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Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

Current Commissioners

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Brazil)

Mr. Pinheiro is a Brazilian academic and political science scholar. Within the United Nations System, he served as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (2000-2008). Since 2011, he has served as Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria.

He also served as United Nations Special Rapporteur for Burundi from 1995 to 1999 and was a member of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. From 2003 to 2010 Mr. Pinheiro was commissioner and rapporteur on children at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.

In 2003, Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Mr. Pinheiro as an independent expert, with the rank of Assistant Secretary-General, to prepare an in-depth study into the global phenomenon of violence against children. This was presented to the General assembly in 2006.

In Brazil, he was a member of the Brazilian Truth Commission appointed by President Roussef, examining human rights violations during the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.

He has a long and distinguished career in academia. He was adjunct professor international relations visiting at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. Previously, he also held academic positions at the University of São Paulo, Columbia University, Notre Dame University, Oxford University, and the École des hautes études en Sciences sociales, Paris.

Hanny Megally (Egypt)

Mr. Megally has over 40 years of experience conducting and directing investigations and advocacy on human rights violations and humanitarian emergencies. He is currently a senior fellow at the New York University Centre on International Cooperation leading a program on dealing with the root causes of violent extremism.  Prior to this, he has worked at senior levels of both civil society – having served with several international non-governmental organisations - and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, where he was the Director of the Asia, Pacific, Middle East and North Africa Branch (2011-2015).

He was the Acting President of the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) from 2009-2010 and thereafter Vice President for Programs (2010 – 2011). He had served previously as ICTJ’s Director of Middle East and North Africa from 2003-2006. Mr. Megally was the Executive Director for the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch from 1997-2003. He also headed Amnesty International’s programs in the Middle East from 1984 to 1993 and served as their researcher in the region from 1977 until 1984.

Mr. Megally holds a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern History and Politics from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. He did graduate studies at the London School of Economics.   He speaks English, Arabic and French.

Lynn Welchman (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

Ms. Welchman joined the Commission of Inquiry on Syria in December 2021, succeeding retiring member Karen Koning AbuZayd.

Ms. Welchman brings vast experience in human rights law to the Commission, specialising in the Middle East and North Africa. She is a Professor of Law at SOAS University of London, where she teaches Islamic law, Gender, Law and Society in the Middle East and North Africa, and Human Rights and Islamic Law.

In addition, Ms. Welchman designed and convened the International Human Rights Clinic, for which she was joint winner of the SOAS Director’s Prize for Inspirational Teaching in 2019.

After graduating from Cambridge University with Honours, Ms. Welchman worked with several human rights organisations, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa and Haiti and Rwanda. She is a board member of the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Support of Human Rights Defenders and the International Advisory Board of the Open Society Foundation’s MENA office.

Ms. Welchman speaks fluent Arabic.

Former Commissioners

Karen Koning Abuzayd (United States)

Within the United Nations System, in August 2000, Ms. AbuZayd was appointed to the rank of Assistant Secretary General as Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA. On 28 June 2005, she appointed to the rank of Under Secretary-General as UNRWA Commissioner-General and served in that position until 10 January 2010. From her base in Gaza, she helped to oversee the education, health, social services and microenterprise programmes for 4.1 million Palestinian refugees. 

Before joining UNRWA, Ms. AbuZayd worked for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for 19 years. She began her humanitarian career in the Sudan in 1981, dealing with Ugandan, Chadian and Ethiopian refugees fleeing from war and famine in their own countries. From the Sudan, she moved to Namibia in 1989 to help coordinate the return of apartheid-era refugees, a successful repatriation operation which led to elections and independence. A year later, the Liberian civil war erupted, and she moved to Sierra Leone to head the UNHCR office in Freetown, initiating a new emergency response, that of settling 100,000 Liberians in 600 villages along the Liberian/Sierra Leone border.

