UN-based investigation unit claims possession of overwhelming evidence of war crimes in Syria
UN-based investigation unit claims possession of overwhelming evidence of war crimes in Syria

The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 (IIIM), a UN quasi-prosecutorial body, issued a report [text, PDF] last week stating that they have compiled an “overwhelming volume of … videos and other images” representing evidence of atrocities committed by all sides in the Syria war.

The report states that the volume of material gathered, which includes information on the role played by social media during the war, is “unprecedented in any other accountability process with respect to international crimes to date” and sets forth a vision for prosecuting individuals responsible for the heinous crimes committed during the conflict.

The IIIM, established in December 2016 and led by former France Judge Catherine Marchi-Uhel, is charged with “developing a methodology and a strategy for best facilitating the accountability process with respect to the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The report acknowledges the difficulties the organization encounters in carrying out its mandate to “prepare criminal files concerning serious international crimes committed” in Syria adding that “it is not possible to prosecute all of the crimes committed, given their vast number.” Additionally, the report highlights other difficulties faced by IIIM in accomplishing its objectives such as lack of funding and resources and insufficient access to Syrian territory or total lack thereof.

Faced with these difficulties, the IIIM through this report has requested assistance from the larger UN body, the general assembly and the general international community. Particularly, the IIIM has requested from the international community: 1) financial assistance until it is able to obtain regular budget funding; 2) value-in-kind contributions particularly in relation to information technology (IT) tools and systems; 3) appropriate changes to national legislation to facilitate cooperation between the various nations and the IIIM; 4) sharing of evidentiary and other material about international crimes committed in Syria; and 5) cooperative agreements between the IIIM and the various nations for the provision of witness protection and other support services.

Expressing its gratitude to the many nations that are already support its work, the IIIM expressed confidence in overcoming its challenges:

The [IIIM] has an important opportunity to strengthen the justice process with respect to crimes committed in the Syrian Arab Republic and to promote a more integrated accountability strategy that reflects and reinforces the role of many different actors at both the national and international levels. In the coming months, the [IIIM] will continue to actively engage with key interlocutors to further inform its strategic planning, with a view to maximizing the positive impact of its work. … With a functioning office now established, a growing team of multidisciplinary and highly skilled staff members on board and significant steps taken to install essential IT and other infrastructure, the [IIIM] will now be able to escalate progress on its substantive work. In particular, in the coming months, it will rapidly move towards the further building of its evidence collection, the sharing of relevant materials under the vigorous frameworks established, and the development of its case files. … It will continue its efforts to actively engage with others in accordance with the principles of independence and impartiality that guide its mandate.