The Crime of Enforced-Disappearance is most Rampant in Syria, nearly 75,000 Individuals are Forcibly Disappeared
SNHR has published a report entitled: “The Prolonged Pain” in which it documents the toll of enforced-disappearance in Syria at the hands of the influential parties.
The report considers the Syrian regime the worst in terms of enforced-disappearance crimes in the modern age, and since eighties during Hafez Al Assad’s rule as the practice of enforced disappearance has been deeply rooted since then where nearly 17,000 persons, mostly from Hama, have suffered from the crime of enforced-disappearance at that time while the toll of the crime of enforced-disappearance in the last five years have exceeded 75,000 forcibly-disappeared persons across all of Syria.
The report outlines the definition of the enforced-disappearance in the human rights sense where this crime occurs when a person is abducted by:” a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization”. Also, arbitrary arrest is defined according to Article 7-2-I of Rome Stature: “the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.”
The report notes that in the Syrian case, there are many groups that have established itself in reality as ruling authorities such as ISIS, Fateh Al Sham Front (formerly known as Al Nussra Front), Self-management forces, which is primarily affiliated to the Democratic Union Party, and also areas under the control of armed opposition forces. All of these groups have carried out arrests to varying degrees as some of these arrest qualifies as enforced-disappearance. The Syrian regime, however, still leads in this respect for it has been responsible for 96% of the forcibly-disappeared persons in Syria.
Fadel Abdul Ghani, chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“It is incredibly easy in Syria for a detainee to become a forcibly-disappeared person because all of the arrests lack a judicial warrant for it is more of abductions or sometimes arrests that are made at checkpoints without knowing who was the party that carried out the arrest or even the cause of the arrest. Furthermore, the authorities absolutely refuse to acknowledge and deny that it made these arrests or that it has been torturing detainees or to inform anyone of the whereabouts of the detainees. The families of the detainees are afraid of asking about their beloved ones and the victims are still sinking in a black hole that is only getting bigger and bigger with time”
Additionally, the report notes that the Syrian regime used the weapon of enforced-disappearance to spread a state of terror and panic throughout the Syrian society. Arrest and enforced-disappearance didn’t only involve political activists or opposition figures but there have been many arbitrary campaigns that involved elders and children as part of a process only aiming to undermine and shatter the pillars of the Syrian society. The suffering deepens for the wives, mothers, and children who bear the greatest burden from an economic and social standpoint as the Syrian government forcibly discharges the forcibly-disappeared person from his job and suspend its salary and all of his dues and also prohibits his family from liquidizing his properties such as his inheritance and his house in addition to freezing his assets.
The report documents that no less than 71,533 individuals have fallen victims to the crime of enforced-disappearance at the hands of government forces which are divided into 7319 persons who belong to various group that oppose government forces and 64,214 civilians including no less than 4,109 children and 2,377 women. Most of the victims were from Damascus suburbs governorate followed by Daraa and Damascus.
The report estimates that ISIS is responsible for no less than 1,479 enforced-disappearance cases including 118 children and 87 women while Fateh Al Sham Front (Formerly Al Nussra Front) is responsible for the 892 cases of enforced-disappearance including 41 children and three women.
According to the report, Self-management forces practiced the policy of enforced-disappearance against its rivals mainly and those who oppose its policies in its area of control. Also, it resorted to abduction and hiding to scare the residents of these areas from opposing and violating the rules and laws it adopted especially with regard to conscription. The number of enforced-disappearance cases that Self-management forces is responsible for is estimated at 397 enforced-disappearance cases at least including 61 children and 11 women.
According to the report, Armed opposition factions have arrested and was responsible for the enforced-disappearance of number of detainees where armed opposition tried repeatedly to use those detainees in exchange deals with the Syrian regime and ISIS.
The number of enforced-disappearance cases that armed opposition factions are responsible for is estimated at 306 enforced-disappearance cases at least including 29 children and 14 women.
The report notes that Enforced-disappearance is considered as a crime According to the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” which was established in 2006. Even though Syria didn’t sign the agreement, the criminalization of the enforced-disappearance itself was part of the customary international law and also violates Geneva Convention of 1949 -Syria is part of the Convention- and its second additional protocol of 1977.
The report highlights that the crime of enforced-disappearance involves crimes that violate the human rights that were established in both of these agreements including the right to not being subjected to arbitrary arrest, the right to freedom, the right to having his legal individuality acknowledged, the right to a fair trial, the right to guaranteeing humanitarian condition during his arrest, the right to freedom and dignity, and right to not being subjected to torture and other forms of ill or inhumane treatment, and of course the right to life (in case he was killed after going forcibly-disappeared).
The report calls on the Security Council to follow-up with the implementation of its Resolutions and bind all parties to respect these Resolution including, and most notably, Resolution 2024 and 2139. Also, it should uphold its responsibilities with regard to forcibly-disappeared persons in Syria.
Finally, the report demands that pressure should be made on the Syrian regime to give the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic an access to all detention centers in order to investigate the horrendous allegation on human rights violations in these centers and hold those who are responsible accountable.