From 1991 to 1993 in UNHCR’s Geneva headquarters, Ms. AbuZayd directed the South African repatriation operation and the Kenyan-Somali cross-border operation. She left Geneva to go to Sarajevo as Chief of Mission for two years during the Bosnian war. Four million displaced and war-affected people were kept alive by UNHCR’s airlift and convoy activities, while thousands more were protected from ethnic cleansing by a UNHCR presence. Her last four years with UNHCR were spent as Chef de Cabinet to High Commissioner Sadako Ogata and as Regional Representative for the United States and the Caribbean, where she focused on funding, public information and the legal issues of asylum-seekers.

Before joining the UNHCR, Ms. AbuZayd lectured in political science and Islamic studies at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and at Juba University in southern Sudan. She earned her B.Sc. at DePauw University in Indiana and her M.A. in Islamic Studies at McGill University in Canada.

She served as Commissioner of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria from 12 September 2011. After ten years of service to the Commission, she stepped down on 24 September 2021.

Carla Del Ponte (Switzerland)

Ms. Del Ponte is a Swiss and international Prosecutor and diplomat. Within the United Nations System, she is a former Chief Prosecutor of two United Nations international criminal tribunals.
As an investigating magistrate and public prosecutor in Switzerland, Ms. Del Ponte investigated and prosecuted cases of money laundering, terrorism, arms smuggling and espionage, and other facets of organized transnational crime.

After serving as the Attorney-General of Switzerland, she was appointed Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in August 1999. She remained Prosecutor at the ICTR and ICTY until 2003 and 2008, respectively.
A total of 91 indictments were filed during Ms. Del Ponte's term, including against Slobodan Milošević while he was an acting head of State, and a number of high-ranking generals and top politicians were convicted of a range of crimes. Among her achievements, Ms. Del Ponte proved beyond reasonable doubt that genocide was committed at Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia, and that rape was used as an instrument of terror in Bosnia, and as such constituted a crime against humanity. She also succeeded in securing guilty verdicts against several defendants accused of committing crimes against civilians during the epic siege of Sarajevo. In a 2001 interview, Del Ponte emphasized "Justice for the victims and the survivors requires a comprehensive effort at international and national level."
Ms. Del Ponte served as Swiss ambassador to Argentina from 2008 to February 2011.
From September 2012 to August 2017, she has served as a Commissioner of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria.

Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand)

Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn is an international law Professor. He was educated in the United Kingdom obtaining his undergraduate and graduate law degrees from Oxford University. He also holds a degree on European law from the Free University of Brussels. He is currently Professor of law at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, teaching international law, human rights, the law of regional organizations, migration and refugee law, child rights, international humanitarian law and European Union law. He was awarded the UNESCO Human Rights Education Prize in 2004.

Prof. Muntarbhorn has served on many United Nations bodies. He was formally the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He has also been Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. He was the Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Ivory Coast in 2011 and since September 2012 has been serving as a Commissioner on the Independent International Commission of inquiry on Syria.

Prof. Muntarbhorn has performed a substantial amount of work with non-governmental organisations in the field of human rights as well as with the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Prof. Muntarbhorn is the author of many publications on human rights issues, including women, children and human rights and human development.

Yakin Ertürk (Turkey)

Yakın Ertürk received a PhD in development sociology from Cornell University in 1980. She served as a faculty member at the Department of Sociology, Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey (Sept.1986 – Oct. 2010).

In addition to her academic career she has worked for various national and international agencies on rural development and women in development projects (1986-2003). She also undertook numerous international assignments, including as: Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Oct.1997- Feb.1999); Director of The Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) at UN Headquarters in New York (March 1999 – Oct. 2001); UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (SRVAW) (2003-2006); member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry of the June 2010 events in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan (Oct. 2010-April 2011).

In her capacity as the SRVAW she undertook 17 country visits at the invitation of the governments concerned. On 12 September 2011 she was appointed by the President of the UN Human Rights Council to the International Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syrian Arab Republic, on which she served until end of March 2012. Since November 2009, she has been serving on the European Council, Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).