GA: Prevention of Armed Conflict

Statement on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway delivered by Permanent Representative of Finland, Jukka Salovaara, on the report of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), 21 April 2021.

Mr. President,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Finland.

Mr. President,

This year marks a grim anniversary: a full decade has passed since the beginning of the conflict in Syria.

During this decade of fighting, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives or disappeared. Thousands more have been subjected to torture, rape, or other forms of cruel and degrading treatment. Millions have fled their homes. Towns and cities have been left in ruins, with homes, schools and even hospitals demolished.

The international community has repeatedly called on the parties to respect international law. But the events in Syria have repeatedly shown blatant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law.

Countless atrocities have reportedly been committed during the protracted conflict, by all parties. Given its status, capabilities and external supporters, the Assad regime and its allies bear the main responsibility for many of the flagrant violations of international law. However, expert reports have demonstrated that there are no clean hands in Syria and all perpetrators must be held to account.

As an independent and impartial investigative mechanism, the IIIM has a mandate to collect evidence of the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011, irrespective of the perpetrator. Evidence is key to successful criminal proceedings. Without evidence, there can be no accountability. Collecting, preserving and categorizing evidence is a meticulous task, which is one of the reasons the work of the IIIM is crucially important and we commend the efforts of the mechanism in this regard.

Mr. President,

The Nordic countries are adamant supporters of the rule-based international order and remain steadfast in our commitment to fighting impunity for the most serious international crimes. No sustainable and inclusive peace is possible without holding those responsible for the conflict-related atrocities accountable. The victims, the survivors and their families deserve justice.

States have the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes committed in their territory. We regret that, to date, no credible judicial processes have been initiated in Syria. We however commend the ongoing efforts to prosecute these crimes in a number of countries based on universal jurisdiction.  We also reiterate our call to the Security Council to exercise its powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Mr. President,

The Nordic countries would like to thank the IIIM for its latest report and commend the leadership of the mechanism for the work the IIIM has been carrying out. The IIIM has operated in a challenging political reality since its creation, and the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the liquidity constraints of the UN have posed additional difficulties over the past year. Despite these circumstances, the Mechanism has advanced in all the prongs of its mandate, as elaborated in its report. 

We reiterate our appreciation for the way in which the IIIM engages with all stakeholders, including civil society. This is illustrated by the approximately 60 cooperation frameworks the Mechanism has established with States, international organizations and civil society actors. Even outside the formal cooperation frameworks, we call on all stakeholders to cooperate fully with the IIIM.

The growing number of requests for assistance from national jurisdictions to the IIIM for information and evidence demonstrates the increasing interest of national authorities in the Mechanism and demand for the evidence it has thus far collected.

We welcome the steps taken by the Mechanism to finalize its overarching gender strategy, and its efforts to address crimes against children through a separate but complementary strategy. We further commend the IIIM for its continuing victim/survivor-centred approach and for paying special attention to crimes that often go unreported and unrecognized.

Finally, Mr. President,

The important work of the IIIM necessitates secure and predictable resources over the long term. The Nordic countries remain convinced that the UN Regular budget is the best funding mechanism to ensure this.

To conclude, Mr. President, the Nordic countries remain fully committed to the IIIM and its mandate.