Civil Society Organisations and Criminal Accountability for Atrocity Crimes

Tuesday 11 September 2018,
1500 – 1630

Room XXVII, Palais des Nations, Avenue de la Paix 8–14, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Video footage of the event.

Side event to the United Nations Human Rights Council 39th Session
Civil Society Organisations and Criminal Accountability for Atrocity Crimes

The event is open to anyone attending the UNHRC 39th Session

At this International Bar Association (IBA) side event, a group of esteemed panellists will take part in an interactive discussion on the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in combating impunity by bringing to justice individuals who have committed atrocious crimes. Speakers will also focus on how to adapt CSO practices to comply with international standards and meet the local expectations of legal accountability.


Michael Kirby AC CMG

Co-Chair of the HRI, and former Chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

Catherine Marchi-Uhel

Head of the UN 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

Federica D’Alessandra

Executive Director,
Oxford Program on International Peace and Security,
IBA War Crimes Committee


Wendy Betts

eyeWitness to Atrocities

Mazen Darwish

Syrian lawyer; President,
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression


Since its establishment in 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has authorised a growing number of independent commissions of inquiry (COI) to investigate the facts and circumstances of urgent human rights situations. Overall, the UNHRC has established 28 COI, fact-finding missions and other investigations. Increasingly, these international COI receive explicit mandates to pursue ‘accountability’ in addition to their central fact-finding role.

In parallel, CSOs, both international and local, are increasingly advancing accountability mechanisms. For example, the International Bar Association (IBA) has developed capacity-building activities for the legal community in Syria through the autonomous International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute; set up a civil society-led inquiry model in North Korea under the auspices of the IBA War Crimes Committee; and created the organisation eyeWitness to Atrocities alongside an eponymously titled mobile phone app. The app is a tool for documenting and reporting human rights atrocities in a secure and verifiable way in order that the information can be used as evidence in a court of law to hold perpetrators to account.

This event, to be video recorded and thereafter placed in the public domain, is taking place with the support of: