Koenders describes report on mass executions in Syria as ‘horrific’

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders says that there must be no impunity for the mass executions carried out in Syria. He stressed the importance of gathering evidence of crimes against humanity and other atrocities so that the perpetrators can be prosecuted at a later stage, adding ‘I also want to make every effort to ensure that independent inspectors are granted access to prisons.’

Mr Koenders noted that he had seen Amnesty International’s ‘horrific’ report on the executions of thousands of Syrians by Assad’s regime and said, ‘This report highlights once more the systematic way in which the regime executes prisoners. Amnesty says that between 2011 and 2015, people were hanged in groups of up to 50 at a time. That is abhorrent.’

‘There is a huge need to gather evidence of war crimes committed in this long-running conflict,’ the minister said. ‘That is why I will soon be hosting an international conference in The Hague on the subject, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Because justice should always have the last word – in Syria like anywhere else.'

In December 2016 the Netherlands became the first country to make a financial contribution towards the establishment of a United Nations evidence database. ‘Perpetrators should know that their crimes are being documented and that they may be prosecuted at a later date,’ Mr Koenders said.  Experts from the Netherlands and abroad will be meeting at the conference in The Hague to make preparations for the database.

The Netherlands will continue making every effort to have the situation in Syria referred to the International Criminal Court, continuing if necessary next year when it occupies a temporary seat in the Security Council. Syria is not a party to the ICC’s Rome Statute, and so the only way in which the ICC can gain jurisdiction is through a Security Council referral. However, a Security Council resolution authorising such a referral was vetoed by Russia and China in 2014.