Today, as survivors of detention and families of people that have been detained, tortured and executed, we stand together to unite our voices and our pain
February 23, 2019
Dear Ms. Federica Mogherini and Mr. Geir Pedersen,
We are Syrian families with loved ones forcibly disappeared in Syria. We are the mothers and fathers of children whose tortured bodies we had to identify in the leaked Caesar photos. We are the brothers and sisters, husbands and wives who last year grieved our siblings after receiving notices from the Syrian regime of their deaths in custody. We are the survivors of torture centers whose responsibility it is now to do everything in our power to save the friends we left behind.
Ms. Mogherini, human rights groups estimate that more than one hundred thousands Syrians are forcibly disappeared in our country and the numbers continue to grow. We ask that you and your colleagues convening the Brussels III conference place the issue of freedom and justice for the detained and disappeared at the very center of your agenda. We then call on the EU to champion our demands with the member states attending the conference so that real progress is made this year on the detention file.
In order to support our rights as families and survivors to truth, justice, and accountability, we urge the EU and all member states to:
Pressure Assad, Russia and all parties to the conflict to reveal the fate of hundreds of thousands of missing persons. The international community must prioritize our right to know where our loved ones are and reveal the fate of thousands of detainees whose lives are in imminent danger of torture and extrajudicial executions. We appeal to you to take serious actions to protect our loved ones and secure their release, beginning with pursuing a UN Security Council Resolution to this effect.
Support an active role for Syrian survivors and the families of the disappeared in any peace process and condition all reconstruction efforts on unlawful detention and forced disappearance being halted and our families receiving the right to know where our loved ones are. Syria cannot be rebuilt on the mass graves of our loved ones and reconstruction cannot take place until our society heals. This should be a priority for the Special Envoy
Support the search for and identification of all of Syria’s missing. Where detainees have died, we have the right to be informed of their deaths in a dignified manner and be able to bury them ourselves. We abhor the process of death notices that the regime began carrying out last year, giving our families fake causes of death and not releasing burial locations. We demand access to burial locations and investigations into the causes of death.
Support all efforts to hold accountable the perpetrators of torture and mistreatment in Syria, including national efforts currently being undertaken in Europe and international efforts to establish a Special Tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. Syrian families regardless of where they are should be able to pursue justice for their loved ones. Syrian civil society organizations and victim-led initiatives must be supported in an effort to put an end to impunity in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria and to deal with the physical, psychological and economic consequences of these crimes
Ensure that the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) has the vital resources it needs to do its work, and pledge commitment to cooperate with the IIIM as necessary, including by sharing relevant information about crimes committed in Syria, and, where relevant, provide the necessary resources to judicial war crimes units to enhance their capacity to investigate crimes perpetrated in Syria
Today, as survivors of detention and families of people that have been detained, tortured and executed, we stand together to unite our voices and our pain. We speak for every Syrian family who has endured this tragic experience. Today and every day we want justice for the atrocities we witnessed firsthand or that our loved ones endured.
We will continue advocating tirelessly so that those responsible may be brought to justice. Many of us no longer hope to see our family members again, left now to grieve them after confirming their deaths in the cruelest and most horrible conditions. But we are determined that those who right now remain locked up are saved. There are countless of them, Ms. Mogherini and Mr. Pedersen, and you can lead in stopping the torture, saving them and ensuring their numbers do not grow.