2,663 of Syrian Palestinians Imprisoned by the Syrian Regime Between March 2011 and July 2020 Are Still Detained or Forcibly Disappeared, with Death Certificates for 37 of Those Forcibly Disappeared Issued by the Civil Registry
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals in its latest report released today that at least 3,196 Syrian Palestinians were killed by Syrian Regime forces, including 491 due to torture, with 49 of those detained appearing in the ‘Caesar’ photos, between March 2011 and July 2020, noting that at least 2,663 Syrian Palestinians are still detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime.
The background of the 27-page report focused on the situation of Palestinian refugees in Syria since 1948 and the rights they obtained, in addition to their distribution across Syria, with the report noting that the majority of Palestinian refugees in Syria are distributed in seven governorates, with the largest number resident in Damascus. The report also notes that UNRWA is providing its services to the Palestinians in 12 Palestinian refugee camps across the country, nine of which are official camps and three unofficial ones.
The report further reveals that a majority of the Palestinian refugees in Syria sided with the rest of the Syrian population’s just demands after the start of the popular uprising calling for freedom and democracy in March 2011, with some of these playing a prominent role in the popular uprising. The report emphasizes that these Palestinians were exposed to the same grave violations at the hands of the Syrian regime as other members of Syrian society who demanded political change and freedom, with these violations reaching the level of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The report summarizes the most notable violations against Palestinian refugees in Syria by the Syrian regime which is by far the main and most prolific perpetrator of violations against Palestinian refugees in Syria compared to the other parties, being responsible for approximately 87 percent of all the violations inflicted, while the rest of the parties to the conflict are collectively responsible for less than 13 percent of this total.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, adds:
“Palestinian refugees in Syria, including women and children, particularly those forcibly disappeared and displaced by the indiscriminate attacks of the Syrian regime and its Iranian ally, are considered one of the most vulnerable groups in Syrian society.
We are placing this report in the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Arab League, and the international community to seek their support in holding the Syrian regime accountable for all of the massive number of violations it committed against Palestinians in the Syrian territories, where it is assumed that the regime has the primary responsibility for protecting them.”
The report documents the deaths of 3,196 Palestinian refugees at the hands of Syrian Regime forces in Syrian territories between March 2011 and July 2020, including 352 children and 312 women (adult female); among the victims, 491 refugees died due to torture in the Syrian regime’s prisons, and its other official and unofficial detention centers
As the report reveals, at least 2,663 of the Palestinian refugees imprisoned by the Syrian regime between March 2011 and July 2020, including 10 children and 23 women (adult female), are still detained or forcibly disappeared in the Syrian regime’s detention centers.
The report further reveals that a number of Palestinian refugee victims have been identified from the Caesar photographs and by death certificates issued through the Civil Registry Departments, with the SNHR’s team, as part of its work on this issue of the torture victim photos leaked by Caesar since 2014 to date, having been able to identify 49 victims of Palestinian nationality residing on Syrian territory.
The report also documents 37 Palestinian refugees forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime, whose death certificates were issued to their family members through the Civil Registry Departments.
The report stresses that, for the reasons that led nearly six and a half million Syrians to be forcibly displaced, Palestinian refugees in Syria have been displaced from their places of residence due to the Syrian regime’s arrests, torture, bombardment, siege, and destruction of most Palestinian camps in areas that were outside the regime’s control, due to indiscriminate shelling, such as the camps of al Yarmouk, Daraa, Handarat, and Khan al Sheeh, with the report noting that UNRWA statistics indicate that as many as 280,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have been displaced inside Syria, while approximately 120,000 others have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
The report notes that others among the Palestinian refugees in Syria stood by the Syrian regime financially and morally, supporting its brutal repression and justifying the violations that it has committed under fictitious demagogic arguments. Some of these Palestinian loyalists of the Syrian regime were unsatisfied with just providing political, media and technical support for the Syrian regime, with some Palestinian armed factions participating at the military level, alongside Syrian Regime forces, in the indiscriminate shelling and storming of areas, with the report outlining the most notable of these factions.
The report includes the historical context of al Yarmouk Camp, noting that it experienced the same stages as other areas of Syria whose peoples demanded a political transition to freedom, starting with peaceful protests, then, as the popular uprising turned into the stage of armed conflict, being subjected to siege, collective starvation and bombardment for years, followed by forced reconciliation leading to forced displacement. The report notes that the Syrian regime has implemented numerous ‘laws’ and decrees that contravene the most basic principles of international human rights law, which are decisions that violate the citizen’s right, and legalize the looting and burglary of property, such as Legislative Decrees 63 and 66 of 2012, Legislative Decrees 11 and 12 of 2016, Legislative Decree 19 of 2015, Legislative Decree No. 3 of 2018, and Law No. 10 of 2018.
The report also outlines the arbitrary decrees and legislations issued by the Syrian regime against al Yarmouk Camp in particular, which, as the report states, constitute the biggest obstacle to any form of safe and voluntary return for the camp’s residents.
The report stresses that over the past nine years, the Syrian regime has committed a vast range of violations against Palestinian refugees in Syria, particularly the crimes of enforced disappearance, torture, and forced displacement. The Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian allies have also committed the crime of forced displacement in a widespread manner, which constitutes an egregious violation of the Geneva Conventions and amounts to crimes against humanity (Article 7 (1) (d). The report further notes that seizing properties through enactment of laws that contravene international human rights law violates the most basic rights of Syrian citizens to their property and serves as a fundamental obstacle to the return of refugees and displaced persons, amounting to a forced eviction and attempt to manipulate the demographic and social structure of Syria, emptying the symbolism and status of al Yarmouk Camp and other Palestinian refugee camps.
The report calls on the Palestine Liberation Organization to follow up on violations committed by the Syrian regime against Palestinian refugees in Syria and to work to hold it accountable and condemn it in all Arab and international forums, to pay more attention to the issues related to Palestinian refugees in Syria, in particular the widespread looting and plunder that the Syrian regime is carrying out regarding the lands, properties and housing belonging to Palestinian refugees in Syria.
The report recommends that UNRWA should put pressure on all parties to the conflict to protect the security and safety of Palestinian refugees in Syria, and to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the forcibly displaced Palestinian refugees in Syria, particularly those in the displacement camps in northwest Syria, as they suffer from the worst living conditions, in addition to facing the additional very real threat of the spread of the COVID-19 among them.
The report provides a set of recommendations to the UN Security Council, to the international community, and to the OHCHR regarding this issue, as well as calling on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) to include a broad section on violations of property destruction and Palestinian refugees’ displacement by Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces in its next report in September 2020 and to do whatever is necessary to investigate the extent to which Russia and the Syrian regime intentionally destroy as many homes and other properties as possible.
Finally, the report urges the UN Special Envoy to Syria to highlight in his forthcoming UN Security Council briefing the destruction of tens of thousands of residential buildings in Palestinian refugee camps by Russian and Syrian forces and the forced displacement of their occupants.