Sweden hosted a meeting of experts at senior official level, with participants from eleven EU countries, including Sweden, Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands, and representatives of the EU and the UK. During the meeting in Stockholm today, the senior officials discussed matters related to accountability for crimes committed in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
“The crimes committed during the conflict in Syria and Iraq demand that we do all we can to ensure that justice is done. There must be no impunity for murder, terrorist offences, war crimes or crimes against humanity,” says Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg.
Sweden considers that the conditions for establishing a possible tribunal or some other legal mechanism must be thoroughly investigated. This would be an important complement to help ensure that justice is done. Sweden wants a tribunal to be able to sentence those responsible for committing crimes within the framework of the conflict in Syria and Iraq. The next step should be to agree on which alternatives could be explored further. Naturally, countries in the region must also be consulted.
On Friday, Mr Damberg will meet relevant ministerial colleagues at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg. In connection with this meeting, Mr Damberg will report on what was discussed by the countries’ experts at senior official level.
“We will take today’s expert meeting and the senior officials’ discussions forward with us. In many countries, a growing political interest has been seen in exploring different ways to increase accountability. Establishing a tribunal or some other legal mechanism is no simple matter, and the path to a possible process would take time and would require cooperation between many parties. This was the case for previous tribunals and would naturally be the same in this case, too. But because something is hard is no reason for failing to investigate the possibilities,” says Mr Damberg.
An effective system for obtaining evidence is a prerequisite for accountability. For this reason, Sweden supports the UN’s mechanisms for collecting evidence, the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) in Iraq and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) in Syria. UNITAD representatives will also visit the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.
At national level, Sweden has implemented around 40 measures to combat terrorism since 2014. The Government has criminalised more areas and increased the penalty for several offences. In connection with today’s media appearances, Mr Damberg also announced that the Government intends to begin legislative work to:
enable the extradition of Swedish citizens to states outside the European Union and Nordic countries; and
ensure that the legislation on international penal law cooperation allows Sweden to assist foreign actors other than states, for example UN organisations, with the investigation of offences. Sweden currently supports these mechanisms, but legislative amendments are needed to enable Swedish authorities to assist these organisations with collecting evidence in Sweden. This may include searching or questioning people who have moved to Sweden.