by Human Rights Watch, New York, December 21, 2016
On December 21, 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing a mechanism to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since 2011.
“The General Assembly today demonstrated that it can take the reins on questions of justice in the face of Security Council deadlock. The countries that voted for this unprecedented Syria resolution took a critically important stand for victims of massive grave crimes. By establishing the investigative mechanism, the General Assembly is helping pave the road to accountability after years of unchecked atrocities. Simply condemning the murder and mayhem inflicted on civilians is not enough. Perpetrators now know that evidence of their misdeeds will be collected to hasten the day when they find themselves in the dock.”
Balkees Jarrah, Senior International Justice Counsel at Human Rights Watch
The resolution received 105 yes votes from the General Assembly, with 52 abstentions. Here is the list of the 15 countries that voted against the resolution:
(1) Algeria, (2) Belarus, (3) Bolivia, (4) Burundi, (5) China, (6) Cuba, (7) DPRK, (8) Iran, (9) Kyrgyzstan, (10) Nicaragua, (11) Russia, (12) South Sudan, (13) Syria, (14) Venezuela, (15) Zimbabwe
1. Emphasizes the need to ensure accountability for crimes involving violations of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the domestic or international level, and stresses the need to pursue practical steps towards this goal to ensure justice for all victims and to contribute to the prevention of future violations;
2. Stresses the need for any political process aimed at resolving the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic to ensure credible and comprehensive accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses committed in the country in order to bring about reconciliation and sustainable peace;
3. Welcomes the efforts by States to investigate and prosecute crimes within their jurisdiction committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, in accordance with their national legislation and international law, and encourages other States to consider doing the same and to share relevant information to that end with other States;
4. Decides to establish the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 under the auspices of the United Nations to closely cooperate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law;
5. Requests the Secretary-General, in this regard, to develop, within 20 working days of the adoption of the present resolution, the terms of reference of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and also requests that the Secretary-General undertake, without delay, the steps, measures and arrangements necessary for the speedy establishment and full functioning of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, initially funded by voluntary contributions, in coordination with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and building on existing capacities, including recruiting or allocating impartial and experienced staff with relevant skills and expertise in accordance with the terms of reference;
6. Calls upon all States, all parties to the conflict as well as civil society to cooperate fully with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to effectively fulfil their respective mandates and, in particular, to provide them with any information and documentation they may possess, as well as any other forms of assistance pertaining to their respective mandates;
7. Requests the United Nations system as a whole to fully cooperate with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and to promptly respond to any request, including access to all information and documentation, and decides that the Mechanism shall closely cooperate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic in all aspects of its work;
8. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the present resolution within 45 days of its adoption, and decides to revisit the question of funding of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism as soon as possible.