Tens of thousands of Syrian 'disappeared' must not be forgotten

By agency reporter
August 30, 2017

The Syrian government and armed groups involved in the country's conflict must disclose the fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands of people who have been forcibly disappeared or abducted since the onset of the crisis, said Amnesty International on the International Day of the Disappeared (Wednesday 30 August 2017).

Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "Amid the brutality and bloodshed of the Syrian conflict, the plight of those who have vanished after being arrested by the authorities or detained by armed groups is a tragedy that has been largely ignored internationally. Tens of thousands of families have been desperately trying to uncover the fate of their missing relatives.

"Russia and the United States, in particular, must use their influence to pressure respectively the Syrian government and armed opposition groups to grant independent monitors access to places of detention, disclose the names and whereabouts of those deprived of their liberty, and allow all detainees to communicate with their families."

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 75,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearance by the Syrian government since 2011.

Amnesty International has launched an online campaigning platform to shine a light on those who have faced enforced disappearance and abduction in Syria and help families in their efforts to find their loved ones.

Fadwa Mahmoud's husband, Abdulaziz Al-Kheir, and son, Maher Tahan, disappeared after being arrested by Air Force Intelligence at a checkpoint in Damascus, although the Syrian government denies this. Fadwa has described the agony of not knowing the fate or whereabouts of either her husband or son since 20 September 2012.

She said: "The days pass by extremely heavily. I live on hope, which allows me to go on and pushes me to work hard for their release. I never lose hope that they will return. I always imagine that moment when I learn of their release."

While the overwhelming majority of those who have disappeared in Syria have vanished in a network of government detention centres, more than 2,000 individuals have gone missing after being detained by armed opposition groups and the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State.

Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi, peaceful Syrian activists who worked at the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria, an NGO that monitors human rights violations, were abducted by an armed opposition group from their office in Eastern Ghouta on 9 December 2013. Their families have been denied any information about the fate of their loved ones.

Philip Luther said: "There has been total impunity for those responsible for disappearances in Syria. This issue must be addressed by the international community at every opportunity, including peace talks in Geneva and Astana, or else its consequences will be felt for generations and the prospects for healing and reconciliation will be undermined."

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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