UN Syria probe awash with war crime evidence

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UN investigators gathering evidence against perpetrators of horrific crimes committed in Syria’s seven-year war said Tuesday they had begun sifting through “unprecedented” amounts of information.

Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the French judge leading the new UN push to bring Syria’s war criminals to justice, said “overwhelming” amounts of data were flooding in and it would be impossible for investigators to probe all of the crimes.

“We are faced with unprecedented volumes of information,” she told reporters in Geneva, adding that her team was setting up IT systems capable of managing the vast amounts of data.

The so-called “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism” was created in 2016 to compile prosecutorial files that could be used by any jurisdiction — domestic or international — capable of acting against the perpetrators of major crimes in Syria.

Marchi-Uhel, who was appointed last July and who published her first report this week, said the team, which is due to swell to 60 people, was still at the data-gathering and sorting stage.

But she said it was already clear it was “not going to be in a position to investigate each and every crime. That would be an impossible task.”

The team had recently reached an agreement to access most of the information gathered by the UN Commission of Inquiry that has been reporting on atrocities in the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 350,000 people since 2011.

It also wants to cooperate with many non-governmental organizations that have been compiling documentation of crimes, she said, stressing that the mechanism would re-evaluate and re-analyze all data and draw its own conclusions.

“Exercising our discretion when selecting cases is going to be a crucial aspect of the work,” Marchi-Uhel said, adding that investigators would rely on multiple criteria to determine which cases to focus on.

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