Remarks at the UN General Assembly Debate on the IIIM for Syria

Julian Simcock
Deputy Legal Advisor
New York, New York
April 1, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President.

It has been eleven years since the start of the Assad regime’s brutal war on the Syrian people. Eleven years of death. Eleven years of damage. Eleven years of injustice. Now, more than ever, we are witnessing the effects of impunity for the actions of the Assad regime and its enablers. Now, more than ever, we see the need for justice and accountability.

The International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Syria is at the forefront of that effort. Its work to collect, preserve, and analyze evidence of violations of international humanitarian law, as well as human rights violations and abuses, is an integral part of the accountability framework for Syria. The United States is proud to support those efforts. And we are proud to see that the Mechanism’s work has had a direct impact on holding former officials of the Assad regime accountable.

Recently, in Koblenz, Germany, the Higher Regional Court delivered two verdicts which established that crimes against humanity had been committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population by the Syrian State and its security forces. We thank the Head of the IIIM, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, and her team, for their tireless efforts in this regard.

We also thank the IIIM for the careful way in which it conducts its work. It has established strategies on gender, children, and youth. It continues to deepen cooperation with Syrian civil society groups. And it engages in an inclusive manner, underpinned by the promotion of respect for human rights. These initiatives are all-the-more important given the Syrian conflict’s disproportionate impact on women, children, and other marginalized populations. We owe it to ourselves to be clear about the drivers of this conflict.

Russia has fueled and perpetuated the war in Syria through reckless and barbaric attacks impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure. We are alarmed but not surprised to see that it is now using some of the same tactics in its unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine. Based on information currently available, we assess that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

Putin’s forces used similar tactics in Grozny and in Aleppo, during the intense bombardment of those cities. We are deeply concerned about reports that Russia has now recruited Syrians to fight in its war of choice against Ukraine. Russia’s actions in Ukraine are being documented. And we intend to share information about Russia’s atrocities with our allies, partners, and international institutions and organizations as appropriate going forward.

Against this backdrop, it is predictable that Russia continues to challenge the validity of the IIIM and its important work. Russia cannot hide the truth, so it seeks instead to distort it. It will not succeed. And the reason it will not succeed is because of the bravery of the Syrian people themselves. We acknowledge the courage of those Syrians who have come forward to share information about crimes committed in Syria. We know that sharing this evidence may come with risk. We categorically condemn any efforts by the Assad regime to threaten or harass the families of those who are participating with the IIIM and other investigations.

Let me conclude by thanking those who share our commitment to accountability in Syria. As Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield stated in this room not long ago: “The Syrian people should be heard, and every individual Syrian should have the opportunity to seek justice. Without accountability, there will be no justice. And without justice, there will be no peace.”

I thank you, Mr. President.