The following article was written through the cooperation of three non-governmental organizations: Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, Syrians for Truth and Justice, and the Violations Documentation Center in Syria. Its content reflects the joint views of these entities.
The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes in Syria was established by UN General Assembly resolution in December 2016. On July 3, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Catherine Marchi-Uhel as Head of IIIM. Marchi-Uhel is a former French judge with broad international experience trying and adjudicating war crimes. During her 27-year career, Marchi-Uhel has provided legal support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the UN Mission in Liberia, and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. She has also adjudicated for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and currently serves as Ombudsperson to the UN Security Council’s 1267 Committee – reviewing requests for delisting from the Committee’s Sanction List. Her appointment signals the beginning of IIIM’s substantive work.
Since IIIM’s inception, Syrian civil society has worked to support the Mechanism and to clarify its aims and means. In February, several Syrian NGOs sent a letter to the General Assembly noting questions and recommendations that would help the IIIM understand Syrians’ priorities and increase local buy-in. In May, a meeting between the IIIM start-up team and a wide range of Syria civil society organizations was held in Lausanne, Switzerland. The meeting provided an excellent platform to exchange views, provide recommendations, and establish a common understanding between both sides.
Despite these positive steps, some Syrian people, activists, and civil society groups still have questions regarding the IIIM’s purpose and potential for advancing accountability in Syria.
In June, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights’ (OHCHR) hosted a human rights reference group meeting in Turkey with Syrian NGOs to discuss the latest in human rights developments – including the IIIM’s progress. The meeting led to a greater understanding of the IIIM’s mandate. Since the meeting was not open to the public, we have identified five of the most prominent concerns voiced by Syrians and clarified them below for wider public understanding.