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2017 | SJAC, A memorandum to the Secretary General of the United Nations regarding the new United Nations mechanism for investigation and prosecution

The present memorandum addressed to the UN Secretary General was signed by 21 Syrian organizations and concerns the UNGA resolution A/71/L.48. Although the signatories welcome its adoption, they express their disappointment about being excluded from the drafting process. Thus they offer key recommendations for the drafting and the implementation of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM)'s terms of reference, each seeking to add detail and depth to the current wording.

The first recommendation urges that, given the absence of any available international forum for prosecuting crimes committed in Syria, ‘the terms of reference should explain a) whether and how the IIIM will seek to open up new jurisdictions for prosecutions and b) how it plans to engage with jurisdictions currently available when the prosecutorial offices of those countries typically lead the investigation and trials process.

The second recommendation presses for greater clarity in the terms of references about the nature of the relationship between the IIIM and the Syrian civil society. The authors criticize the ‘one-way’ nature of the present relationship, in which the UN’s commission of enquiry ‘views Syrian civil society organizations merely as sources of information and not as partners in achieving justice’.  The argue that a more inclusive approach is more likely to build trust, to encourage cooperation and to 'ensure that accountability is meaningful to the community it seeks to serve'.

Thirdly the memorandum notes that although expanding the IIIM's focus might not be currently possible, since criminal prosecution is only a component of transitional justice, it should be explicit that the information collected and the results of the investigations could be 'made available for future truth-telling mechanisms, reparations programs, identification of missing-persons, and efforts to resolve the dilemma of detainees'.

The fourth recommendation highlights the paramount importance of a victim-centred approach. The IIIM should pay attention to 'their needs beyond merely collecting information' and should 'prioritize the safety and demands of victims in all matters and procedures'.

The fifth point acknowledges the necessity of keeping the political track informed, while highlighting the importance of the IIIM's political independence. Thus to ensure  confidentiality, due process and victim protection, attempts by the political track to influence the IIIM's work should be prevented.

Finally the memorandums comments on the need for independence and impartiality in the funding and staff appointment systems.