On 21 December 2016 the General Assembly adopted resolution 71/248 and decided in operational paragraph 4 to establish an “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011” (“the Mechanism”).
The Resolution requested the Secretary-General, with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to develop the Terms of Reference for the Mechanism, within 20 working days of the adoption of the resolution.
It also requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the implementation of the resolution to establish the Mechanism, by 4 February.
The Secretary-General has decided to issue both documents simultaneously, and plans to issue a further progress report on the operationalization of the Mechanism by the end of February.
Mandate of the Mechanism
The Mechanism has two main tasks: (1) to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses; and (2) to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law.
It will assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law, in particular the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in relevant sources of international law.
Relationship with the UN Independent International Commission on Syria
The Mechanism will closely cooperate and coordinate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria CoI). The Mechanism and the Syria CoI are complementary to each other. However, there is a clear distinction between the Syria CoI and the Mechanism in terms of functions. The Syria CoI focuses on information collection, publicly reporting and making recommendations notably to member states. The Mechanism builds on the information collected by others, by collecting, consolidating, preserving and analysing evidence and information. In addition, the Mechanism prepares files to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law.
In essence, the Mechanism has a quasi-prosecutorial function that is beyond the scope of the Syria CoI mandate.
- The Mechanism will be headed by a Senior Judge or Prosecutor with extensive experience in criminal investigations and prosecutions, assisted by a Deputy and a Secretariat.
- The establishment of the Mechanism will be in phases until it is fully functioning. The Secretary-General will announce the appointment of the Head of the Mechanism by the end of February.