An informal meeting was held in the UN headquarters on Thursday under the title “Syria: War Crimes and the Pursuit of Justice.” The meeting, organized by Qatar’s Permanent Mission to the UN and attended by Member States, UN entities and civil society organizations, discussed how issues of compensation for the victims of the Syrian conflict, justice, and accountability should be featured in the ongoing political negotiations and in the ensuing political transition.
The meeting stressed that the issues of justice and accountability represent the basis for sustainable and durable peace in Syria, the region, and beyond.
The conferees listened to testimonies from Syrian human rights activists about the war crimes and their victims in Syria. Syrian rights activists warned of the consequences of delaying the discussion of enforcing transitional justice until after reaching a political settlement.
Participants agreed that the lack of justice and accountability would keep Syria in a spiral of violence and revenge. Qatar’s Ambassador to the United Nations Alia Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani said that the meeting was held as a response to the fact that issues of justice and accountability were absent from the ongoing Geneva talks.
The US Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power said that the session “is just a chance for us to remind the perpetrators who are strutting around Syria today, feeling as if they have that impunity, that their actions have not gone unseen and they will not go unpunished.”
Britain’s ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft said that the failure of the UN Security Council to take action over the past four years to enforce accountability for war crimes in Syria constitutes “a disgrace to our collective conscience.”
Evidence and testimonies collected by the UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in Syria have prompted countries and human rights organizations to demand the creation of an ad hoc international tribunal for Syria similar to the tribunals established for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
General Coordinator of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Riad Hijab reiterated calls for bringing Assad before an international court for the war crimes he commited in Syria.
Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Muwaffaq Nyrabiya also called for ensuring accountability in Syria, including through the prosecution of those involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity, including Russian entities and individuals who aid and abet the indiscriminate killing of Syrian civilians as well as other partners of Assad in the killing of the Syrian people.
The meeting was attended by the Permanent Missions of France, Denmark, Germany, Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States to the United Nations. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Al Jazeera)