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The Syrian Regime’s Law No. 19 of 2024 on Establishing a Media Ministry Blatantly Violates Freedom of Media, Opinion, and Expression

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The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today, June 13, 2024, released a report entitled, ‘The Syrian Regime’s Law No. 19 of 2024 on Establishing a Media Ministry Blatantly Violates Freedom of Media, Opinion, and Expression’, in which the group stressed that Law No. 19 of 2024 is simply an instrument to consolidate the regime’s control over the work of journalists and media content, impose further censorship against private press and publications entering the country, and placing more restrictions on TV production.

The 11-page report notes that Syria is notoriously one of the lowest-ranking countries globally in terms of freedom of press and media work. The Syrian regime bears full responsibility for the abysmal state to which the country’s media have sunk. In this, the regime has further compounded its suppression of journalists and media workers following the start of the popular uprising for democracy in Syria in 2011. Hundreds of journalists and media workers have been killed, arbitrarily arrested, and forcibly disappeared since then, while all regional and international media outlets operating in Syria at the time were banned and expelled, except for those that unquestioningly endorsed the regime’s narrative.

As the report further reveals, the Syrian regime has maintained its absolute hegemony over every area of legislative power in Syria, effectively using this limitless power to legalize and rationalize a wide range of violations through promulgating quasi-legal laws. In this, the Syrian regime allowed the executive branch/security apparatus to exert full control over the People’s Assembly of Syria, and the laws passed by it, regardless of the fact that these may violate international human rights law and the interests of the Syrian people.

Law No. 19 of 2024 is the latest in a series of laws that enable the regime to consolidate control over the various aspects and sectors of media, increasing censorship, silencing dissenting views, and further tightening the security apparatus’s already stifling grip on the media through the power of the law in a blatant violation of international human rights law. Other such laws include the Law on Media, which was adopted through Legislative Decree No. 108 of 2011, and then Legislative Decree No. 107 of 2012 on the Implementation of the Articles of the Law on Online Communication and Combating Cybercrime. There were also Legislative Decree No. 23 of 2016, which was an amendment to the Law on Media, and Law No. 20 of 2022, which can be described as an overhaul of the existing criminal articles on cybercrime. The Syrian regime has used those laws primarily as instruments to criminalize and persecute a wide range of civilians, including even pro-regime figures, for practicing the most basic forms of expression of opinion or voicing criticism against the authority, especially in light of the rising levels of popular resentment in regime-controlled areas amid steadily deteriorating economic and living conditions for civilians.

The report stresses that the text of Law No. 19 of 2024 clearly contradicts both international and domestic laws, as well as the Constitution of 2012. Moreover, Law 19/2024 perpetuates the regime’s policy of restricting freedom of opinion and expression, and consolidating control over media outlets, in a broader attempt to monopolize and restrict information, and spread misinformation in service of its interests, no matter how much this goes against the interests of the state and the Syrian people.

The report calls on the UN and the international community to apply as much pressure as possible on the regime to repeal all legislation that violates international law and is used to restrict and criminalize freedom of opinion and expression. Moreover, the report calls for exerting serious and effective efforts to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers in Syria and end impunity for violations against them, as stated in Security Council resolution 2222 (2015), Human Rights Council resolution 33/2, adopted on September 29, 2016, and the UN General Assembly resolution 162/70, adopted on December 17, 2015, as well as in the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted in 2019.

The report also calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI) to document the extent to which the laws promulgated by the Syrian regime violate international human rights law, and to condemn all arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance practices carried out on the grounds of said laws.

In conclusion, the report calls on the Syrian regime to repeal all legal articles that can be used as grounds to detain journalist sand media work over practicing their profession from the existing legal system in Syria, in addition to making other recommendations.

SNHR is Now A Member of the Alliance Against Genocide

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The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR):

For 13 years, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has worked diligently on documenting gross human rights violations; these include extrajudicial killing, torture, forced displacement, and attacks on vital facilities such as hospitals and schools; with many of those violations, especially those perpetrated by Syrian regime forces, amounting to crimes against humanity. We have documented and archived these violations in a database that today contains details of millions of incidents, as well as the names of thousands of perpetrators responsible for these violations.

In line with its efforts, mission, and values, SNHR has recently joined the Alliance Against Genocide; a global, non-centralized network comprising numerous organizations that work to put pressure on governments, the UN, and international organizations to establish effective early-warning systems, and take the necessary action to prevent genocide.

The Alliance Against Genocide has four main goals

1. Provide public information on the nature of genocide and create the necessary political will to prevent and stop it.

2. create effective early warning systems, alerting the world, especially governments to potential ethnic conflict and genocide.

3. Stimulate international, regional, and national action to stop genocidal processes, including effective diplomacy and mobilization of rapid response forces to prevent and stop genocide.

4. Arrest, prosecute, and punish those who commit genocide, including ensuring the effective functioning of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the use of national courts with universal jurisdiction, and the creation of special courts to prosecute perpetrators of genocide.

