Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic


The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic was established on 22 August 2011 by the Human Rights Council through resolution S-17/1 adopted at its 17th special session with a mandate to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic.  The Commission was also tasked to establish the facts and circumstances that may amount to such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and, where possible, to identify those responsible with a view of ensuring that perpetrators of violations, including those that may constitute crimes against humanity, are held accountable.

The Commission presented its first report to the Human Rights Council on 2 December 2011 and a subsequent report on 12 March 2012. The Commission’s mandate was extended for an additional period to September 2012.  On 1 June 2012, the Human Rights Council mandated the Commission to “urgently conduct a comprehensive, independent and unfettered special inquiry” into the events in Al-Houlah. The Commission presented a preliminary report on Al-Houlah on 26 June and reported its findings to the Council on 17 September.  The Council once again extended the Commission’s mandate for a further period, until March 2013, expanding the Commission’s mandate to include the investigation of all massacres.  The Commission will release its next report on 18 February to be presented to the 47-member Council in March. 

Since beginning its work, the Commission has produced four reports, plus four periodic updates, exposing human rights violations committed throughout the country based on interviews with over 5,200 witnesses and victims.  The Commission’s investigation relied primarily on first-hand accounts to corroborate incidents. Over one thousand interviews have been conducted thus far, predominantly with people in camps and hospitals in countries neighbouring Syria. Interviews have also been conducted by telephone and Skype with victims and witnesses inside the country. The commission also reviews photographs, video recordings, satellite imagery, forensic and medical, reports from Governments and non-Governmental sources, academic analyses and United Nations reports. To make a finding, the commission requires that incidents be corroborated to a level where the commission had ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ that the incidents occurred as described.

Since the unrest began in March 2011, hundreds of thousands of persons have been displaced from their homes with four million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.  The Syrian Government has yet to allow the Commission to undertake investigations inside the country.

Shortly after its establishment, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Brazil), Karen Koning AbuZayd (United States) and Yakin Erturk (Turkey) to serve as the Commissioners. (Yakin Erturk stepped down from the position in March 2012). Following the extension of the Commission’s mandate in September 2012, two new Commissioners were appointed - Carla del Ponte (Switzerland) and Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand).