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2014 | International Development Research Centre (Canada), Transitional Justice in Syria

 The International Development Research Centre (IRDC) in Canada provides scenarios and options for transitional justice in post-conflict Syria, in support of the Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice (SCTJ).  The Commission’s aim is to foster discussion amongst Syrian civilians about transitional justice with the intention of laying a foundation for justice and a national reconciliation process after the conflict. This overall approach reflects a ‘victim-centred’ approach increasingly recognised as crucial to the design of successful transitional justice and reparations mechanisms. On the basis of their consultations the Commission will make practical recommendations for a Syrian-led transitional justice process. 

The IRDC’s particular objective is to support the SCTJ in investigating options for potential criminal prosecutions of serious human rights violators.  This joint project would involve discussion with Syrian policymakers and civil society, the commissioning of a video documentary featuring victims’ perspectives on conflicts and transitional justice, and workshops and conferences presenting its findings and recommendations for a Syrian transitional justice process. It also aims to establish an ethics review committee to oversee all Commission and joint-project activities.

This document describing the IRDC’s goals and its methods for achieving transitional justice is valuable for two reasons: 1) the Commission can be a potential ally for future litigation by Syrian conflict victims; and 2) the Commission’s victim-centred approach prioritizes victims, rather than the discipline of international criminal justice, thereby putting victims first.  This latter point, in particular, re-focuses the purpose of international criminal law on providing justice for victims of war crimes, a human rights issue.