Our Programme on International Peace and Security (IPS) is pleased to announce a research project to advise on the permanent support needed to fulfil international investigative mandates. Over the past ten years, there has been a dramatic shift in the willingness of bodies within the United Nations (UN) – among them, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, and the Security Council to direct and, increasingly, to establish entities to investigate, analyse and engage in case-building in situations of mass atrocity – where war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide are alleged to be taking place. Often referred to as ‘an accountability turn in human rights fact-finding’ (D’Alessandra, 2017), UN Commissions of Inquiry (CoIs) and Fact-Finding Missions (FFMs) are now not only tasked with human rights investigations and reporting but also with identifying perpetrators where possible and laying the foundation for future criminal accountability. Examples include the mandates of many existing CoIs and FFMs, as well as a ‘new generation’ of accountability mechanisms such as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic (IIIM) since March 2011, the UN Investigative Team to promote Accountability for the crimes committed by Da’esh (UNITAD) and the International, Independent Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM).
Ongoing challenges (operational, budgetary and vis-à-vis recruitment and fast-deployment) by these bodies call for evidence-based, realistic and cost-effective recommendations on how to maximise efficiencies while also providing the right resources at the right time where they are needed. There is an urgent need to provide evidence-based, realistic and cost-effective recommendations with reasonable prospect of acceptance by member states. In that light, IPS, under the leadership of its Executive Director Federica D’Alessandra and Senior Visiting Fellow of Practice Ambassador Stephen Rapp, with the support of Visiting Fellow Sareta Ashraph, have launched a research project that will comprehensively map these challenges and propose solutions. The project is also analysing and studying a number of approaches for increasing investigative capacity, including the establishment of a permanent global investigative mechanism, the creation of a permanent investigative support unit to assist all mandated inquiries and mechanisms, or the development of quick-deployment special teams.
To guide and support this research, IPS has convened an Advisory Group of Practitioners (who are leading or have led relevant inquiries) and is also engaging with a range of stakeholders such as ‘end-users’ of the evidence generated by these mechanisms (i.e. domestic prosecutorial and judicial authorities, including counsel), ‘suppliers’ (i.e. the range of groups collecting and collating documentation of atrocities), and ‘funders’/enablers (i.e. states, upon whom it will ultimately fall the responsibility to sustainably fund any solution). The project is also supported by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Center for the Prevention of Genocide (CPG) and carried out in partnership with the International Bar Association, through its War Crimes Committee and Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI). Organisations such as the International Commission of Jurists, Justice Rapid Response, the Eurojust Network for the Prosecution of Atrocity Crimes are close collaborators in our consultations, alongside relevant international organisations such as the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others.