SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC: Tens of thousands of disappeared must not be forgotten

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8 Sep 2017
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Regional conflict

The Syrian government and armed groups involved in the country’s conflict must disclose the fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands of people who have been forcibly disappeared or abducted since the onset of the crisis in 2011, said Amnesty International on the International Day of the Disappeared.

Amid the brutality and bloodshed of the Syrian conflict, the plight of those who have vanished after being arrested by the authorities or detained by armed groups is a tragedy that has been largely ignored internationally. Tens of thousands of families have been desperately trying to uncover the fate of their missing relatives.

Russia and the United States, in particular, must use their influence to pressure respectively the Syrian government and armed opposition groups to grant independent monitors access to places of detention, disclose the names and whereabouts of those deprived of their liberty, and allow all detainees to communicate with their families.

According to the Syrian network for Human Rights, 75,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearance by the Syrian government since 2011.

A woman has described the agony of not knowing the fate of her husband and her son since 20 September 2012. “The days pass by extremely heavily,” she said. “I never lose hope that they will return. I always imagine that moment when I learn of their release.” They disappeared after being arrested by Air Force Intelligence at a checkpoint in Damascus, although the Syrian government denies this.

While the overwhelming majority of those who have disappeared in Syria have vanished in a network of government detention centres, more than 2,000 individuals have gone missing after being detained by armed opposition groups and the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State. Four Syrian activists who worked at an NGO that monitors human rights violations were abducted by an armed opposition group from their office on 9 December 2013. Their families have been denied any shred of information about the fate of their loved ones.

There has been total impunity for those responsible for disappearances in Syria. This issue must be addressed by the international community at every opportunity or else its consequences will be felt for generations and the prospects for healing and reconciliation will be undermined.

30 August 2017

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