Justice & Accountability

SNHR Receives Notification from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

At Least 84,000 Persons Forcibly Disappeared by the Syrian Regime, We Seek to Register as Many of Them as Possible with the United Nations Group

June 30, 2020

SNHR Receives Notification from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Source | Syrian Network For Human Rights

Press release:

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals in its report released today that it has received notification from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) that it submitted eight cases, provided by SNHR this year, to the Syrian regime, noting that at least 84,000 persons have been forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime, with SNHR seeking to register as many of these cases as possible with the United Nations group.

The five-page report notes that the cooperation between the SNHR and the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances extends over many years, with the SNHR and WGEID having bi-weekly correspondence on the cases of enforced disappearance that SNHR has documented; after being notified of the latest cases, the United Nations WGEID then verifies these cases again, and selects some of them to raise in its correspondence with the Syrian regime. Whilst the WGEID usually focuses on more recent cases in this context rather than those that occurred in previous years, the report notes that SNHR is currently working on more than 286 additional enforced disappearance cases, all by Syrian Regime forces, and will supply the data on these to the United Nations Group within the next few weeks. SNHR focuses particularly on the cases involving the Syrian regime because the United Nations WGEID’s work is concerned with cases of enforced disappearance carried out by state governments, rather than those perpetrated by non-state actors.

The report sheds light on the challenges facing the documentation process involving cases of enforced disappearance, more especially if the arrested individual is female, due to a well-founded fear still prevalent in Syrian society that being discovered to be doing so by the regime would result in more torture and increased danger for their loved ones and themselves. This has been reinforced by the failure of the international community and of all the organs of the United Nations to apply pressure on the Syrian regime authorities to release even one individual (including those whose sentences are completed), even prisoners of conscience.

The report further notes that SNHR obtains the victims’ families’ consent in all cases of enforced disappearance before submitting their data to the United Nations WGEID.

The report stresses that enforced disappearance is among the most serious and grave human rights violations due to the horrendous abuses to which victims are subjected, including torture and other cruel, degrading and abusive treatment, as well as unjust deprivation of freedom, against all of which these individuals are wholly defenseless, denied any legal protection and stripped of any human rights, with their torturers and abusers having the literal power of life and death. Detainees are also denied their fundamental political and civil rights, which are interdependent and interrelated rights, such as the right of the individual to recognition before the law, freedom, fair trial and judicial guarantees. Enforced disappearance, as the report notes, also generally violates the economic, social and cultural rights of victims and their families alike, such as the right to provision of protection and assistance to the family and the right to an adequate standard of living given that enforced disappearance causes families most often to lose the primary or sole breadwinner.

The report notes that the Syrian regime has perpetrated enforced disappearances in the context of a widespread attack against all civilian population groups. The Syrian regime, which has issued orders to its forces to carry out arrests and enforced disappearances, is fully aware of their effect, which constitutes a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This crime is, therefore, not subject to the statute of limitations and the same article gives the victims’ families the right to reparation and to know the fate of the disappeared. It is also considered a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute itself, being practiced against opponents calling for political change.

The report calls on the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to increase the number of personnel working on the Syrian issue, given that Syria is suffering an immense national catastrophe in the context of enforced disappearances due to the massive numbers of persons forcibly disappeared since March 2011, which makes it the worst affected country worldwide concerning this violation.

The report also recommends that the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances should correspond with the Syrian regime concerning the largest possible number of cases submitted, which may contribute to efforts to disclose the fate of these forcibly disappeared, and should constitute a kind of deterrent, however simple, impeding the murder of these detainees under torture by the Syrian regime.

The report emphasizes the need for the forcibly disappeared persons’ families to cooperate with reliable human rights organizations and provide them with data on the forcibly disappeared persons among their family members, and approve their correspondence with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, since this notification constitutes a kind of warning to the Syrian regime and may contribute to preventing its killing of forcibly disappeared persons.

The report notes that the registration of forcibly disappeared persons’ cases with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and their inclusion within the annex to the periodic report issued by it is considered an important document in the hands of their families, proving the case of enforced disappearance and demanding, through the WGEID, accountability and reparations in the course of transitional justice later, as well as proving the continuation of the Syrian regime’s strategy in this context.

The report urges the Group of Friends of the Syrian People at the Brussels Conference to establish an effective mechanism that contributes to revealing the fate of the forcibly disappeared persons in Syria, and supports the families of the victims, and to support the work of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the national organizations working in this field.

The report calls on the UN Special Envoy to Syria to raise the issue of enforced disappearance in all negotiation sessions, noting that ensuring that the disclosure of these individuals’ fate is a priority and parallel to the Geneva peace talks.

The report also calls on the UN Security Council and the United Nations to resort to Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to protect detainees from death in detention centers, and to put an end to the pandemic of enforced disappearance that is widespread across Syria, as it threatens the security and stability of society.
The report stresses the need for the Security Council to follow up on the implementation of and compel all parties to abide by the resolutions it has issued, most notably Resolution No. 2042 and Resolution No. 2139, and ensure that these theoretical resolutions be realized by action.

Finally, the report calls on the Syrian regime to stop terrorizing the Syrian population through enforced disappearances, torture, and death due to torture, to accept responsibility for all legal and material consequences, and to compensate the victims and their families from the resources of the Syrian state.

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