The IIIM does not make arrests, nor does it prosecute or issue indictments. The IIIM collects, preserves and analyses evidence to prepare products so that it can share those products, and the information and evidence in its repository, to support competent jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators of core international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide) committed in Syria since 2011.
The backbone of the IIIM’s work is the Central Repository of information and evidence.
Central Repository of Information & Evidence
Since March 2011 multiple entities, especially from Syrian civil society, have gathered extensive documentation of crimes relevant to demonstrating violations of international law. When established, the priority for the IIIM was to create a workflow and system to fulfil a key part of its mandate, the collection and preservation of this documentation. It created and built the Central Repository to hold and aggregate the information and evidence it gathered. This centralised repository not only consolidates the documentation which the IIIM collects, but also enables it to organise this documentation systematically – make it searchable and findable – and ultimately maximise each record’s possible exploitation for existing and future accountability proceedings.
This centralised repository of high-value materials is continually expanding and the IIIM works to develop new methodologies and digital tools to search and review the diverse data in response to requests for assistance from the jurisdictions it supports, or for specific IIIM projects.
Structural Investigation framework
International criminal justice processes that emerge from complex conflicts require a substantial investment of time and resources, to ensure that the crimes committed are captured and the elements that enable and drive them are identified.
To do this the IIIM has developed a Syria-focused Structural Investigation as a key tool to facilitate justice. It is designed to build a broad and contextual understanding of the Syrian conflict that guides its evidence collection and analytical work. This framework aims to map:
- Over-arching crime patterns;
- Structures of power involved in the commission of crimes by all parties to the conflict.
- Relevant actors, both within structures of power, as well as those outside it (e.g. civilians who have played a role in the commission of crimes); and
- The broader context within which all the relevant events took place (economic, social, political, cultural, religious and geopolitical).
The objective is to paint a comprehensive picture able to advance accountability in various concrete ways, including by:
- Providing a principled foundation for the IIIM to exercise independent and impartial discretion when deciding where to focus its resources when engaging in proactive substantive work;
- Promoting consistency in the legal theories and arguments, across prosecutions relevant to the Syrian context; and
- Facilitating inclusive justice by integrating, from an early stage, the IIIM’s thematic strategies as part of its victim/survivor centred approach and addressing the biases that can arise in the investigation and prosecution of core international crimes cases.
The Structural Investigation framework underpins the growth of the IIIM’s Central Repository, the organisation of evidence in its repository, and the selection of analytical products which IIIM develops and the targeted investigative work which the IIIM undertakes to enhance such work product. It provides a flexible framework to ensures that justice can be facilitated in both the short and long term through the development of products that are relevant for current and future jurisdictional needs.
A growing number of national jurisdictions use structural Investigations to address core international crimes cases. While the IIIM’s structural investigation is developed to reflect its unique mandate, it is also designed to complement and support the Syria-focused structural investigations of the competent jurisdictions it supports.