Remarks at a GA Debate on the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria

Mark Simonoff
Minister Counselor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
April 23, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States welcomes the submission of the third report of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.

We are proud to support the IIIM’s work, and congratulate the IIIM on its progress so far. In particular, I would like to applaud Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Head of the Mechanism, and her Deputy, Michelle Jarvis, on their significant efforts in standing up the IIIM.

That is why the United States recently announced our intention to provide an additional $2 million in support of the IIIM on top of our $350,000 contribution last year. The United States’ commitment to accountability in Syria is unwavering because without accountability, the peace we seek – the stable, just, enduring peace the Syrian people deserve – will remain elusive.

In addition to our voluntary contributions, I am pleased to announce today that the United States will also support funding for the IIIM from the UN Regular Budget through assessed contributions. We urge all member states to support Regular Budget funding for the IIIM through the Fifth Committee, and ultimately through this Assembly, so that the Mechanism’s important work will be on firm financial footing.

The United States would also like to stress the importance of maintaining fiscal discipline through reprioritization of resources in the UN regular budget when incorporating the IIIM.

In the year since the IIIM started its work, it has made impressive progress to implement its mandate to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses. The United States applauds the IIIM’s commitment to ensuring that in the process of pursuing justice and accountability it integrates Syrian women and girl’s voices.

The United States also applauds the widespread cooperation between member states, civil society, and multilateral mechanisms including the Commission of Inquiry and IIIM. Together with civil society, the international community is engaged in a robust and comprehensive approach that can ultimately bring justice to the thousands of victims of the Assad regime’s atrocities.

The IIIM is making invaluable progress in its structural investigations and specific-case building work that are providing the foundations for criminal cases. The United States looks forward to this information being available to support new prosecutions where jurisdiction exists, in accordance with international law.

The recent arrests of Assad regime officials in Germany and France demonstrate the valuable role outside documentation can play in supporting justice processes in countries other than Syria. Outside documentation was crucial in the civil case before the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. that found the Assad regime civilly liable for the extra-judicial killing of American journalist Marie Colvin.

Accountability is also necessary for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. For example, member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voted overwhelmingly last year to give the organization additional tools to respond to chemical weapons use, including the means to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. This was a significant achievement towards holding accountable those who use chemical weapons in Syria.

The United States strongly supports the OPCW’s attribution arrangements. We look forward to its new Investigation and Identification Team becoming fully operational and beginning its work to identify perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria for those cases where it has been determined that the use or likely use of chemical weapons has occurred.

Eight years ago, the Assad regime chose to meet Syrians’ peaceful demands for respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms with barrel bombs, chemical weapons, starvation, sexual violence, torture, arbitrary detention, and denial of fair trial guarantees. Numerous UN reports have repeatedly documented these acts, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes by the regime.

The United States will continue to provide the political, diplomatic, and financial support essential to ensure there are real consequences for the atrocities committed in Syria – whether it be the thousands in arbitrary detention in Assad’s prisons, those who have suffered and been killed by indiscriminate barrel bomb and chemical weapons attacks, or the many who have been exposed to the regime’s starve and surrender tactics against civilians in Homs, Aleppo, Darayya, and eastern Ghouta. The United States, alongside our many allies and partners, remains committed to holding perpetrators of atrocities in Syria accountable.

It is deeply regrettable that the Security Council is unable to find consensus on ways to ensure accountability for the Syrian people. The United States expresses its appreciation to members of the General Assembly for their role in establishing and providing a mandate for the IIIM. Attempts to undermine the IIIM by claiming that the General Assembly overstepped its authority in establishing the IIIM are baseless. We emphatically reject arguments that the IIIM was created in violation of the UN Charter.

The IIIM is a vital mechanism that will help provide prosecutors and investigators with the evidence needed to make the case during trial, thereby achieving a measure of justice for the many victims of Assad regime atrocities. The Syrian people should be heard, and every individual Syrian should have the opportunity to seek justice. Accountability and justice are essential to the international community’s efforts to ensure a lasting UN-led political process in Syria can take hold.

Thank you, Mr. President.