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Koenders: urges international community to expedite and fund Syrian evidence database

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders on Thursday called upon 60 countries to contribute financially to the UN database for evidence of serious crimes committed in Syria. He was speaking at the opening of an international conference where 200 experts from all over the world gathered to discuss the establishment of the evidence database.

A great deal of evidence of war crimes and human rights violations committed during the conflict in Syria has been gathered over the past 6 years. It is important to store all this evidence in one place and analyse it to determine whether it can be used in court. ‘The database will be the central mechanism for collecting and storing evidence of the most serious offences committed in Syria. This will bring us a step closer to prosecuting suspects,’ said Mr Koenders.

‘We need to get moving on this. The situation has spurred us to tackle impunity in Syria even as the conflict continues to rage. If the database functions properly, it could speed up prosecutions,’ said the minister.

In a resolution supported by 105 countries, the UN General Assembly decided last year to establish the database. ‘Now we need to find adequate financial resources so that the team from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) can get started,’ the minister continued.

The Netherlands and a few other countries have already made a contribution. Mr Koenders expressed the hope that other countries would follow suit. A number of countries pledged financial support at an event hosted by the Netherlands and Liechtenstein in Geneva last week.

‘In Syria, too, justice must have the final word. The evidence database is a vital ray of hope for Syria. With the support of the international community, the truth will be brought to light and we can hold perpetrators responsible

The Netherlands organised the expert meeting in cooperation with the OHCHR team. Several Syrian organisations engaged in gathering evidence were also represented at the meeting. Mr Koenders thanked them for their courage in doing this work, often at risk to their own lives. Experts from international courts and tribunals based in The Hague also attended the meeting.