United Nations human rights investigators on Syria said Tuesday that preparing prosecutions against war criminals should not be delayed until the end of the conflict.
The UN Commission of Inquiry, which has documented atrocities committed by all sides in the war, has compiled a confidential list of suspects and begun providing judicial assistance to authorities investigating foreign fighters.
“The adoption of measures that lay the ground for accountability need not and should not wait for a final peace agreement to be reached,” head of the UN Commission of Inquiry Paulo Pinheiro told the UN Human Rights Council.
Michael Ratney, the US Special Envoy for Syria, said: “The United States unequivocally condemns atrocities committed by all sides, but we must not forget what the Syrian people will always remember: Assad and his allies have been, from the very beginning, by far the primary source of killing, torture, and deprivation in this war.”
Ratney also said that activists and the independent UN investigators are “all laying the ground work for holding perpetrators of crimes accountable in the future. It is not a question of if; it is a question of when.”
Carla del Ponte, a former UN war crimes prosecutor serving on the team, told reporters that it had received about 15 requests for information from various countries. The cases involved low- to middle-level perpetrators or foreign fighters.
“It is a start towards international justice,” she said.
It is estimated that over 40 foreign militias, most notably the Hezbollah militia, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Afghan and Iraqi militias, are fighting alongside the embattled Assad regime. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)