Syrian ORGs, rights groups evaluate UN report on missing detainees in Syria

Syrian activists from the Families for Freedom group in Berlin, in solidarity with the families of detainees in Syrian prisons and the missing in Berlin - 7 May 2022 (Families For Freedom)

Syrian activists from the Families for Freedom group in Berlin, in solidarity with the families of detainees in Syrian prisons and the missing in Berlin - 7 May 2022 (Families For Freedom)

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Enab Baladi – Lujain Mourad

Amid denial by those accused of involvement in the file of the missing in Syria and disregard by the international community, thousands of Syrians and other nationalities are searching for an answer that reassures their hearts about the fate of their loved ones missing in Syrian regime prisons.

The United Nations has adopted its report on the missing since December 2021 to be a pillar on which real steps will be built that contribute to revealing the fate of the missing, after years of demands for international action regarding this file and waiting for a mechanism to be reached under an international umbrella.

The report (Seen by Enab Baladi) approved on 2 August, which the UN shared with a group of concerned Syrian organizations at the end of August, contains a set of recommendations based on consultations that lasted about a year with the authorities concerned with the file of missing persons in Syria.

“Satisfying” results

The organizations and associations of Syrian detainees demanded on 25 July the establishment of an independent international humanitarian mechanism concerned with revealing the fate of the forcibly disappeared and those detained by the various parties to the conflict in Syria to overcome the “failure” of previous efforts in this file.

This is what the international report set as an initial step to achieve, as it recommended the establishment of a new international institution dealing with the missing in Syria after the agreement of most of the actors on this.

Bassam al-Ahmad, director of the Syrians for Truth and Justice organization (STJ), told Enab Baladi that the main recommendation of the report is to establish a mechanism to determine the fate of the missing, which is based on the recommendations and demands of human rights organizations and associations of detainees and their families, which makes the report’s result “satisfactory” for all parties that participated in its preparation.

Maryam al-Hallaq, director and co-founder of the Caesar Families Association, believes that the report fulfilled the demands of most of the parties concerned with the file of the missing.

Diab Sariya, co-founder and coordinator of the Association of Detainees and The Missing in Sednaya Prison (ADMSP), said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had built the report on long consultations and worked to ensure that it was written based on the different points of view of the organizations that have one goal in mind, which is to reveal the fate of the missing.

Humanitarian mandate

Fears of the reluctance of the parties to the conflict in Syria to cooperate with the proposed new entity prompted the concerned authorities in the file of the missing to stress their desire for the entity to have a “humanitarian” mandate.

The report also recommended that the mechanism of the prospective institution be “humanitarian” to achieve the efforts of the concerned authorities and the desire of the families of the missing, and this highlights that the priority of all parties involved in preparing the report is to obtain answers about the fate of the missing.

According to the report, the proposed entity is characterized by independence and impartiality by dealing with all parties to the conflict without bias, in addition to granting the families of the missing and their affiliated associations the right to participate in all stages of the work and establishment of the entity.

In turn, the Director of Syrians for Truth and Justice says that the focal point of the organizations’ claim and the report’s findings is that the mandate of the proposed entity or institution be “humanitarian,” indicating that the evidence and information that the institution will reach may be used for accountability at a later time.

Civil society organizations, the media, and associations of the forcibly disappeared and their families bear the responsibility of following up on the establishment of the mechanism and the implementation of its tasks in the future, Bassam al-Ahmad added.

Impact on survivors, families of the missing

In addition to the legal problems associated with identification papers and others in the countries of asylum, hundreds of survivors of detention and families of the missing in Syria and the countries of asylum suffer economic and psychological problems.

The report recommended the reduction of suffering that has been going on for years to be among the priorities of the proposed institution through the establishment of a “trust fund.”

Despite the report’s focus on this point, the mechanism of its implementation is still unclear for the organizations and stakeholders, according to Sariya, the co-founder and coordinator of the ADMSP.

Despite the focus of the report on this point, the mechanism for its implementation is still unclear for the organizations and concerned parties, Sariya said.

He added that the economic mechanism requires a long study and support from the UN member states, which he expected will require a long time to enter into force.

The report recommended improving coordination between actors and families of the missing to collect and exchange information, which contributes to data analysis to reach more accurate information about the missing and the parties responsible for their loss.

The role of the Syrian government and the parties to the conflict in Syria is to cooperate with the proposed new entity, if it is established, and to provide access to all detention facilities for human rights organizations and the new entity, according to the report.

The role of the Member States of the UN is to consider the establishment of the proposed institution and to take the necessary steps to provide direct support to organizations and the families of missing persons.

The report came in accordance with United Nations General Assembly Resolution “76/228” issued on 24 December 2021, in which the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to present a clear study on how to strengthen efforts to clarify the fate of the missing in Syria.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), about 149,862 people, including 4,931 children and 9,271 women, are still under arrest or enforced disappearance by all parties to the Syrian conflict from March 2011 until August 2021.

 

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