Through joining the Alliance Against Genocide, SNHR aims to further examine some of the regime’s practices, particularly its collective siege and deliberate starvation of entire populations with the aim of exterminaing them. Among these incidents are the siege on Eastern Ghouta, including the use of chemical weapons, the siege on Darayya, the siege on al-Mu’adamiya, the siege on the Old Homs neighborhoods, and on other areas, all of which we have documented extensively.

This invaluable partnership supports SNHR’s mission in preserving victims’ rights and fulfilling justice, as part of the global mission to prevent genocide worldwide.

A Joint Statement by Syrian Civil Society Organizations and Victims’ Associations Welcoming the Paris Criminal Court’s Ruling to Sentence Three High-Ranking Syrian Security Officials to Life Imprisonment in the Dabbagh Case

Victims’ and families’ associations gathered next to the Paris Criminal Court on May 21, 2024, holding photos of relatives who have been detained or disappeared in Syria. © 2024 Alice Autin/Human Rights Watch
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Paris, 4 June 2024 – On May 24, 2024, the Paris Criminal Court issued a life imprisonment sentence against three high-ranking Syrian security officials close to Bashar al-Assad: Major General Ali Mamlouk, Major General Jamil al-Hassan, and Brigadier General Abdel Salam Mahmoud. They were convicted of complicity in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian-French nationals Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh.

This ruling came after four days of hearing testimonies from experts and survivors from the Investigation Branch of the Air Force Intelligence Department detention center at Mezzeh Airport. The evidence presented over eight years proved the responsibility of these officials for the crimes. Mazzen and Patrick were detained and forcibly disappeared in 2013. Death certificates were issued for them by the Syrian government in 2018, after they were killed as a result of torture and ill-treatment.

This trial is the first of its kind in France, holding high-level Syrian officials accountable for their crimes.

We, the undersigned Syrian civil society organizations and victims and survivors’ associations, welcome this ruling. It represents an important step on the path to justice and reaffirms the ongoing efforts to combat impunity until all perpetrators of violations in Syria are held accountable and the victims are given justice and adequate compensation.

We also extend our sincere thanks for the courage and determination shown by the witnesses and the Dabbagh family in reaching this ruling. We eagerly anticipate the day when Syrian men and women can seek justice in their own courts, for we believe that true justice is the foundation of the peace and stability we all aspire to achieve.

Signatories:

  1. Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR)
  2. Alsharq News
  3. Amal Healing and Advocacy Center
  4. Assyrian Society for Helping and Development
  5. Badael
  6. Baytna pour le soutien de la société civile
  7. Caesar Families Association
  8. chemical violations documentation center and research
  9. Deirna Organization
  10. Family of Truth and Justice
  11. Fraternity foundation for Human Rights-FFHR
  12. Free Syrian lawyers Association -FSLA
  13. Global Organization for Civil Society (GLOCA)
  14. Humanitarian care charity
  15. Justice for peace
  16. LACU
  17. Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights LDHR
  18. Local Development and Small-Projects Support (LDSPS)
  19. Local Development Organization
  20. MAHABAD ORGANIZATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS MOHR
  21. Mizan Organisation for Legal Research and Human Rights
  22. MPFG
  23. Multifaith Alliance
  24. Musawa
  25. Observatory of Political and Economic Networks
  26. Office of the Wounded and Missing Persons Affairs
  27. Pro-justice
  28. PÊL- Civil Waves
  29. SADAD Humanitarian Organization
  30. SOBH CULTURAL TEAM
  31. Synergy Association for Victims
  32. Syria spring team
  33. Syrian Archive
  34. Syrian British Consortium
  35. Syrian center for legal studies and research
  36. Syrian Center for Policy Research
  37. Syrian Community Romania
  38. Syrian Forum
  39. Syrian Network for Human Rights – SNHR
  40. Syrians for Truth and Justice
  41. The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
  42. The Syrian Legal Development Programme
  43. The White Helmets
  44. Together For Algarniya
  45. Union of Free Syrian Students
  46. Union of Revolutionary Bureaus
  47. We Dared to Dream “Action for Sama”
  48. Women Now for Development
  49. Zoom in Association

SNHR Condemns Syrian Regime Forces’ Arrest of Two Women and Two Boys in Damascus City on June 2, 2024

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On Sunday, June 2, 2024, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) documented the arrest of two women and two boys from Kanaker town in southwestern Rural Damascus governorate the same day by personnel affiliated with the Palestine Branch (Branch 235) of the Syrian regime’s Military Intelligence Directorate; the women and boys were arrested while they were receiving treatment at a medical facility in the Masaken Barza area in Damascus city, and taken to Palestine Branch in Damascus city. The next day, June 3, the women and boys were taken to the Air Force Intelligence Directorate’s headquarters in al-Mazza Military Airbase in Damascus city.

According to information from local activists in Kanaker, who are close to the arrested women, they were detained to be used as hostages to put pressure on a family member into surrendering himself to the authorities. One of the two women is also dealing with a health issue that requires urgent medical attention.

It should also be noted that the arrest was made without a judicial warrant; this is overwhelmingly the norm in arrests made by Syrian regime forces. Those arrested were not informed of the charges directed against them, and have been denied any opportunity to contact their families, currently having the effective status of hostages. We have documented many such cases, in which regime forces have arrested relatives of wanted individuals, with those arrests usually targeting the most vulnerable members of the wanted individuals’ families, such as women and children. This is done not simply to extract information from those detained, but to punish the wanted individuals and to put pressure on fugitives to surrender themselves.

