Most Detainees Were from Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Suburbs Governorate
SNHR said today in its special monthly report that documents cases of arbitrary arrest at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria that no less than 1,096 arrest cases were recorded in March 2018.
The report notes that arbitrary arrests have been made in Syria on a daily basis since the start of the popular uprising for democracy in March 2011 for simply exercising one of their basic rights such as the freedom of opinion and expression, or because they were denied a fair trial, or because they were detained after their punishment had ended. According to the report, arbitrarily detained individuals are subjected to solitary confinement for several months or sometimes years if not indefinitely at official and non-official detention centers in most cases.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime is responsible for no less than 87% of all arbitrary arrests. In most cases, victims’ families can’t accurately identify the entity that made the arrest, considering that all of the forces that sided with the Syrian regime (Iranian militias, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and others), aside from the four main security agencies and their many branches, have the authority to arrest, torture, and commit the crimes of enforced-disappearance.
Furthermore, the report notes that the issue of detainees is almost the only issue that has yet to see any progress despite all the negotiations, agreements, and Cessation of Hostilities statements.
The report notes that the mounting number of arrests is due to a number of reasons. Most notably, the fact that many detainees weren’t arrested over a crime they committed, but because of their relatives’ involvement with armed opposition factions or because they were involved themselves with humanitarian relief. Also, most of the arrests are made randomly and involve people who have no association with the popular uprising or relief efforts, or even military. In addition, many groups affiliated to Syrian regime forces have the authority to make arrests, and carry out arbitrary arrests with the lack of any judicial supervisions by government authorities.
The report records 2,171 cases of arbitrary arrest since the start of 2018. In addition, the report documents the toll of arbitrary arrests in March, and monitors the most notable raid and inspection points that resulted in detentions. The report also outlines the most notable individual cases and incidents of arbitrary arrest.
The report sheds light on the strict standards incorporated by the report in order to determine an incident of arbitrary arrests, as the report avoids recording any incidents of detention, imprisonment, or deprivation of freedom in accordance with the international laws and the set of principles on arbitrary arrest. The report draws upon verifying information from various sources, such as: victims’ families, SNHR members in Syrian governorates, cooperating local activists, and former detainees, in addition to contacting the families of the detainees and forcibly-disappeared persons, as well as people close to them and people who survived detention for the purpose of collecting as much information and data as possible, in light of extraordinarily and extremely complex challenges.
The report says that arbitrary arrests made in March saw a number of wide raids and mass arrests carried out by Syrian regime forces. These arrests targeted civilians from the cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta, particularly the cities of Harasta, Zamalka, Irbeen, Jisreen, Hazza, and Kafr Batna as the Syrian regime managed to seize control of these areas recently. Arrests included civilians in these cities or from shelters in Damascus suburbs without sparing women and children according to the report.
ISIS, in turn, continued their arbitrary arrest policies in March in their areas of control. ISIS’s arrests were concentrated mainly in their areas of control in Daraa and Damascus governorates.
Also, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham carried out raids and arrests that targeted fighters from armed opposition factions, particularly in northern Idlib governorate, as well as the cities and towns of western suburbs of Aleppo.
On the other hand, Self-Management forces (consisting primarily of Democratic Union Party forces – a branch for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) continued their arbitrary arrest policies for the purpose of conscription in March in their areas of control, particularly in Hasaka and Deir Ez-Zour governorates, as the report notes.
The report outlines the toll of arbitrary arrests in March, as the report records no less than 1,096 detainees. Of those, Syrian regime forces arrested 1,037, including 32 children and 108 women (adult female).
Self-Management forces arrested 12 individuals, including two children and one woman, while ISIS arrested 21 individuals, including four children and one woman. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham arrested 19 individuals, all men. Lastly, factions from the armed opposition arrested seven individuals, all men, according to the report.
The report also shows a distribution of cases of arbitrary arrests by governorate, where Damascus and its suburbs governorates recorded the most arrests with 749 cases of arrest.
In addition, the report says that 166 inspection and raid points resulted in cases of detention across governorates. Most of these points were in Damascus suburbs governorate, while Syrian regime forces were responsible for most of the raids, followed by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.
The report calls on the Security Council to follow on the implementation of resolution 2042, 2043, and 2139 which states that enforced-disappearance should be cease.
Additionally, the report calls on the Human Rights Council to follow on the issue of detainees and forcibly-disappeared persons in Syria, and shed light on it in all of the annual meetings.
Also, the report calls on the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to launch investigations on the incidents included in this report and past reports. The report stresses that SNHR is willing to cooperate and provide more evidences and data.
The report stresses that the U.N. and the guarantor parties at Astana should form an impartial special committee to monitor cases of arbitrary arrest, and reveal the fate of 86,000 missing persons in Syria, including 87% at the hands of the Syrian regime. The report adds that pressure should be applied on all parties in order to immediately reveal their detention records in accordance with a time table, immediately make their whereabouts public, and allow human rights groups and the International Committee of Red Cross to have direct access to them.
Lastly, the report emphasizes that children and women should be released, and families and friends should not be taken as war hostages. The report calls on the official who was newly appointed in charge of the detainee file at the UN special envoy office to include the detainees issue in the upcoming rounds of Geneva talks, as this issue is of a greater importance to the Syrian people than other far-term issues that can be jointly addressed later, such as the constitution.