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2018 | Sequencing Peace and Justice in Syria by Milena Sterio

This Article explores whether the dual goals of peace and justice can be reconciled in the Syrian context, and how these goals would need to be properly sequenced if lasting peace in Syria is to be achieved, without sacrificing justice. Part I explores the tension between the dual goals of peace and justice both theoretically and in the Syrian context. Part II describes existing accountability models in the international community and how these may be applicable in the Syrian situation, and Part III focuses on the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), an already established model of preliminary accountability for Syria. This author concludes that while peace and justice may appear irreconcilable in some contexts, they have demonstrably co-existed in others and can be achieved if properly sequenced. 

After considering several accountability models currently used in post-conflict settings, such as national prosecutions, internationalized domesticwar crimes chambers, hybrid tribunals, international ad hoc tribunals and the ICC, the author argues that the forum for accountability most likely to serve in the Syrian context would be domestic courts in third-countries, under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The lack of political will in the international community is likely to continue to thwart the creation of an ad hoc international tribunal or referral to the ICC. The current Syrian leadership of President Assad will remain an obstacle to pursuing justice and accountability at the domestic level or through a specialized war crimes chamber or hybrid tribunal within Syria, though the author does not rule out that if there were to be a change of government in Syria, a domestic accountability mechanism may become possible. Meanwhile, the IIIM - not a tribunal and not able to prosecute crimes directly- aims to collect and preserve evidence for future prosecutions for crimes committed in Syria. Although it is not yet clear precisely how the evidence collected by the IIIM will be usedin future, the author considers that the mechanism represents an importantstep towards accountability for Syria.