Acting Deputy Legal Adviser
New York, New York
April 25, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Syrian people have suffered horrific abuses during more than 12 years of brutal war, at the hands of the Assad regime, and at the hands of Da’esh and other terror groups. A sustainable end to the conflict in Syria will require accountability for the atrocities committed, some of which have risen to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Syria cannot achieve reconciliation while criminals continue their abuses with impunity.
Accountability requires dedicated effort, and the United States hails the work of the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) in support of investigating and prosecuting these crimes. The IIIM’s experts have made remarkable strides in collecting, consolidating, preserving, and analyzing evidence of international humanitarian law violations and human rights violations and abuses. This grim record cannot be erased by time or regime propaganda. Perpetrators of murder, kidnapping, torture, sexual violence, and other crimes can be held to account with this evidence.
The IIIM’s focus on inclusive justice is essential, as it recognizes the suffering and harm of women, which are distinct from those of men, and which must be reckoned with. The IIIM’s commitment to seeking justice for children, whose harrowing experience in this war cannot be overstated, will also help the Syrian people recover from this decade of trauma.
The IIIM’s work has already paid considerable dividends. Evidence shared with national courts has led to convictions and indictments of regime members who have committed horrific crimes, including the recent indictment of three Assad regime officials in France.
We look forward to more investigations and prosecutions – possibly even here in the United States, thanks to the Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act that President Biden recently signed into law. This historic new law allows the United States to prosecute war crimes committed anywhere, regardless of the nationality of the alleged offender or victim, if offenders come to the United States.
We thank the Head of the IIIM, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, and the dedicated professionals of the IIIM for their work. We also thank the brave Syrians who have come forward, at great personal risk, to share information about the crimes committed in Syria.
We welcome the publication of the IIIM strategic plan. This impressive document lays out a vision for a professional, victim-centered approach to delivering justice, with a clear view of the long-term nature of the pursuit of accountability.
The United States supports the continued work of the IIIM and urges all who value justice and accountability to re-affirm the mandate of the IIIM and support its continued inclusion in the regular budget. We also urge states to make voluntary contributions to allow the IIIM to complete the full range of its mandate and serve the growing number of requests for assistance.
Thank you, Mr. President.