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.

A Painstaking Quest for Justice

“In Syria, I was really struck by this lack of revenge. I haven’t seen many people wanting revenge. They want justice. And that’s really a very powerful attitude.” – Catherine Marchi- Uhel

Melissa Fleming, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, welcomed IIIM Head, Catherine Marchi-Uhel on her podcast “Awake at Night”. Ms. Fleming meets changemakers from diverse backgrounds who seek to create meaningful and lasting peace. In this episode, Ms. Uhel discusses her work at the IIIM following her lifetime career pursuing justice and accountability in different contexts.

You can listen now to the podcast here.

IIIM participated in an event calling for accountability for violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention 

The Head of the IIIM, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, participated in an event organized by the Henrich Böll Stiftung Foundation on the violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention in Syria.

The event featured a diverse group of Syrian civil society representatives, including victims/survivors, first responders, lawyers and human rights documenters. All were advocating for the establishment of a dedicated international body to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable.

Ms. Marchi-Uhel participated online, emphasizing the IIIM’s accountability mandate and its dedicated line of inquiry focused on unlawful attacks, including chemical weapons attacks. She highlighted that this work builds on the important contributions from Syrian civil society organizations as well as the findings of various international bodies such as the Commission of Inquiry on Syria and OPCW.

Watch the event here

Watch Ms. Marchi-Uhel’s remarks here.

Switzerland concluded an additional voluntary contribution to the IIIM

Geneva, 13 November – Ambassador Simon Geissbühler, Switzerland’s Head of the FDFA Peace and Human Rights Division, visited the IIIM to meet with Ms. Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Head of the IIIM. The meeting finalised an agreement for an additional contribution from Switzerland to the IIIM.

Switzerland’s ongoing support and commitment to the IIIM’s mission strengthens its capacity to meet the escalating demand for support across national jurisdictions.