At Least 2,172 Persons from Suwayda Governorate Are Currently Detained or Forcibly Disappeared in the Syrian Regime’s Official and Unofficial Detention Centers
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals in its report released today that Syrian Regime forces have forcibly disappeared 10 popular uprising activists in Suwayda and used repression to confront their rightful demands, noting that at least 2,172 persons from Suwayda governorate are currently detained or forcibly disappeared in the Syrian regime’s official and unofficial detention centers.
The five-page report notes that Suwayda governorate’s location and the nature of its demographics mean that its experience has differed from that of other regions of Syria, noting that whilst the governorate, the home of most of Syria’s Druze community, has witnessed sporadic anti-Syrian regime protests since 2011, as well as multiple sit-ins by lawyers and engineers, with a large number of its people arrested and the vast majority of these forcibly disappeared, it has remained almost completely under the control of the Syrian regime throughout this time, and thus has not subject to air strikes, which is the main reason behind the destruction of Syria’s neighborhoods, towns and villages, and the mass displacement of people.
The report stresses that Suwayda governorate has paid a great cost for these demands for political change, noting that at least 2,172 persons from Suwayda governorate have been formally documented as being detained or forcibly disappeared in the Syrian regime’s official and unofficial detention centers since March 2011 until June 18, 2020, according to the SNHR’s database. In addition to this, the report also documented the deaths of at least 37 individuals from the governorate due to torture in the Syrian regime’s official and unofficial detention centers during the same period.
The report refers to the latest popular demonstrations which broke out recently in Suwayda city, with the protesters chanting slogans calling for the release of the detainees, the departure and the fall of the Syrian regime, and the start of a political transition. The report also outlines the repression, arrest, torture and enforced disappearance that the Syrian regime carried out to counter these protest movements.
As the report reveals, June 9 saw the arrest of the activist Raed Abdi al Khatib, and June 15 saw assaults on demonstrators in Suwayda city by Syrian regime law enforcement personnel and pro- regime militias after an anti-Syrian regime demonstration took place in al Seir Square in the city center. The report documents the arrest of nine civilians that day, all of whom were taken to an undisclosed location. Among those detained were government employees who had earlier been arbitrarily dismissed from their jobs due to their dissent with the Syrian regime.
The report notes that the arrests were conducted without any legal arrest warrants being issued by a court, and no members of the detainees’ families were informed of their arrest, with the phones of those arrested being confiscated, preventing them from contacting their families or lawyers, with the report warning that they may be subjected to torture and ultimately classified as forcibly ‘disappeared’ like approximately 85 percent of detained persons.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has confronted the new popular movement in Suwayda with the same tools it used in its initial efforts to crush the popular uprising against it that broke out in March 2011, such as arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, and threats, in a manner that violates the most basic principles of international human rights law, further confirming that this regime has learnt nothing from all the horrendous experiences which Syria has endured since, and that it is fundamentally incapable of change in regard to essential issues such as respecting fundamental rights and accepting peaceful transition toward democracy, with its only choice being to achieve resolute and overwhelming victory at any cost in order to ensure absolute, unending rule over Syria for the autocratic ruling dynasty.
The report calls on the international community and the United Nations to protect civilians in Suwayda from torture and enforced disappearance, and not to repeat the disastrous failure to protect Syrian civilians, as has happened since March 2011.
The report also recommends that the international community and the United Nations should send a clear message in support of the popular demands and fundamental rights advocated by the protesters, pressure the Syrian regime and its allies, specifically its Russian ally, to reveal the fate of the ten individuals forcibly disappeared in this latest uprising in Suwayda and demand their immediate release, and to make a real effort to revive the process of political transition and establish a specific timetable for that transition, which will contribute to alleviating the suffering of the Syrians and enabling their safe and voluntary return.
The report calls on the Syrian regime to stop terrorizing Syrian citizens, violating the Syrian constitution and international human rights law, particularly those laws regarding enforced disappearance and torture, to allow people the freedom to demonstrate, and freedom of opinion and expression, to end the policy of coercing government employees into participating counter-demonstrations under pressure, to release detainees of Suwayda governorate and of all governorates, and to stop using detainees as hostages and bargaining chips.