USIP Podcast: Syria’s Brutal Civil War and the Elusive Quest for Justice

Following a panel discussion, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, IIIM Head, was interviewed on the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) podcast, ‘The Event Extra’. She discussed the lessons learnt and progress made since the IIIM was established as well as the challenges facing those seeking justice and accountability. Ms. Marchi-Uhel also shared the importance of two-engagement with Syrian civil society and the critical role that relationship plays in the work IIIM conducts to facilitate justice processes.

Listen to the podcast discussion here:

Event Extra: Syria’s Brutal Civil War and the Elusive Quest for Justice | United States Institute of Peace (usip.org)

The Head of the IIIM spoke at a conference convened by France’s Cour de Cassation

On Monday 24 October, the Head of the IIIM spoke at a conference in Paris convened by France’s Cour de Cassation. The event, marking 20 years since the Rome Statute entered into force, included a session on ‘Building a common international criminal justice culture’ where Ms. Marchi-Uhel spoke on the digital and technological innovations that were being developed at the IIIM to support the investigation and evidence management serious crimes.

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You can follow the session here in French:

Delivering Justice for Syria: Assessing the Progress of the IIIM

On Monday, 17 October, the Head of the IIIM, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, participated in an event at the US Institute for Peace (USIP) in Washington. The panel discussion focused on the progress the IIIM has made so far, it’s engagement with civil society documentation efforts and how it supports investigations and prosecutions. Other topics included the UN Secretary’s report recommending the creation of a new body dedicated to determining the fate of missing people in the Syrian Arab Republic.  

The other panellists included: 

  • Mohammad Al Abdallah, Founding Director, Syria Justice and Accountability Center;
  • Beth Van Schaack, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State; 
  • Mona Yacoubian, Senior Advisor, Executive Office and Middle East and North Africa Center, U.S. Institute of Peace

France’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador M. Jérôme Bonnafont, meets with the head of the IIIM Catherine Marchi-Uhel

Monday, October 3, Geneva – France’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador M. Jérôme Bonnafont, met with the head of the IIIM, Catherine Marchi-Uhel for the submission of the instrument of approval of the convention between France and the IIIM. This paves the way for enhanced judicial cooperation to judge, including in France, the most serious crimes committed in Syria.

The Head of the IIIM participates in a virtual panel as part of the Free Yezidi Foundation’s eight-year commemoration of the Yezidi Genocide

August 3, 2022 – The Head of the IIIM, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, participated in a virtual panel on Justice and Accountability organised by the Free Yezidi Foundation for the eight year commemoration of the Yezidi Genocide. During her remarks, Ms. Marchi-Uhel shared how specific areas of the IIIM’s work and products, in relation to the core international crimes committed by ISIL in Syria, included those committed against members of the Yezidi community.

Watch the discussion here from 1:16:10 to 2:44:08

Deputy Head speaks at launch of the Anchoring Accountability for Mass Atrocities report – IIIM

IIIM Deputy Head Michelle Jarvis took part in the launch of the Anchoring Accountability for Mass Atrocities report, released by the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC).

The report attempts to better understand the challenges arising for UN accountability mandates and how they can be best supported moving forward. It looks in particular at the consecutive establishment and high performance of three independent UN investigative mechanisms (IIIM, IIMM and UNITAD).

In her intervention, Ms. Jarvis looked into the case for structural reform in the accountability landscape, especially vis-à-vis mainstreaming a VSCA into the work of accountability mechanisms, and the need for a centred but nimble information architecture accompanying it.

Ms. Jarvis’ intervention starts here:

French National Assembly authorises international judicial cooperation agreement between French Government and IIIM

The French National Assembly has passed a bill presented earlier by Government to authorise the approval of the international judicial cooperation agreement between the French Government and the IIIM. Amongst other things, the agreement would allow information to be transmitted from French courts to the IIIM, which had not been possible under current law.

To read more, click here.

IIIM-Syria welcomes German Court’s Crimes Against Humanity Verdict

Geneva, 13 January 2022 – The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism – Syria (IIIM) welcomes the landmark judgement against Anwar R, at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany. The former high-ranking Syrian official was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in torture, murder and sexual violence in his previous position as Head of the Investigation Department of Branch 251 of the Syrian intelligence services. 

This verdict concludes a trial that saw many survivors of Branch 251 give witness testimony, and prosecutors make use of evidence and information that many actors and particularly Syrians, have bravely documented, collected and shared with accountability bodies. 

Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the Head of the IIIM, said “The Koblenz ruling is highly significant not only for the direct victims and survivors these crimes, but also for the victims and survivors of the many unaddressed past and on-going violations in Syria. We must acknowledge that there is still much work to be done for justice to be delivered. This verdict reminds us all of what is possible and should leave perpetrators of serious crimes in no doubt that there will be accountability for their actions.” 

Germany’s use of universal jurisdiction holding perpetrators of international crimes committed in Syria accountable, shows the vital role national jurisdictions play in providing paths to justice for victims/survivors of crimes committed in Syria. While no international court currently exists, national jurisdictions must continue to uphold international law by bolstering their own laws and processes. The IIIM’s Central Repository of Information and Evidence is a powerful resource for national war crimes units seeking to investigate and prosecute suspects. 

“Sharing evidence and analysis is one leg of what is essentially a lengthy relay race of many accountability actors,” Ms. Marchi-Uhel stated “Our role at the IIIM is justice facilitation. We make use of information and material we have collected from many others and share it along with legal analysis and other support to jurisdictions, with the hope that it leads to many more trials and verdicts like those in Koblenz.” 

While the IIIM does not comment on its involvement in specific cases, it is a matter of public record that the IIIM is supporting German jurisdictions. The IIIM seizes all available avenues for justice and prepares for those that may emerge in the future. Its primary purpose is to assist competent jurisdictions seeking to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of international crimes committed in Syria since 2011.

To download the Press Release, click here.

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