Photo by: Aardvark Film Emporium 2017
SNHR has published its monthly report documenting the arbitrary arrests by the parties to the conflict in Syria for the month of September.
The report asserts that SNHR abides by the highest standards for documentation, and notes the challenges that the detention documentation encounters. One of the most notable challenges is the families’ reluctance to cooperate and reveal any information on their family members’ arrest even secretively and especially if the arrested individual was a female due to a prevalent notion among the Syrian society that doing so would result in more torture and risks.
Also, the report notes that the international community’s and the United Nations’, in all of its organs, failure to apply pressure on the Syrian authorities to release even one case (including those whose sentences are over), and even prisoners of conscience, was one of the reasons the Syrian society believe it is useless to cooperate in the documentation process. Most of the releases were part of exchange deals with the armed opposition.
Furthermore, the report says that SNHR possesses lists of more than 117,000 detainees, including children and women, it should be noted that we estimate that the actual number of detainees have exceeded 215,000; 99% of them are being detained mainly by Syrian regime forces. These number don’t include detainees over criminal charges, and include arrests that happened as part of the internal armed conflict and mainly over the opposition activity against the ruling authorities. Furthermore, The Syrian government denies that it made any arrests or executed any abductions when asked by the detainees’ families.
The report highlights the mounting number of arrests which were, according to the report, due to many reasons such as the fact that many arrested individuals weren’t arrested because of a crime they committed, but because their relatives’ involvement with armed opposition factions or because of their involvement in providing humanitarian aids. Also, most of the arrests are being conducted randomly and involve people who weren’t involved in the popular protests, relief, or even military activity. In addition, there are many government-forces-affiliated entities that are authorized to make arrests, many of these entities make arrests without checking with Syrian regime forces or the judicial authorities to which these entities are affiliated. Also, these entities have its own list of detention centers that are not subject to any judicial supervision. The detainees inside these detention centers are not being treated in accordance with the stated Syrian laws.
The report documents no less than 4,809 cases of arbitrary arrest at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria between the start of 2017 and October of the same year.
The report notes that Arbitrary arrests made in September were notable for Syrian regime forces’ almost daily raiding and arrest campaigns that involved civilians in the main neighborhoods, city centers and residential areas that are under the regime’s control. The arrests made focused on the age group 18-42 years old for the purpose of conscription, while Syrian regime forces targeted also activists’ and armed opposition fighters’ families who live in their areas of control. Also, a number of areas in Damascus suburbs governorate saw raids and arrest operations for conscription purposes. In addition, Syrian regime forces carried out a raid and arrest campaign in the neighborhoods of Homs city, where a number of doctors, engineers, and women who are related to fighters in armed opposition factions were arrested.
Furthermore, ISIS continues to enforce its policy of arbitrary arrests against civilians in its areas. The arrests were concentrated on civilians who are trying to flee ISIS-held areas to areas under the control of armed opposition or Syrian regime forces.
In contrast, Self-Management forces also continue its policy of arbitrary arrests and enforced-disappearance against civilians, and political and media activists who oppose its views in its areas. September recorded the highest rate of arbitrary arrests since the start of 2017, as arrests were concentrated on political activists who spoke out for the support of referendum on the separation from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Additionally, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (an alliance composed of extremist Islamic groups and a number of armed opposition factions) continued its arbitrary arrest and abduction operations against fighters of other armed opposition factions. These arrests were mainly in the villages and towns of the southern suburbs of Idlib governorate.
The report notes that 557 individuals at least were arrested in October, including 403 arrests by Syrian regime forces who were divided into 317 men, 31 children, and 55 women (adult female).
Also, Self-Management forces arrested 97 individuals as follows: 87 men, six children, and four women. ISIS arrested 26 individuals including five children, whereas the remaining 21 were men. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, on the other hand, arrested 19 individuals, all men. Armed opposition factions arrested 12 individuals who were all men.
The report notes that no less than 133 inspection points that resulted in detentions have been documented across Syria. Most of the points were in Hasaka governorate, while Syrian regime forces carried out the most raids followed by the Self-Management forces.
The report also records 93 abduction cases that SNHR hasn’t been able to identify the groups behind them. 59 cases of the 106 cases, however, took place in areas controlled by Syrian regime forces.
The report notes that the detainees issue hasn’t seen any notable progress even though it was included in the “Cessation of Hostiles” statement. Therefore, the report emphasizes that all arbitrary arrest and enforced-disappearance cases must be ceased and the families of the detainees must be allowed to visit their beloved ones. Also, the report recommends that all women and children must be released and the use of them as war hostages must stop.
Furthermore, the report emphasizes the necessity of granting the international independent monitors of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which was established by the UN, and the International Committee of the Red Cross unrestricted access to all the official and non-official detention centers. Also, A UN committee should be formed to see to the release of the detainees periodically and per a timetable that must be presented by all the detaining parties and mainly Syrian regime forces that are responsible for 99% of all detainees.
The report calls on the Security Council to monitor the implementation of the following resolution:
Resolution 2042, adopted on April 14 2012, Resolution 2043, adopted on April 21 2012, and Resolution 2139, adopted on February 22, 2014 which states and end to the crime of enforced-disappearance.
Finally, the report asserts that the UN and the international community must uphold their responsibilities with respect to hundreds of thousands of detainees and forcibly-disappeared individuals in Syria.