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Letter to States on Funding for Syria Investigative Mechanism

HRW Calls on Cosponsoring States to Provide Funding for Syria Investigative Mechanism

Dear Ambassador,

We write to thank your government for its support for the December 2016 General Assembly resolution 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 (the “mechanism”). Your government’s co-sponsorship of the resolution helped catalyze an important step forward to support justice for serious crimes committed in Syria.

The General Assembly voted on a draft resolution establishing an investigative mechanism in Syria on December 21, 2016. The text was adopted by a vote of 105 countries in favor.  © 2016 United Nations

But passing the resolution was just the first step. Raising the initial amount necessary for the mechanism to become operational needs to happen quickly. According to the UN Secretary-General’s recent report on the mechanism, a preliminary estimate puts the funding requirements to meet immediate start-up needs of the institution at between $4 million and $6 million. A broad number and diverse composition of contributing states acting expeditiously is crucial to ensuring the mechanism’s smooth operation and perceptions of its legitimacy. While the mechanism will at first be funded exclusively from voluntary contributions, the General Assembly decided to revisit the question of funding in the near future. We urge your capital to make a financial contribution to facilitate the mechanism’s prompt establishment and the sustainability of its important work.

Human Rights Watch had pressed for the creation of this mechanism and welcomed the December 21, 2016 United Nations General Assembly resolution which established it as a critically important step toward justice after years of unchecked atrocities in Syria. This new entity, along with other documentation efforts, including by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, will be vital to future domestic and international accountability processes. It is our hope that these initiatives build momentum for justice as well as send the message to victims of the Syrian conflict that the crimes committed against them will not go unanswered.

The mechanism will work closely with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, but its mandate goes beyond the commission in important ways. The General Assembly makes clear in its resolution that the mechanism will work to “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence” of violations and prepare files to facilitate credible criminal proceedings in courts with jurisdiction over the crimes. It will process, according to international law standards, materials that it receives from other sources as well as, where appropriate, collect additional evidence or information. Preserving materials and information that may serve as the foundation for future criminal prosecutions is all the more crucial given the likely lengthy timeframe necessary to hold to account those responsible in a court of law.

We were heartened by the UN Secretary-General’s first step to ensure the mechanism’s prompt and sound establishment, through the presentation of its terms of reference on January 19. Indeed, the terms of reference is a key document to help guide the work of this unique entity and ensure the effective implementation of its mandate. Given the essential tasks assigned to it by the General Assembly, we are pleased that the terms of reference are themselves robust and will support the mechanism’s ability to function independently and impartially. 

There will doubtless be varied challenges ahead, but the most immediate relates to financial support. We therefore urge your government to contribute to the fund necessary to operationalize this important mechanism.

We are glad to discuss further our substantive assessment of the terms of reference, the steps necessary to make the mechanism operational, and the imperative of proper funding. Thank you in advance for your attention to this important issue.




Richard Dicker


International Justice Program



Louis Charbonneau

United Nations Director


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