Explanation of Vote on a Draft UN Security Council Resolution to Extend the Mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 24, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President. As I just said before the vote, it is not every day that this Council considers an issue that is so horrific – so shocking to the conscience – as the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And today is an important day on the calendar; it is UN Day on which we the peoples of the United Nations recommit to unite, as the UN Charter preamble states, to maintain international peace and security. We all know there has long been an international norm against the use of chemical weapons because they are so cruel and so indiscriminate as never to be justified.

In one of our rare moments of unity, this Council appropriately condemned chemical weapons attacks in Syria. We even collaborated on creating an independent, impartial body to investigate confirmed cases of chemical weapons use. This body is comprised of internationally recognized, independent experts. It employs professional, scientific means of investigating attacks and identifying those responsible.

And yet – and yet – this body is under attack by the Syrian regime’s allies. And the question we must ask ourselves is whether the JIM is being attacked because it has failed in its job to determine the truth in Syria or because its conclusions have been politically inconvenient for some Council members.

We have just voted on a short, simple resolution to extend the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, also known as the “JIM.” We mandated this technical body to investigate chemical weapons attacks on the innocent men, women and children of Syria. Composed of experts from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, the JIM has a simple task: to find out who ordered and carried out the use of these weapons in Syria.

The United States and 10 other members of the Council voted in favor of this resolution today, as it is clear that there is more work to be done – and more chemical weapons attacks to investigate. The JIM has been successful in its work and we want that vital work to continue without interruption in its operations.

We want to know the truth about these attacks, regardless of where it takes us.

The United States deeply regrets that one member of this Council vetoed against this text, putting political considerations over the misery of Syrian civilians who have suffered and died from the use of chemical weapons. The reasons offered fool no one this morning.

We reject this cynicism, and we reaffirm our confidence in these technical experts, men and women who come from many regions, many backgrounds, and many perspectives. They knew their work would be attacked by Syria’s allies – yet have carried out their mandate effectively and responsibly.

Claims of JIM partiality just don’t survive scrutiny when you consider that all parties have acknowledged that sarin was used in Khan Sheikhoun and, as reported by the OPCW again this week, the Syrian regime itself provided the JIM with samples of evidence that support this conclusion. The JIM has even gone so far as to visit Syria several times to further its investigation – which we had hoped would satisfy the inappropriate demands of some members of this Council.

But it appears it will never be enough for some Council members.

We are not deceived nor deterred, however, and we call on all members of this Council to join us in rejecting these attacks on the JIM. These attacks are not intended to get us closer to the truth; they are intended to hide the truth. They are not designed to get us closer to accountability for chemical weapons use in Syria. They are designed to shield the perpetrators for some of the worst war crimes of our century.

Fortunately, this Council will have more chances to show that it values the truth, and to show its solidarity with the Syrian people. The JIM’s mandate expires on November 16, about three weeks from now. This investigative body should be a great symbol of what this Council can do when we work together. It is a symbol of our commitment to justice and accountability, and it is the hope to thousands of suffering and grieving Syrian civilians.

So we call on all Council members not to turn their backs on this hope and to preserve this Council’s unity in the face of Syrian chemical weapons attacks.

We call on the Security Council to take up this vital matter once again and vote to extend at that time the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism.

Thank you, Mr. President.