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Head of International Mechanism on Syria Describes Progress Documenting Crimes Committed by Both Sides, as General Assembly Takes Up Report‘“


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https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/ga12139.doc.htm

 

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Emphasizing the need to swiftly collect, consolidate and preserve information and evidence of the vast range of crimes committed on all sides, she stressed that “the time to prepare for justice is not a distant future, but right now”.  By creating the Mechanism, States sent an unequivocal message to perpetrators on all sides, especially those in a position of power, that the international community will not stand idly by in the face of atrocities.

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The Mechanism is a new model of international criminal justice, born from the Security Council’s inability to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, she continued.  It also represents an opportunity to address some weaknesses in the existing international criminal law framework.  Since May, the Mechanism has gathered more than a million records and its collection is growing exponentially as it incorporates whole databases.  Meanwhile, 23 requests for assistance have been received from war crimes units and national judiciaries, she said, adding that the rate of such requests is expected to increase going forward.

The Mechanism is dealing with a conflict “where there is probably more video footage than an individual could watch in a lifetime”, she pointed out, observing that it is building a central repository of information and evidence, using state‑of-the-art technology to categorize, de-duplicate, secure and retrieve material.  It is also adopting a flexible approach to maximize the chances that its analytical and casefile‑building work will assist recipient jurisdictions.  Two case files have been opened, including one that relates to ongoing proceedings in a national jurisdiction.  Emphasizing her commitment to ensure that gender perspectives are incorporated in all the Mechanism’s work, she underscored that the Mechanism’s work will take time.  It is making the best possible use of economies of scale and deploying resources as effectively as possibly.  Preparatory work to ensure sustainable funding for the Mechanism has been completed, she noted, calling on States to continue to support its transition to the Organization’s regular budget.

Many States, mainly from the Western European and Others Group, as well as international organizations, United Nations actors and Syrian non-governmental organizations, have entered into frameworks with the Mechanism to allow the swift transfer of information and evidence, she said.  She asked that all Member States similarly share information and evidence and facilitate access to victims and witnesses, and reiterated an invitation to Syria cooperate with the Mechanism.  The Mechanism is now a reality and a novel model with significant potential.  It is an opportunity to consolidate, process, preserve and analyse large volumes of information and evidence; to prepare the groundwork for comprehensive justice under United Nations auspices; to assist in investigations and prosecutions; and to embody the will of the General Assembly that there can be no sustainable peace without justice and that impunity for crimes committed in Syria is only temporary.

 

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