IIIM to Scale Down Support to Investigations Due to Funding Shortfall

The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) is experiencing a significant budget shortfall this year which may hamper its work. The IIIM was established by the United Nationals General Assembly in December 2016 with the mission to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for core international crimes committed in Syria since 2011. So far, it has provided assistance to 185 investigations worldwide.

Read the full article here.

IIIM Calls for Justice & Accountability at the Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” 

“The answer must be accountability.” 

29 May, Geneva – At the 8th edition of the Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region’, Mr. Robert Petit, Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), underscored the crucial role of justice and accountability in building a future Syria grounded in the rule of law. 

During the Ministerial Day, Mr. Petit expressed, “Since March 2011, the international community has been unable to speak with one voice to hold those most responsible for the crimes committed in Syria accountable.” He highlighted the ongoing atrocities and the impunity gap, stating, “More than ever, the answer must be accountability.” 

Mr. Petit pointed to the progress made by the IIIM, with the support and “unprecedented effort by Syrian civil society organizations and victim and survivor associations”. He referenced the assistance the IIIM has already provided to 192 distinct investigations, saying, “Our evidence, analyses, witness interviews, and partnerships are helping to bring justice for Syrians now.” He also emphasized that by investigating broad patterns of crimes the IIIM aims “to lay the groundwork for future justice efforts.” 

These efforts include the ongoing case at the International Court of Justice brought by Canada and the Netherlands, regarding Syria’s obligations under the Convention against Torture. The IIIM is preparing to provide support in the form of a report on the Syrian detention system. A version of the report will be made public.  

Mr. Petit urged member states to continue their support with tangible contributions, “Justice and accountability require time and resources. This applies to both the United Nations and civil society actors alike.  I call on you to fund the broad range of international justice actors pursuing pathways to accountability.” 

The High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell affirmed the EU’s continued support for the IIIM in his opening remarks, as did many representatives, including from Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. 

Mr. Petit was able to engage with Syrian civil society representatives at a side-event hosted by the Global Survivors Fund highlighting how the crucial support provided by Syrian civil society actors enabled the IIIM to fulfil its mandate towards inclusive justice.  

During a breakfast meeting hosted by Belgium’s Ambassador Mr. Piet Heirbaut, Director General for Legal Affairs at the Belgian Foreign Ministry, to introduce Mr. Petit as the newly appointed Head, he thanked the Ambassador, Member States present as well as the European Union, for their steadfast support of the IIIM. Mr. Petit expressed hope for continued cooperation to deliver justice and accountability to contribute to a sustainable peace in Syria and reiterated the need for additional funds in order to continue the IIIM’s successful mandate implementation.  

About the IIIM 

The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) is mandated to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011. 

Established in December 2016 by the UN General Assembly, the IIIM was the first UN body of its kind. It became operational in 2018 and has already received 375 requests for assistance from 16 different jurisdictions, It has to date supported 261 requests for assistance, related to 192 distinct investigations

Mr. Robert Petit, the second Head of the IIIM, was appointed by the Secretary-General and assumed his position on 2 May 2024. 

For more information on the IIIM’s work and activities visit iiim.un.org or contact [email protected] 

IIIM-Syria Welcomes Dabbagh Case Verdict

Geneva, 27 May 2024 – The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism – Syria (IIIM) welcomes the verdict by the Paris Judicial Court which has found three high-ranking Syrian officials guilty of complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against two French Syrian nationals, Mazen Dabbagh and his son Patrick Dabbagh.

Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud were sentenced, in absentia, to life imprisonment for complicity in imprisonment, torture, enforced disappearance and murder constituting crimes against humanity, as well as for confiscation of property, qualified as war crime. The lawsuit was filed in 2016 by the relatives of the victims, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH), with the support of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM).

IIIM Head, Robert Petit, said “This landmark case sends an important signal that even the highest levels of power, perpetrators can be held accountable”. Mr. Petit added, “This case was possible due to the tireless efforts of Syrian victims and survivors over many years. This verdict is a sign that the pursuit of inclusive justice is not in vain”.

The IIIM supported the investigation by providing information, evidence and analytical products. During the trial former IIIM Head, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, gave testimony in court as a context witness.

“The different types of assistance the IIIM was able to provide for this particular case is an example of the expertise we can offer to jurisdictions who are holding perpetrators accountable”, Mr. Petit said. “It is another example of how CSOs, jurisdictions and accountability bodies like the IIIM working together can deliver justice and accountability”.

Established in 2016 in a historic resolution by the UN General Assembly, the IIIM has a mandate to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.

To date, the IIIM has received 375 requests for assistance, related to 275 distinct investigations across 16 jurisdictions. It collects information from a range of stakeholders, with the majority of its sources being Syrian civil society actors. It consolidates and preserves the data, preparing and sharing on request, and proactively, information, evidence and analysis.

IIIM Head presents tenth report to the General Assembly

New York, April 24th – In her final oral presentation to the General Assembly before stepping down as the Head of the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), Catherine Marchi-Uhel delivered a comprehensive report. Ms. Uhel highlighted the IIIM’s significant contributions to justice in Syria, detailing numerous concrete achievements.

