A Tunnel with no End
BY: Gregory Bull / Associated Press
Since the start of the popular uprising, the Syrian regime has made sure to disappear as many Syrian residents as it could, the majority of which were ordinary citizens rather than political or military activists. In that, the Syrian regime aimed to submit and terrorize the whole society even at the cost of destroying the future of hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens, in addition to the social and economic ramifications that follow as the Syrian regime has been absolutely hell-bent on protecting the family rule no matter the human or economic cost that the Syrian state might have to endure
Entitled “A Tunnel with no End”, the report released by SNHR on the International Day of the Disappeared says that the unrestricted support by Iran and Russia has afforded the Syrian regime to notably succeed in disappearing nearly 100,000 Syrian citizens and have complete control over their fate, as well as toying with the feelings of their families amid the lack of an active international will to help the Syrian people.
The report notes that detainees and forcibly-disappeared persons are subjected to extremely brutal and sadistic acts of torture. According to the report, 13,608 have died due to torture between March 2011 and August 2018.
While other parties, such as al Nussra Front, ISIS, the Democratic Union Party, and factions from the armed opposition, have subsequently committed patterns of arrest, enforced-disappearance, and torture, all of those parties haven’t reached even 10% of what the Syrian regime has committed in terms of scale and quality.
When committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack, enforced-disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity, as the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute states. While this definition limits enforced-disappearance to the practices of a state or groups affiliated to it, the report documents all cases of enforced-disappearance as there have been de facto forces that have taken the place of governing authorities as with the case of ISIS, al Nussra Front, and the Kurdish Self-Management forces, which are primarily affiliated to the Democratic Union Party, as well as some factions from the armed opposition.
The report draws upon SNHR’s archives which has been used to incidents and cases related to arbitrary arrest and enforced-disappearance since 2011, as this archive is updated and revised regularly. The report also contains 13 accounts for families and friends of victims who fallen to the crime of enforced-disappearance at the hands of the four parties to the conflict.
The report notes that the Syrian regime has recently tampered with the forcibly-disappeared file and acknowledged the death of 836 cases which were listed as death incidents. The report stresses that the Syrian regime has yet to deliver the dead bodies of the dead detainees. According to the report, the crime of enforced-disappearance is still existing as long as the person in question hasn’t been found, dead or alive, as all of those are still considered forcibly-disappeared per the international law, and the main accused in those crimes is the Syrian regime.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“States of the civilized world should care about the fate of 100,000 Syrian citizens who have fallen into oblivion. This horrifying figure and its direct implications on hundreds of thousands of families should be a wake-up call to the world consciousness that should act to put an end to this national Syrian catastrophe and hold anyone who was responsible for it accountable.”
The report documents that 95,056 persons are still forcibly-disappeared at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria from March 2011 until August 2018. Of those, the Syrian regime is responsible for 85.9% of all enforced-disappearance cases in Syria to a total of 81,652 individuals, including 1,546 children and 4,837 women (adult female). ISIS is responsible for the enforced-disappearance of no less than 8,349 individuals, including 314 children and 218 women, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham is responsible for the enforced-disappearance of 1,645 individuals, including seven children and 19 women.
According to the report, factions from the armed opposition is responsible for the enforced-disappearance of no less than 1,887 individuals, including 208 children and 411 women. Lastly, Self-Management forces are responsible for the enforced-disappearance of no less than 1,523 individuals, including 41 children and 63 women.
The report outlines the distribution of enforced-disappearance cases by governorate. Damascus suburbs recorded the highest toll of cases, followed by Daraa and Aleppo governorates.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has demonstrated a lack of commitment to the international agreements and treaties it ratified, in particular the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. In addition, the Syrian regime has violated the Syrian constitution itself as hundreds of thousands of detainees have been detained for many years with no arrest warrants or any charges. The Syrian regime also denied those detainees the right to an attorney and barred their families from visiting them. Enforced-disappearance was a strategy the Syrian regime used to target anyone connected to the popular uprising that rose against the family rule. Analyzing data shows that this phenomenon was prevalent in the areas that were distinctly known for joining the uprising, which suggests that this was based on a consistent and deliberate policy, including the recent revealing of forcibly-disappearance persons’ fates which was also done in a deliberate manner. The implications of the harmony between the state institution in a way that serves the criminal act is clear, judging from the arrests that targeted figures who supported the popular uprising which was followed by forcibly disappearing them and then issuing death certificates that don’t contain any information about the place and cause of their deaths.
The report notes that enforced-disappearance is prohibited according to the customary international humanitarian law and the international criminal law.
The report calls on the Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss this critical matter that threatens the fates of nearly 95,000 individuals and terrorizes the whole Syrian society.
In addition, the report urges the Security Council to act to stop torture and deaths due to torture inside Syrian regime detention centers, and save whoever detainees left as quickly as possible, and take action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to protect the detainees from a certain death inside detention centers.
Additionally, the report calls on the OHCHR to release a special and extensive report that sheds light on this catastrophe including all of its mental, social, and economic ramifications, and support active human rights groups in Syria.
The report stresses that the Human Rights Council should follow up on the issue of the detainees and forcibly-disappeared in Syria and shed light on it at all periodic annual meetings, and dedicate a special session to address this horrifying threat.
Lastly, the report demands that the Syrian regime to stop terrorizing the Syrian people through enforced-disappearance, torture, and death due to torture, as well as tampering with and exploiting civil records to serve the goals of the ruling family, and shoulder all legal and material fallouts and compensate the victims and their families from the resources of the Syrian state.