Side Event “Ensuring Justice for Syria”: statement Didier Reynders


H.E. Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs


Side-Event “Ensuring justice for Syria”

New York 27th September 2018, 3pm – 4.30pm

(43:35 - 48:00)


Thank you,

Allow me first to address a special word of gratitude to Liechtenstein and Qatar for organizing this side-event. I also want to congratulate Mrs. Catherine Marchi-Uhel and her team for the great work they have done over the last few months. The International, Independent and Impartial Mechanism for Syria (IIIM) is now fully operational.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are here united in our belief that achieving accountability in Syria will end the perpetual cycle of violence. And will need to be a part of any future political settlement.

It’s up to all of us to support the IIIM in building and bringing cases against perpetrators before any competent tribunal. Belgium is currently in the process of modifying its national legislation to facilitate cooperation with the IIIM. We are in close contact with the Mechanism to that end and invite all other States to also take steps in this direction.

Belgium has already conducted several legal proceedings against fighters returning from Syria. Just an example, a Belgian court recently convicted Mr. Hakim Elouassaki to 28 years imprisonment after he confessed to hostage taking and a murder in Syria over a telephone conversation with his girlfriend. And there are many other cases at the moment before other tribunals.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The use of chemical weapons is inherently immoral, indiscriminate and constitutes a war crime. Impunity for such an abhorrent attack is unacceptable. We highly regret the vetoes blocking the renewal of the Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) of the OPCW and the UN to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. However, our resolve to seek justice for these crimes is strong. 

And recently, we took an important step by creating an attribution mechanism under the auspices of the OPCW to investigate and identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, including the latest chemical weapons attack on the 7th of April in Douma. This new attribution mechanism will continue the work the Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) was sadly unable to finish. Today, we commend steps taken by the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat to operationalize the attribution mechanism as soon as possible.

I also want to highlight, as you have said Catherine, the important decision of the Conference of State Parties of the OPCW to authorize the organization to share information with the IIIM.

Two last comments,

Of course, the mechanism is still dependent on voluntary contributions, and I’m proud that Belgium has already contributed close to 1.600.000 USD to the Mechanism. However, in order for it to be sustainable in the long run, securing funding through the regular UN budget remains crucial. I welcome the UNSG’s commitment to propose funding for the IIIM in his budget proposal for the year 2020 and call on all of you to support this proposal should it be an issue of discussion in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Achieving accountability in Syria is an uphill battle. Several vetoes blocking action by the Security Council on accountability, have shielded perpetrators who are still in Syria from accountability. On the institutional level, the Syria case demonstrates the validity of initiatives, including the one spearheaded by France and Mexico, to limit the use of the veto power by the permanent members of the UN Security Council in mass atrocity situations. Belgium supports this initiative, as well as the code of conduct of the ACT Group regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. I call on all of you to join these initiatives, so that justice should never take this long again. We owe it to the millions of victims in Syria. 

I thank you for your attention.