Including 580 in December
SNHR announced today in its latest special monthly report that it documented at least 7,706 cases of arbitrary arrests by the parties to the conflict in Syria in 2018, including 580 in December.
The report notes that regime forces have carried out arbitrary arrests on a daily basis in Syria since the start of the popular uprising for democracy in March 2011, detaining people for simply exercising one of their basic rights such as the freedom of opinion and expression, as well as denying detainees a fair trial, and continuing to detain many even after their sentence has ended. According to the report, arbitrarily detained individuals are routinely subjected to solitary confinement for several months and sometimes for years, if not indefinitely, at official and unofficial 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 are unable to accurately identify which specific entity made the arrest, especially considering of the vast range of forces affiliated with the Syrian regime (Iranian militias, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and others), in addition to the four main security agencies and their many branches, with all of these bodies authorized by the regime to carry out arrests, perpetrate 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 increasing number of arrests is due to a variety of reasons. Most notably, many detainees weren’t arrested in connection with any crime they committed or were accused of, but were instead detained due to 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 a complete lack of any judicial supervision by government authorities.
The report records 7,706 cases of arbitrary arrest in 2018, including documentation of the record of arbitrary arrests in December, at the hands of all the parties to the conflict. In addition, the report highlights the most notable raid and checkpoints that resulted in detentions in December. The report also outlines the most notable individual cases and incidents of arbitrary arrest.
The report also shows the strict standards used by the SNHR in evaluating all incidents of arbitrary arrests, avoiding the inclusion of any incidents of detention, imprisonment, or deprivation of freedom carried out in accordance with international laws and internationally accepted legal principles on arbitrary arrest. The report draws upon substantiative information from various credible sources, such as: victims’ families, SNHR members in Syrian governorates, cooperating local activists, and former detainees, as well as information obtained through contacting the families of the detainees and forcibly disappeared persons and individuals close to them and people who survived detention, for the purpose of collecting as much information and data as possible, in light of the extraordinarily and extremely complex challenges.
According to the report, the record of arbitrary arrests made in December featured the Syrian regime forces continuing with its campaigns of raids and arrests which has focused on civilians and former armed opposition fighters in the areas that had signed settlement agreements with Syrian regime forces. The report also confirms that Syrian regime forces have arrested some of the previously forcibly displaced civilians who returned from north Syria to their hometowns as part of these settlement agreements. In addition, Syrian regime forces launched a sweeping arrest campaign against individuals who had returned from neighboring countries, as well as targeting individuals who should supposedly have been protected by the amnesty laws and reconciliation offers established by the regime, particularly in Damascus Suburbs and Daraa governorates.
The report further notes that December also saw an increase in the rates of kidnappings for ransom by Syrian regime forces’ security apparatuses, particularly by personnel of the Air Force Intelligence and Military Intelligence forces. These abductions were concentrated in the cities of Hama, Latakia, and Homs, and particularly targeted women and children.
The report adds that Syrian regime forces continued with their policies of pursuing civilian activists involved in the popular uprising for democracy, as well as targeting families of individuals affiliated with the armed opposition in areas under opposition control, with regime forces also carrying out campaigns of raids and arrests that targeted entire families related to members of factions of Armed Opposition. These arrests, which included women and children, were concentrated in the cities of Hama, Latakia, and Homs.
Furthermore, the report notes that Self-Management forces continued enforcing their policies of arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance throughout the month of December, targeting political activists and members of civil society groups who disagree with their ideological views. These arrests were concentrated in Hasaka and Raqqa governorates. Additionally, Self-Management forces continued their policy of arbitrary arrest for the purpose of conscription.
In addition to these incidents, December also saw the arrests of doctors and local council personnel by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, whose members also continue to pursue and arrest armed opposition fighters belonging to factions affiliated with the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operation rooms, with these arrests being concentrated in the southern suburbs of Idlib governorate and in the northern suburbs of Hama governorate.
Factions of the armed opposition, meanwhile, continued making arrests in the territories under their control, which were concentrated in Aleppo governorate, and particularly Afrin city.
The report records 7,706 cases of arbitrary arrest in 2018, with 5,607 of these carried out at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, including 355 children and 596 women. In addition, 755 cases of arbitrary arrests, including 43 children and 16 women, were recorded at the hands of Extremist Islamist groups; of these, 338 cases, including 28 children and 13 women, were detained at the hands of ISIS, and the remaining 417, including 15 children and three women, were arrested at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. The report documents 379 cases of arbitrary arrest at the hands of factions of the Armed opposition, including 23 children and 13 women. It also documents 965 cases of arbitrary arrests at the hands of Self-Management forces, including 83 children and 74 women.
The report also includes the record of arbitrary arrests in December, when SNHR documented at least 580 cases. Of this figure, Syrian Regime forces were responsible for the arrest of 419, including 31 children and 42 women (adult female).
Extremist Islamist groups arrested 40 of the individuals detained in December, with ISIS arresting nine, and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham arresting the remaining 31, including one child and one woman. Meanwhile, Self-Management forces arrested 92 individuals, including 11 children and seven women. Lastly, factions from the armed opposition arrested 26 individuals, including two children.
The report also shows a distribution of cases of arbitrary arrests by governorate, with Aleppo seeing the largest number of arrests with 87 cases documented.
In addition, the report states that 132 inspection and raid points resulted in cases of detention across governorates. Most of these points were in Hasaka governorate, while Syrian Regime forces were responsible for most of the raids, followed by Self-Management forces.
The report calls on the Security Council to follow through in the implementation of resolutions 2042, 2043, and 2139, all of which state that the policy of enforced disappearance should be ceased.
Additionally, the report calls on the Human Rights Council to follow up on the issue of detainees and forcibly-disappeared persons in Syria, and to raise this subject in all of the council’s annual meetings.
Also, the report calls on the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to launch investigations into the incidents included in this report and previous reports. The report stresses that SNHR is willing to cooperate and to provide more evidence and data.
The report stresses that the UN and the guarantor parties at Astana should form an impartial special committee to monitor cases of arbitrary arrest, and reveal the fate of the 95,000 missing persons in Syria, approximately 86% of whom are detained by the Syrian regime. The report adds that pressure should be applied on all parties to immediately reveal their detention records in accordance with a time table, and to 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 prisoners of war. The report calls on the official newly appointed to take charge of the detainees’ file at the UN special envoy’s office to include the issue of detainees at the upcoming rounds of Geneva talks, as this issue is of far greater importance to the Syrian people than other longer-term issues that can be jointly addressed later, such as the constitution.