Nearly 2,000 Syrians Are Still Forcibly Disappeared by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham Extremist Organization
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals in a report released today that nearly 2,000 Syrians are still forcibly disappeared by the Hay’at Tahrir al Sham extremist organization, further noting that the organization is responsible for the killing of activist Samer al Salloum from Kafrnabel city.
The five-page report reveals that the model of rule used by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham is based on intimidation and terrorizing the community by practicing a policy of arbitrary and violent arrest, then denying the existence of those detained whose fate invariably turns into enforced disappearance, noting that this strategy is focused on targeting prominent activists and social figures with the intention of intimidating the rest of society. The report also notes that this policy became even more apparent as Hay’at Tahrir al Sham expanded its control over areas in Idlib governorate since July 2017.
The report reveals that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham has not stopped carrying out arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances during the recent military campaign launched by Russian-Syrian alliance forces on the fourth de-escalation zone since April 26, 2019. Rather, the group has continued to reject the repeated requests of its victims’ families to reveal the fate of their children or to allow family members to visit those detained and find out the reasons for their detention and torture. HTS has cloned the policy of the Syrian regime’s security services in detaining citizens without a warrant or clarifying the reason for the arrest or the party carrying it out, and of preventing the presence or operation of any fair and independent judiciary.
The report stresses that the SNHR adheres to precise criteria in determining incidents of arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance, based on the provisions of international law and the Body of Principles for Arbitrary Detention and Enforced Disappearance, whilst also documenting incidents of arrest obtained from multiple sources, and keeping track of these cases, with these records updated constantly to determine the place of detention, the conditions in which those detained are being held, and the fate of each detainee.
As the report reveals, since the announcement of the establishment of Jabhat al Nusra in early 2012 up until August 2019, SNHR has documented the cases of at least 2,006 individuals, including 23 children and 59 women (adult female) who are still being detained by HTS, with at least 1,946 of these people now categorized as forcibly disappeared. During the same period, we documented the deaths of at least 24 individuals, including one child, as a result of torture, and 38 executions in HTS detention centers, with most of these victims’ bodies not being handed over to their families.
The report provides details on the killing of the activist Samer al Salloum who was arrested by gunmen affiliated with Hay’at Tahrir al Sham on December 26, 2017, in a raid on his home, after which he was categorized as having been forcibly disappeared. This continued until August 10, 2019, when his family received information confirming that he had been executed by a gunshot. The report notes that this brutal tactic is also used as standard by the Syrian regime, which is currently not only concealing the fate of about 83,000 Syrian citizens, but withholding information on the deaths of those amongst this total who have already been killed under torture from their relatives, so that their families endure constant suffering, trauma and stress, as well as leaving these victims’ wives or children unable to conduct any transactions or procedures related to them due to not being able to obtain any document proving their deaths.
The report includes the account of Samer’s brother who told us the circumstances of Samer’s disappearance, revealing that his family had received reports of his execution from three detainees who had been released at different times during 2019. Samer’s brother pointed out in the account provided in the report that the released detainees confirmed that the investigators of HTS took Samer from his cell without his personal effects, and when other detainees asked the HTS members about Samer and the reason for his absence, they responded that he had been executed in the al Uqab Prison square.
The report stresses that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, through abductions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and summary killings, has violated international humanitarian law and has excluded the judiciary and police that allowed it to be established in the areas it now controls, and as a hierarchical entity, it is obliged to apply the provisions of international human rights law.
The report also notes that the case of the activist Samer al Salloum is one of dozens of cases in which Hay’at Tahrir al Sham has forcibly disappeared, then killed individuals without informing their families or relatives. This comes as part of a systemic policy of violating the most basic principles of human rights in order to terrorize the society under its control.
The report states that the failure of the international community and the Security Council to deter the Syrian regime from committing crimes against humanity with total impunity is the historic and gross injustice on which extremist organizations base their narrative in recruiting members of Syrian society.
The report calls on the international community and the Security Council to allocate resources and create plans to try to attract and dissuade those who joined extremist organizations through financial inducements, appeals to morality and reasoning, and raising awareness.
The report also calls on Hay’at Tahrir al Sham to stop arbitrary arrests, to disclose the fate of the disappeared, to stop prosecutions and to compensate the families of the victims.