We, the undersigned civil society organisations, commemorate the victims of enforced disappearances in Syria and support their families, urging the international community to support their demand to ensure justice, truth and reparation and the immediate release of all those enforcedly held in secret detention. As the world marks today the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, our organisations condemn the continued and systematic use of enforced disappearance which amounts to a crime against humanity committed by the Syrian government. To silence its critics and instil fear among communities, the Syrian government adopted this practice towards its civilians and deployed it systematically after the start of the peaceful protests in 2011. We also call upon all armed groups to the conflict to promptly release all those held disappeared and disclose their fates and whereabouts.
Since the rise of the peaceful protests in Syria, our organisations have been monitoring, documenting and campaigning on cases of hundreds of Syrian individuals who have been subjected to enforced disappearance. Many of those are women and children. Thousands of family members of those disappeared are struggling for justice in their dangerous and impossible quest to find the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. They experience mental and emotional anguish, while placed outside the protection of the law, and are often blackmailed, manipulated and used by brokers. The struggle for justice must not cease, accountability towards enforced disappearance must be high on the agenda of all international peace making and negotiations on Syria which might take place.
We call for justice for Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian-Palestinian software engineer and free speech activist, who was subjected to extrajudicial execution by a military field court in October 2015 and whose fate only became known in August 2017. On 15 March 2012, Military Intelligence had arrested Bassel Khartabil and held him incommunicado for eight months.
We urge the Syrian government to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands of victims of enforced disappearances including Syrian lawyer Khalil Maatouk, whose whereabouts are unknown since he was arrested at a government military checkpoint in October 2012. We call on the armed opposition groups to release Syrian human rights defenders, including Razan Zaitouneh Samira Khalil, Wael Hamadeh and Nazem Hammadi, who were kidnapped from the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) offices by armed, masked gunmen in Douma on 9 December 2013.