On 21 December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/71/248, establishing 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.
The creation of this new accountability model was initiated by the UN General Assembly to address the growing evidence of human rights violations being committed since the start of the conflict. The UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (CoI) had issued several reports highlighting “gross violations of human rights” as well as concern about “crimes against humanity” being committed, and recommending that the Security Council take action to refer the conflict to international justice bodies.
However, a Security Council impasse and the jurisdictional restrictions of the International Criminal Court limited the number of available pathways to justice. The General Assembly decided that an international response was needed to reinforce its commitment to the rule of law and that work to prepare for criminal proceedings could and should commence.
It was against this background that it created a unique body, the IIIM, not to prosecute cases but to prepare for prosecutions, and to support courts and tribunals seeking to prosecute serious international crimes.
To that end, the General Assembly mandated the IIIM to:
- Collect, consolidate and preserve information and “evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses”.
- Analyse this collected evidence and prepare “files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings”.
- Share information and evidence collected and analytical work produced with national, regional and international courts.
In accordance with UN principles, material can only be shared with jurisdictions that respect human rights law and standards, including the right to a fair trial, and where the death penalty would not apply for the offences under consideration.
UN General Assembly Resolution A/71/248
A resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 21 December 2016, to establish 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.
Resolutions & Terms of Reference
On 21 December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/71/248, which established the IIIM.
The resolution noted:
“the repeated encouragement by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Security Council to refer the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic to the International Criminal Court”.
It emphasised the need to ensure accountability for:
“crimes involving violations of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity”.
The General Assembly decided to establish the IIIM under the auspices of the United Nations:
“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”.
It requested the Secretary-General “to develop, within 20 working days of the adoption of the present resolution, the terms of reference” and to take the necessary steps “for the speedy establishment and full functioning of the IIIM” and to report back to the GA on implementation of resolution A/71/248. It decided that the IIIM would “initially be funded by voluntary contributions” and that the General Assembly would “revisit the question of funding” as soon as possible.
Resolution A/71/248 also called on:
“all States, all parties to the conflict as well as civil society to cooperate fully with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and the Commission of Inquiry to effectively fulfil their respective mandates and, in particular, to provide them with any information and documentation they may possess, as well as any other forms of assistance pertaining to their respective mandates”.
It requested the UN system as a whole to “fully cooperate” with the IIIM and “to promptly respond to any request, including access to all information and documentation, and decided that the IIIM shall closely cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry in all aspects of its work“.
Report of the UN Secretary-General A/71/755
Implementation of the resolution establishing the IIIM. The report outlines the terms of reference of the IIIM including its mandate, methodology, legal framework and protection of victims and witnesses.
Report of the UN Secretary-General A/71/755/Add.1
An additional report on the implementation of the resolution and on the setting up of the IIIM. It outlines the progress made in the operationalisation of the IIIM, notably in terms of administrative set-up and fundraising.
On 30 October 2020, resolution A/C3/75/L.33, the General Assembly requested that the IIIM submit only one report annually starting at its seventy-fifth session.
UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/74/262
A resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 27 December 2019, to include the IIIM in the regular budget of the United Nations, implementing a request made when the IIIM was established.