On 9 March the Netherlands and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will be hosting an international meeting on the establishment of a UN database to document evidence of crimes committed in Syria.
Mr Koenders announced the meeting in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. The meeting will take place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. Participants will include experts from the Netherlands and abroad, along with representatives from organisations collecting evidence in Syria and from courts and tribunals based in The Hague.
‘There must be no impunity for the atrocities committed in Syria,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘And there can be no lasting peace in Syria without justice. That’s why the perpetrators must be held accountable. The evidence database will help those investigating the gravest crimes committed in Syria and will facilitate the prosecution of the perpetrators.’
Over the past five years there have been many reports of torture, executions, disappearances and the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs in Syria. Some evidence of the crimes committed in Syria has already been collected, but the evidence-gathering activities remain fragmented. The aim is for all information to be stored centrally in the database so that it can be used in criminal proceedings.
Late last year the UN General Assembly passed a resolution on the establishment of an evidence database for Syria, at the initiative of Qatar and Liechtenstein. The Netherlands also pushed for adoption of the resolution and immediately made a financial contribution to the database. The Netherlands is hosting the 9 March meeting to help ensure that the evidence database, which will be based in Geneva, can be up and running as quickly as possible.
Mr Koenders stressed in his speech that efforts to gather evidence and ensure justice are needed to bring about peace not just in Syria, but also in Yemen. The conflict in Yemen is putting human rights under great strain. In September last year the Netherlands led the European Union’s negotiating team on efforts to ensure that human rights violations and war crimes in Yemen would be investigated. A Human Rights Council resolution was passed in which it was agreed that additional international human rights experts would be made available to the OHCHR to enable independent investigations to be carried out. Mr Koenders stressed that the investigation team must be given full access.