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UN member states debate creation of independent entity to uncover fate of missing Syrians

March 29, 2023 at 11:39 am

A woman holds her grandchildren pictures who is missing in Hatay after a 7,8 magnitude earthquake struck the border region of Turkey and Syria earlier in the week. [BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images]

UN member states are debating the creation of a new body to uncover what has happened to tens of thousands of missing Syrians.

The Syrian conflict has been marked by arbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearance, deaths in custody and extrajudicial executions.

As it enters its thirteenth year, these disappearances and abductions continue to take place and thousands of people are in the dark about the fate of their loved ones.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed an independent entity to track the missing and disappeared in a report published over the summer last year.

“The whereabouts and fate of an estimated 100,000 Syrians remain unknown,” Guterres said in a press release yesterday.

“People in every part of the country and across the divides have loved ones who are missing, including family members who were forcibly disappeared, abducted, tortured and arbitrarily detained.”

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Member states and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, have agreed that a new entity should be dedicated to locating missing family members.

Human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have joined a growing chorus of people urging UN member states to create the new body.

Syrian civil society groups, including the Association of Detainees and Missing of Saydnaya Prison and the Caesar Families Association, have for years called for an independent body to investigate enforced disappearances.

Families that do search for their loved ones are in danger of being arrested or extorted whilst the Syrian government has prolonged their suffering by continuing to withhold their fate, said three UN commissioners in an op-ed in Al-Jazeera last year: “Experience globally shows that the longer it takes to establish such a mechanism, the more difficult it will be to ever clarify the fate and whereabouts of the missing and those forcibly disappeared.”

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), most of these disappearances are down to the Syrian regime.

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