UN New body marks 'step closer' to justice for Syria victims

The world has taken "a step closer" towards justice for alleged war crimes committed in Syria, the judge leading the new United Nations effort to investigate the conflict said Tuesday.

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Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France is in charge of the UN body known as the "International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism", which is tasked with preparing prosecutions for major international crimes committed in Syria play

Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France is in charge of the UN body known as the "International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism", which is tasked with preparing prosecutions for major international crimes committed in Syria

(AFP)
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The world has taken "a step closer" towards justice for alleged war crimes committed in Syria, the judge leading the new United Nations effort to investigate the conflict said Tuesday.

Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France is in charge of the body known as the "International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism", which is tasked with preparing prosecutions for major international crimes committed in Syria.

Marchi-Uhel said her panel will work closely with the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI), which has submitted regular reports detailing atrocities in the Syrian conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people since 2011.

The COI has repeatedly called for the UN Security Council to use its reports as grounds to refer the Syria case to the International Criminal Court.

But permanent Security Council members, including China and Damascus-ally Russia, have blocked those moves.

An alliance of Western powers including the United States, Britain and France last year successfully pushed for the creation of a new body in response to the Security Council's inaction.

Marchi-Uhel said her mandate was to compile prosecutorial files that could be used by any jurisdiction -- domestic or international -- capable of taking action against the perpetrators of major international crimes in Syria.

"We're getting a step closer to prosecution and trials," she told reporters in Geneva, voicing hope that her work will have "a detering effect" on the violence that continues to rage on the ground.

Her broad mandate allows her to pursue cases against all actors in the conflict, including rebels, Islamic State jihadists as well President Bashar al-Assad's government and military.

The COI has previously accused all sides of committing war crimes in Syria.

Marchi-Uhel explained that for now she had no need to travel to Syria, as there was already mountains of evidence available that needed to be analysed and stored.

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