75% of the Arrests were at the Hands of Syrian Regime forces – Mostly for Conscription Purposes
SNHR has published its monthly report documenting the arbitrary arrests by the parties to the conflict in Syria for the month of November.
The report notes that the first Security Council Resolutions to address Syria were 2041 and 2042 in April 2012, and both Resolutions highlighted the political arrest and enforced-disappearance issue, while Resolution 2139, February 2014, called for the immediate cease of enforced-disappearance practices, strongly condemning it, same as paragraph 12 of Resolution 2254 in December 2015. However, all of these Resolutions were merely words, and have all failed to reveal even the fate of one missing or forcibly-disappeared person, or set free any prisons of conscience, political figures, women, or children.
The report adds that the detainees issue was present during discussions and on the agenda in Geneva talks even though the progress has been almost non-existent. However, the last three rounds were almost completely devoid of any discussion or reference to this sensitive issue.
The report stresses that the seventh round of Astana talks has come and gone, held on the 30th and 31st of October 2017, with no progress regarding the detainees and missing person issue. As we can see, the same scenario has been repeating since the first meeting in January 2017.
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 5,966 cases of arbitrary arrest at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria between the start of 2017 and December of the same year.
The report notes that arbitrary arrests made in November 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.
Furthermore, ISIS continues to enforce its policy of arbitrary arrests against civilians in its areas- particularly in ISIS-held neighborhoods of Deir Ez-Zour city and suburbs of Daraa governorate.
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.
The report notes that 569 individuals at least were arrested in November. Of those, 422 were arrested by Syrian regime forces including 28 children and 61 women (adult female).
Also, Self-Management forces arrested 76 individuals, including three children and three women. ISIS arrested 29 individuals including four children and two women. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, on the other hand, arrested 18 individuals, all men. Armed opposition factions arrested 24 individuals including two women.
In addition, the report breaks down the arrest cases by governorate, as Damascus suburbs governorate saw the most arrests with 138 cases.
The report notes that no less than 169 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 Self-Management forces.
The report also records 131 abduction cases that SNHR hasn’t been able to identify the groups behind them. 58 cases of the 109 cases, however, took place in areas controlled by Syrian regime forces.
The report notes that the detainees issue is the one issue that is yet to see any notable progress in Astana and Geneva, as well as the de-escalation agreements, even though it was included in those agreements. Therefore, the report emphasizes that all arbitrary arrest and enforced-disappearance cases must be ceased and the families of the detainees should 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 Resolutions:
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.
Additionally, the report calls on the United Nations and the guarantor parties at Astana to form an impartial special committee to monitor enforced-disappearance cases, and make progress in revealing the fate of nearly 86,000 missing persons in Syria, including 90% at the hands of Syrian regime forces.
Also, the report calls for applying immediate pressure on all parties in order to immediately reveal their detention records per a timetable. In the meantime, detention places should be revealed immediately, and humanitarian organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be allowed to visit them directly. Additionally, the report calls for the release of children and women, and to stop holding families and friends as war hostages.
The report urges the official who was newly appointed in charge of the detainee file at the UN special envoy to include the detainees issue in the upcoming round 8 of Geneva talks, as this issue is of a greater importance to the Syrian people than other far issues that can be jointly addressed later by the parties after a political settlement is reached, such as the constitution.
Lastly, the report calls on the Russian guarantor to stop the Syrian regime from dooming all de-escalation agreements, and start making progress in the detainees issue by revealing the fates of 76,000 forcibly-disappeared persons at the hands of the Syrian regime.