During the presentation, she updated on the IIIM’s progress across its three main lines of inquiry. Ms. Uhel also expressed concerns regarding the financial challenges facing the IIIM, underscoring the urgent need for increased funding to maintain effective support for relevant jurisdictions.

You can read the speech here.

We invite you to watch the oral report and hear Member States’ remarks in the link below.


IIIM at the Genocide Network

Last week, the IIIM participated in the European Network for Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and War Crimes, commonly known as the Genocide Network. This biannual cooperation meeting brings together national authorities dedicated to investigating and prosecuting core international crimes.

For our senior IIIM team members, this event is an important opportunity to engage with prosecutors and war crimes units. It is also an opportunity for the IIIM to provide an update for Network members on its work and activities that could support jurisdictions.

Notably, this marked Ms. Catherine Marchi-Uhel’s final attendance as the IIIM Head. Mr. Matevz Pezdirc, the Head of the Genocide Network Secretariat, expressed heartfelt appreciation on behalf of Eurojust and the represented national war crimes units for Ms. Marchi-Uhel’s substantial and meaningful contributions to the collective efforts to the fight against impunity.

Secretary-General appoints Mr. Robert Petit of Canada to Head the IIIM

New York, 22 March 2024 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced today the appointment of Robert Petit of Canada as Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.

Mr. Petit will succeed Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France, who was appointed as the first Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in 2017.  The Secretary-General expresses his gratitude to Ms. Marchi-Uhel for her dedicated service to the Mechanism and to the United Nations more broadly, as well as for her contributions to the advancement of international criminal justice.

Mr. Petit brings to the position 35 years of criminal justice experience in both national and international settings.  Since 2017, he has been the senior United Nations official to lead the United Nations Follow-On Mechanism on the Democratic Republic of the Congo in relation to the murders of two members of the Group of Experts in March 2017.  Mr. Petit also served as Senior Counsel and Team Leader in the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Section of Justice Canada.

Previously a Crown Attorney in Canada, Mr. Petit has held various international senior prosecutorial positions, including as International Co-Prosecutor of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Senior Trial Attorney at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Prosecutor of the Serious Crimes Unit, United Nations Mission in East Timor.

Mr. Petit holds an Advanced University Law Degree from the University of Montreal, Canada, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in History from the same university.  He is fluent in English and French.

Mr. Robert Petit of Canada – Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism Investigating Serious Crimes in Syria | United Nations Secretary-General

The results of the Syria mechanism are becoming more visible

“I think it’s becoming easier and easier to justify the value…the results were not very visible especially in the early days, but they are becoming more and more so.”

In this in-depth interview, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Head of IIIM, highlights the mechanism’s tangible contributions to international justice and shares the innovative approaches it developed that have now become a standard reference for others.

Read the full interview here.

Asymmetrical Haircuts- Adaptable Justice for Syria

In a new series the Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast team are focusing on UN accountability mechanisms. It is therefore only appropriate that the first episode is about the IIIM, the very first UN accountability mechanism created by the General Assembly, which became operational in 2018. 
Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the IIIM Head, talks to Janet H. Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg about the challenges and the innovations that were made to fulfil what was then a unique mandate. Listen to the full episode and hear more on how the IIIM has become a key part of the accountability ecosystem and its prioritisation of victims/survivors throughout all its work.

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, we honour the tireless efforts and indispensable contributions of Syrian women and girls in their unwavering pursuit of justice and accountability, despite the many risks and challenges.   

Women human rights defenders, activists, and feminist-led organizations have actively engaged with our work, not only sharing valuable material but also shaping the IIIM Gender Strategy with their insights.

Throughout the conflict and continuing until today, Syrian women exhibit remarkable resilience and determination, ensuring support for victims and survivors across diverse communities in overcoming obstacles to justice. The IIIM is committed to advocating for space for their voices to be heard throughout international justice processes. Inclusive justice requires proactive steps, from identifying and interviewing female witnesses to include in evidence collection, to sharing analytical products with competent jurisdictions that reflect the distinct harms experienced by women and girls.

Our Children and Youth Strategy, scheduled for public release this year, has also been enriched by discussions with girls inside Syria. Today, let’s recommit to a world where their future is free from social and legal inequalities, and their right to justice transcends gender boundaries.

Here’s to our collective efforts in ensuring a just and equitable world for women and girls—every day of the year.

Victim/survivor-centeredness, data protection and open-source collection in accountability: lessons from IIIM-Syria

As part of a series on Cybersecurity and Data Protection on the ICRC Humanitarian Law and Policy blog, IIIM Associate Legal Officer Rayyan Ghuma and Information and Evidence Officer Birhane Wossen Reta, contributed a post exploring how the IIIM’s Victim/Survivor-Centred Approach (VSCA) is applied to its data protection and open-source research processes. The post outlines the IIIM’s attention to victim/survivor rights, and the development of internal processes and frameworks that protect those rights at every stage of its work with data. 

Read the full article here for further details on this important feature of inclusive justice, as well as how the IIIM’s VSCA would guide open-source collection.