Yesterday’s appointment gives life to the UNGA Resolution establishing the Mechanism and brings with it a weight of expectations, hopes and fears.
With its mandate to support investigations, gather information from a wide variety of sources, including the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and prepare case files, the Mechanism has the chance to lay a solid foundation for future prosecutions, whether in national or international courts. Wherever its case files will be used, the Mechanism has a chance to make a real difference through the way it conducts its work.
The Mechanism should work with Syrian civil society documenting crimes and violations as partners, support them in their work and engage the people of Syria more generally. In this way, it can realise its potential to ensure the utility of the work of Syrian civil society organisations and to give hope to the people of Syria that the crimes against them will not go unanswered.
No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) calls on the Mechanism to implement its mandate with these goals as guiding principles; to adopt procedures and protocols that adhere to the highest possible international standards, including on chain of custody, interviewing standards, risk management for staff and witnesses and policies for dealing with children and crimes against children, among other vulnerable groups and under-prosecuted crimes; and to learn from the experiences of international courts and tribunals, particularly on outreach, and adapt them to their own situation.
The Mechanism continues to need support from the international community to fulfil its mandate. As of June 2017, UN member States had pledged approximately 6 million USD of the estimated 13 million USD required for start-up and the Mechanism’s first year of operations. While we welcome innovative fund raising strategies including the crowd-funding initiative (link: http://www.crowd4justice.org/en/), established by “Adopt a Revolution”, the responsibility to ensure the Mechanism is fully funded ultimately rests with the countries that established it. They should move towards a system of assessed contributions that can constitute a reliable and steady funding base for the Mechanism to do its work and fulfil its mandate and promise for the people of Syria.

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- For further information, please contact Alison Smith, legal counsel and Director for International Criminal Justice of NPWJ, on asmith@npwj.org / +32 2 548 39 12 or Nicola Giovannini (Press & Public Affairs Coordinator) on ngiovannini@npwj.org / +32 2 548 39 15.

- Visit the special page dedicated to NPWJ’s Syria Project on Justice and Accountability