Seven Syrian and European rights and law groups, including the Open Society Justice Initiative, have written to the government of Sweden to express their reservations about proposals to set up an international tribunal exclusively focused on crimes committed during Syria’s civil war by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
In their letter, delivered on June 3, 2019, the seven organizations say they “advise against designing any accountability mechanism whose purpose is to deal only with crimes perpetrated by one faction in a conflict”.
“ISIS is responsible for horrific atrocities, and it is important that there be accountability for these. However, if a mechanism were designed to overlook atrocities committed by other actors in the conflict, its credibility and legitimacy would suffer greatly, as would chances for reconciliation and efforts to engender the concept of a neutral judiciary.”
Sweden convened a meeting of government officials from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and other countries in Stockholm on June 3, to discuss the idea of an ISIS-focused tribunal, based in Iraq.
The letter is signed by: Civil Rights Defenders; European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights; Syrian Center for Legal Studies & Researches; Center for Justice & Accountability; Open Society Justice Initiative; Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression; and Syria Justice and Accountability Centre.
All seven groups are involved in efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of atrocity crimes in Syria and elsewhere, including through prosecutions in European and U.S. national courts. The letter notes the important role that civil society groups play in accountability efforts, and the need to draw on the expertise of local groups, while urging Sweden to engage with civil society groups on the issues.