Statement by DPR Gert Auväärt at General Assembly Debate on Prevention of armed conflict – Report of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM)

Mr President,

Estonia aligns itself wih the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union. I will add some remarks in our national capacity.

Let me extend our gratitude to the Head of the IIIM, Ms Catherine Marchi-Uhel for the video presentation today.

The conflict in Syria has raged now for more than ten years. It has become one of the largest humanitarian crises since the Second World War.

In the spring of 2011 peaceful protesters took to the streets across Syria demanding basic human rights and dignity. They were met with a violent crackdown by the Syrian regime.

After more than half-a-million deaths and millions displaced, the situation remains desolate.

While the war continues, the pandemic has created additional challenges to the Syrian people, including in overcrowded refugee and IDP camps, further weakening the crippled health system.

Renewing the cross-border aid mechanism in the coming summer by the Security Council shall be of utmost importance.

The only solution to the situation in Syria is a political one, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. There can be no sustainable peace without justice. We must do everything that we can for accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Syria.

We welcome steps taken to uphold accountability on a domestic level. In February this year, for the first time a Syrian regime’s official was convicted of crimes against humanity in Germany. The Netherlands and Canada have also invoked Syria’s responsibility for human rights violations under the UN Convention against Torture (CAT).

At the same time, we regret that the Security Council is collectively failing to do anything impactful towards ending the conflict and establishing accountability. As a member, we reiterate our call to the Council as a whole to refer the situation of Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Investigative mechanisms, such as the IIIM of the General Assembly and the Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council play a central role in collecting evidence of the crimes committed.

Estonia supports the work and mandate of the IIIM, and welcomes the Mechanism’s latest reports [A/75/311; A/75/743]. We are impressed with the level of adjustments the IIIM has made in its working methods and activities in the light of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

The growing number of requests [over 110 to date] made to the IIIM for assistance attest to its critical relevance to fight impunity, also on domestic level outside of Syria.

 

Mr. President

We specifically thank the Mechanism for making an effort to pay attention to sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children, in line with its  inclusive approach to justice. We encourage the IIIM to continue its work on the overarching gender strategy and the victim/survivor-centered approach.

Considering the gravity and scale of the issue of missing persons, Estonia also appreciates that the Mechanism is looking into increasing transfer of information to actors mandated to search for the missing.

We applaud the increased engagement by the IIIM with Syrian civil society actors to better understand the needs of the local communities.

Finally, Estonia welcomes the efforts by the IIIM to use technological solutions new to criminal investigation for both preservation and analysis of evidence, including for faster, more robust and accurate analytical processes.

In order to provide a stabile base for its important work, Estonia continues to support the financing of this important body from the UN regular budget and calls on all States in this room to do so.

In closing, let me reiterate that Estonia remains committed to rules-based international order. We call on all States and the international community to support all accountability efforts for Syria, including the work of the IIIM. The victims of atrocities committed in Syria deserve no less than peace and justice.

Thank you.