I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, and Albania as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
We welcome today's debate on the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Syria, which, once again, underlines the continued principled commitment of the wider UN membership to justice for the most serious crimes committed in Syria.
We would like to thank the Head of the Mechanism and her team for the latest report of the IIIM and their leadership. We are again pleased to see the progress that the Mechanism has made in the reporting period; and above all the IIIM's continued efforts to engage and coordinate with all stakeholders, especially civil society.
It is also apposite to mention on this occasion the recent, latest report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which examined the widespread enforced disappearances practised by the Syrian regime and by other parties to the Syrian conflict, as well as the associated torture and other crimes, such as rape and other forms of sexual violence and gender-based violence.
Ten years ago, Syrians took to the streets to demand democracy and the respect of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU is determined that the crimes perpetrated in the ten years since the uprising will not vanquish the Syrian people’s aspiration for dignity, for justice and for peace.
It is moreover the EU conviction that accountability, and justice for victims is essential for a stable, peaceful Syria, based on a credible, inclusive and viable political solution in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
It is therefore necessary to bring to a conclusion the atrocities, including the tragedy of the disappeared, for which the regime and its external supporters bear the main responsibility. It is essential that the United Nations dedicates the energy and the resources required to pursue and to ensure accountability for these crimes. This is a common responsibility.
The EU strongly supports progress on the issue of detainees in the hands of the regime and missing persons, in line with UNSCR 2254.
The EU will remain at the forefront of fighting impunity: all those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity must be held accountable. The EU therefore continues to support efforts to gather evidence into these atrocities. This includes continuing support to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism as well as to the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (CoI), in order to ensure the facts surrounding the crimes committed in the course of the conflict, including the disappearances described in the report of the CoI, are documented, with a view to future legal action.
The EU welcomes the special attention given by IIIM to sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children, and the work of the IIIM to conclude a gender strategy.
Given the seriousness of the crimes, the EU continues to call upon the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court
The prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity under national jurisdiction where possible can make an important contribution to securing accountability. Prosecutions and final judgements have been brought against perpetrators in several EU countries, and these efforts are being pursued in a number of jurisdictions.
The Netherlands is engaged in an initiative to hold Syria to account for breaching the UN Convention Against Torture.
The EU has adopted targeted sanctions against individuals and entities that are behind the repression of the Syrian people; these sanctions will not be lifted unless that repression – including the continuing disappearances – ceases.
Finally, the EU allies itself to the call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, which has been endorsed by the Security Council and should be enforced by the key member states supporting the Assad regime and armed groups.
To conclude, the EU promotes a global order based on the rule of law in which there is no shelter for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes under international law. There cannot be sustainable peace without justice, in Syria or elsewhere. The EU will continue to extend its full support to the IIIM, as well as to the complementary mechanisms contributing to the fight against impunity, such as the Commission of Inquiry and the OPWC Investigation and Identification Team
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.