The United Nations General Assembly has voted to establish a special team to “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence” as well as to prepare cases on war crimes and human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Syria.
The General Assembly adopted a Liechtenstein-drafted resolution to establish the independent team with 105 in favour, 15 against and 52 abstentions. The team will work in coordination with the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry.
Liechtenstein’s UN Ambassador Christian Wenaweser told the General Assembly before the vote: “We have postponed any meaningful action on accountability too often and for too long.”
He said inaction has sent “the signal that committing war crimes and crimes against humanity is a strategy that is condoned and has no consequences”.
The special team will “prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes”.
The UN resolution calls on all states, parties to the conflict, and civil society groups to provide any information and documentation to the team.
“The establishment of such a mechanism is a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a UN member state,” Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the General Assembly before the vote.
Earlier this month, Jaafari was found to have used a photo from Fallujah, Iraq, to support his claim that Syrian government troops were helping civilians in Aleppo.
Syrian allies Russia and Iran also spoke against the resolution.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in 2011 to investigate possible war crimes.
The Commission of Inquiry, which says it has a confidential list of suspects on all sides who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, has repeatedly called for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Russia and China vetoed an effort by Western powers to refer the conflict in Syria to The Hague-based court in 2014.
A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.
Half of Syria’s 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.