Hope for Justice in Syria from an Unlikely Source

by David Tolbert*

An independent mechanism established by the UNGA is working towards abolishing the reign of criminal impunity in Syria.

UNGA

The Emir of Qatar, the country that led the efforts to establish the Mechanism alongside Liechtenstein, addressed the UNGA in September 2016 ©Reuters

Six years into the carnage in Syria, atrocious crimes run rampant, with savage abuses committed against all groups in the devastated country, and the murderous regime, abetted by powerful allies, is still in power.

The United Nations Security Council remains in a deadlock and unable to take any steps towards ensuring accountability for the massive crimes, with the International Criminal Court left on the sidelines.

However, amid the terrible loss of life, hope that the slow wheels of justice will finally be put in motion emerged recently from an unlikely source – the UN General Assembly.

In December 2016, the UNGA, led by Liechtenstein and Qatarestablished an “Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since March 2011”.

With this step the UNGA, usually associated with administrative and budgetary matters, has asserted itself in a highly welcome if unusual manner, signaling the deep frustration with the failure of other UN organs and the great powers to stop the killing in Syria.

The move also demonstrates that small states can galvanise the international community around issues of global significance and catalyse a collective response.

The term “Mechanism” indicates that the powers of this newly established body will not mirror those of a court or a commission of inquiry.

Instead, the focus of its mission will be to collect and analyse evidence, which could then be available for courts or tribunals in the future to prosecute these massive crimes. Continue reading

UN: António Guterres nominated as next UN Secretary-General

António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees speaking at the closing press conference of the 66th Executive Committee in Geneva ©UNHCR/J-M. Ferré

António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees speaking at the closing press conference of the 66th Executive Committee in Geneva ©UNHCR/J-M. Ferré

Members of the United Nations Security Council today adopted by acclamation the recommendation of former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres to become the next UN Secretary-General.

Mr Guterres, 67, will succeed the current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January 2017.

The Secretary-General of the UN is the head of the United Nations Secretariat, one of the principal organs of the UN, and serves as the organisation’s top diplomat and chief “administrative officer”. The post lasts for five years but is limited to a maximum of two terms. Continue reading