Statement by Ms Anneli Leega on Report of 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, 23 April 2019

Madame President,

Estonia aligns itself with the statement made by Croatia and by Liechtenstein.

At the outset, we would like to thank the Head of the Mechanism Mrs Catherine Marchi-Uhel for introducing the third report of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM) and for her dedicated leadership. Estonia fully supports the work of the Mechanism and its reports. We would once again like to express our willingness to cooperate with the Mechanism, and to share relevant evidentiary and other material in accordance with international law and our national legislation.

The Mechanism continues to carry out its tasks in a very complex context and faces different kind of challenges as has been pointed out in the report. The conflict in Syria has lasted over 8 years and has caused tremendous human suffering and loss of lives. We have witnessed the systematic and brutal violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The Mechanism, which has a mandate to collect information on an evidence of the most serious international crimes committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, needs continued support of the international community. Today we have a good opportunity to express our unwavering support to the work of the Mechanism yet again. As indicated in the report, neither the collection nor the analytical and investigative work will be completed in the foreseeable future.

We welcome the progress made by the Mechanism regarding all components of its mandate with an emphasis on the benefit of the Mechanism’s evidence collection. It also strengthened and enlarged the list of interlocutors and concluded a number of additional cooperation frameworks. We would like commend the Mechanism for intensifying their effort to promote cooperation among relevant actors at the national as well as regional and international level.

There can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. We need to strengthen our efforts to bring an end to the conflict. A sustainable solution for the Syria crisis requires a political process and an agreement based on a broad international consensus. Estonia will support any initiative that will bring peace and stability to this country, which is torn by war and violence. We also help Syrian war refugees by participating in their relocation and contributing financially to humanitarian aid funds and projects. However, a political solution cannot mean that those who have perpetrated monstrous atrocities against the Syrian people should not be held accountable.

We consider that the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes is critical to ensure fair and just society, by holding perpetrators accountable and to ensure justice for victims. To ensure accountability for international crimes committed in Syria, we reiterate our support for referral by the UN Security Council of the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), in order to guarantee that all victims would receive justice.

In prospects of justice for Syria, and to ensure respect for international criminal law, we call on all parties involved in the conflict to demonstrate a sense of responsibility and fully cooperate with the Mechanism in documenting human rights violations and gathering evidence in view of assisting future legal action  and prosecution of persons responsible for committing international  crimes in the Syrian Arab Republic.

In order for the Mechanism to be able to perform its mandate efficiently and make the prospect of justice for victims a reality, there is an urgent need to ensure the funding of the Mechanism from the regular United Nation budget. We are glad that this will be the case from 2020 onwards. The European Union and individual EU member states, including Estonia, have made voluntary contribution to finance the Mechanism.

We like to wish success to Mrs Catherine Marchi-Uhel on her efforts to continue the valuable work in investigation of the most serious crimes committed in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Thank you, Madame President!