Press release on UN investigations in Syria: “Crowdfunding against War Criminals”

Press release on UN investigations in Syria

„Crowdfunding against War Criminals“

Syrian and International human rights groups want to collect 1.9m with the crowd4justice campaign starting today. The background: governments have not provided enough money, so that UN investigations of war crimes in Syria, have not begun six months after the UN general assembly agreed on them.

Berlin / Brussels, 19 June 2017. Since the governments of the UN member states have not provided enough money for the prosecution of serious war crimes in Syria, Syrian and international human rights organisations are from today on raising money per crowdfunding through the website so that the UN-investigation can finally start.

“More than five months ago the UN general assembly decided to launch an investigation into war crimes in Syria. Since then nothing has happened,” says human rights lawyer Mazen Darwish, head of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). “Each day without investigation is a gift to the perpetrators, telling them: war crimes pay off.“

The resolution A/71/248 passed by the UN general assembly envisages an “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism“ (IIIM) for the investigation of the most serious crimes in Syria. The work has not started yet because in the annual budget for 2017 of $13m about $4m (€3.8m) is still lacking. In contrast to the already existing Commission of Inquiry, the new mechanism is supposed to work more like a public prosecutor.

“Criminal prosecution in Syria must not be allowed to fail because of a lack of money. Each donation by the citizens will be a sign of shame,“ says Elias Perabo of the human rights organisation Adopt a Revolution which operates the crowdfunding website

Within ten weeks the campaign #crowd4justice hopes to raise at least half of the missing €3.8m in this year’s the annual budget of the UN investigators. The objective is to send a strong signal that the civil society is not prepared to accept the inaction of governments regarding human rights violations and war crimes in Syria.

In addition the initiators of the campaign, who have all been supporting the Syrian civil society for many years, challenge especially the European governments to use all diplomatic and political means within the framework of the EU to come up with the lacking funds. “For the EU it would be peanuts to make up the lacking funds and thus emphasise the political will to prosecute crimes against humanity,“ explains Thomas Seibert of the aid organisation medico international.

Apart from Adopt a Revolution and medico international, the campaign is supported by the Belgian coalition 11.11.11, the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, and the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research.

Politicians and other celebrities also back the campaign, amongst them the German-Iranian writer Navid Kermani, Member of European Parliament Marietje Schaake, who together with 34 collegues demanded substantial funds by the EU for IIIM in a letter to Federica Mogherini, Chairman of the German parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Norbert Röttgen, the spokesperson for foreign affairs of the Social Democratic Party of Germany Nils Annen and the member of parliament of the Green Party Franziska Brantner.

Please find more information on the campaign and the UN investigations attached.

The following representatives are available for interviews regarding the #crowd4justice campaign:

Elias Perabo, managing director of Adopt a Revolution: 0049-176-81022048, [email protected]

Thomas Seibert, human rights secretary of medico international: [email protected], 0049-160-97557350

Further information about the campaign and the UN investigation

The IIIM acts as a kind of public prosecutor. Contrary to all previous UN investigations in Syria, it is not only about safeguarding and assessing evidence and witness statements but also about attributing crimes to individual suspects. The files are then to be presented to courts of law so that they can bring the perpetrators to justice.

The resolution A/71/248 of the general assembly is significant because the prosecution of war crimes rests mostly with the UN Security Council. So far though, any initiatives in the UN Security Council regarding the clearance of crimes of war have been blocked through Russia’s veto. The resolution of the General Assembly can be seen as the attempt to reinstate the UN’s ability to act, the UN being the only legitimate authority for the prosecution of war criminals and the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.

So far three states have pledged more than $1m each: the Netherlands and Germany for the annual budget of 2017, and Finland for the budget of 2017 and 2018. Neither the US nor Russia have pledged money so far, although both governments have repeatedly demanded an independent investigation by the UN into war crimes in Syria. In general those countries that are directly involved in the Syria conflict are most hesitant. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran has promised any money. You can obtain the list of all paid and promised contributions online.

If the crowdfunding campaign manages to raise €1.9m, the money will be transferred to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) responsible for the IIIM. Contrary to many other UN organisations, the OHCHR may accept private donations. While we hope that the governments accept their responsibility and procure the necessary funds for this important step towards more justice, we, the public, will directly contribute if they do not.

For further information see:

Since the beginning of 2012 Adopt a Revolution supports the activity of the young Syrian civil society and spreads information of the Syrian democratic movement. On the site the initiative presents current developments of the Syrian civil society. To date, Adopt a Revolution has financially supported civil initiatives in Syria with more than 1m.