Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 21, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President.
Ten years ago, the Assad regime met the peaceful demands of the Syrian people for dignity, respect, and fundamental freedoms with violence and repression. For over a decade now, the Syrian people have endured the unimaginable: from torture, to attacks on hospitals and healthcare, to cutting off humanitarian aid. That inability to even imagine what that must be like is exactly why we need the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism. Their work builds on the work of the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry on Syria in documenting the Assad regime’s responsibility for mass atrocities. This way, we need not attempt to imagine – the evidence is there for everyone to see.
So, we’re proud to support the IIIM’s work and welcome their fourth report. And in particular, I would like to applaud Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the head of the Mechanism, on her significant efforts. Our commitment to accountability for perpetrators of atrocities in Syria, and justice for the victims, is unwavering. Without accountability, the Syrian people will never experience a stable, just, and enduring peace. So, the United States strongly supports funding for the IIIM from the UN Regular Budget through assessed contributions. And we urge all Member States to continue to support this essential and appropriate arrangement so that the Mechanism’s important work will be on firm financial footing.
The IIIM’s structural investigations and case-building work provide the foundation for criminal accountability efforts that are necessary to combat impunity. We strongly support this information being made available to assist in new prosecutions, where jurisdictions exist. The recent conviction in Germany of the former Syrian regime official, Eyad al-Garib, for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, demonstrates the valuable role independent documentation can play to facilitate justice processes outside of Syria.
We’d also like to applaud the IIIM’s commitment to partnering with Syrian human rights groups – and including the perspectives of Syrian women and girls in its work. The IIIM’s laudable efforts to build trusted relationships with civil society, and groups who represent victims, is a key component of its success. And in particular, I’d like to commend the work of the groups of survivors and family members in the “Truth and Justice Charter” in support of a future Syria with freedom, dignity, and security.
The United States will continue to support programs that provide legal and psychosocial services for Syrian survivors of torture, former political prisoners, as well as for their families. And we will support justice and accountability by adding survivor voices and perspectives to discussions on justice and the future of Syria.
Unfortunately, even in the face of all of the overwhelming evidence documented by IIIM, Russia continues to defend the Assad regime, spread disinformation, and attack the integrity of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The OPCW’s most recent findings are clear: yet another chemical weapons attack is attributable to the Assad regime. We welcome today’s decision by the OPCW Conference of States Parties to suspend Syria’s rights and privileges under the Chemical Weapons Convention until it completes the steps set out in the OPCW’s Executive Council decision of July 9, 2020. There must be consequences for the use of chemical weapons.
In the meantime, the work of the IIIM is essential to furthering justice and ensuring a sustainable political solution to the Syrian conflict, per the parameters outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2254. And it remains deeply concerning that certain members of the Security Council have prevented the Council from acting to ensure accountability for the Syrian people.
Lastly, Mr. President, 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.