SNHR notes that Kanaker town has seen numerous local settlement agreements with the Syrian regime since early-2016. Some of those settlements were struck with the Russian side acting as meditators, while the Syrian regime did not fulfill any of its obligations, especially with regard to releasing detainees from the town and to leaving them alone without further persecution or rearrest. On the contrary, Syrian regime forces have besieged the town on multiple occasions since then, and subjected many of its residents to arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance.

SNHR stresses that, through this latest arbitrary detention of women and children and denying them medical attention, the Syrian regime has again violated the order issued by the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) on November 16, 2023, on the provisional measures requested by Canada in the Netherlands in the case brought against the Syrian regime on the application of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

SNHR condemns all arrest practices by Syrian regime forces, particularly this latest barbaric incident. We call for the immediate release of the two women and two boys, and insist that they be compensated for the material and moral damages they have suffered. We also condemn all other violations against children and women and call on the regime to end all arbitrary arrests/detentions and torture, which only aim to spread mass fear among the public and to extort residents.

On the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression: 30,228 Children Have Been Documented Killed in Syria Since March 2011, including 199 Who Died Due to Torture, While at least 5,263 Children are Still Under Arrest and/or Forcibly Disappeared

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Press release: (Download the full statement below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released a statement to mark the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, which is observed annually on June 4. In the statement, SNHR noted that it has documented the killing of 30,228 children in Syria since March 2011, including 199 children who died due to torture, while 5,263 children are still under arbitrary arrest and/or forcibly disappeared.

The statement stresses that the Syrian regime has perpetrated the worst forms of aggression against children in Syria as part of the armed conflict, despite having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). While the other parties to the conflict have also been responsible for such acts of aggression against children, the statement notes, the Syrian regime bears by far the greatest responsibility in terms of the number and comprehensiveness of these crimes which are perpetrated in a manner that exhibits a clear pattern and demonstrates the deliberate and systematic character of the regime’s violations of children’s rights, amounting to crimes against humanity.

As the statement reveals, children have been subjected to almost every atrocity perpetrated against the Syrian people. The terrible effects this had on children have been consistently compounded by the massive scale of the aggression directed against children for over 13 years to date. To make sense of this, this statement provides an update of the toll of most notable serious violations perpetrated against children in Syria between March 2011 and June 2024. The statement notes that 30,228 children have been documented as being killed at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria since March 2011. Of these, 23,045 children, divided between 12,976 males and 10,078 females, were killed by Syrian regime forces; while 2,055 children, divided between 1,429 males and 626 females, were killed by Russian forces. Additionally, 959 children, divided between 565 males and 394 females, were killed at the hands of ISIS; while Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has killed 76 children divided between 69 males and seven females. As for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the group has killed 269 children to date, divided between 165 males and 104 females; while all armed opposition factions are responsible for the deaths of 1,009 children, divided between 571 males and 438 females. Meanwhile, the US-led International Coalition forces killed 926 children, divided between 623 males and 303 females. Lastly, a total of 1,889 children, divided between 1,308 males and 581 females, were killed by other parties.

In regard to arbitrary arrest/detention and enforced disappearance, the statement notes that at least 5,263 children arrested by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces since March 2011 are still under arrest and/or forcibly disappeared, with the majority of these – 3,698 children – detained by Syrian regime forces. The remaining children arrested/forcibly disappeared are distributed by the arresting party as follows: 319 children by ISIS, 47 by HTS, 834 by the SDF, and 365 by all armed opposition factions.

The statement also stresses that at least 199 children died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria since March 2011. The Syrian regime is responsible for the deaths of 190 of these children due to torture, while ISIS was responsible for the death of one child due to torture. Additionally, the SDF was responsible for three children’s deaths due to torture, the HTS was responsible for two, all armed opposition factions were responsible for one, and lastly other parties were responsible for the deaths of two children due to torture.

The statement adds that children in Syria have also been subjected to other types of violations. For one, violations by the Syrian regime have led to the widespread displacement of millions of Syrians. Today, northwestern Syria houses the largest number of internally displaced people (IDPs) living in camps, with children accounting for 46 percent or nearly half of the entire population of IDPs. Moreover, children live in extremely dangerous, life-threatening environments, with these dangers caused, for one instance, by the fact that the parties to the conflict have planted hundreds of thousands of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) in Syria, including cluster munitions remnants. These APLs are densely scattered over large swathes of land in multiple areas of many Syrian governorates, posing an ongoing, lethal threat to the lives of civilians, including children, that will last for years to come; these munitions’ bright primary colors attract the attention and curiosity of younger children who are unaware of their lethal nature, and thus face the greatest danger from them.

The statement calls on the international community and the UN Security Council to take every possible legal, political, and financial measure against the Syrian regime and its allies, as well as all other perpetrators of violations in the Syrian conflict, to compel them to respect child rights. It must be reiterated that Syria is the world’s worst country in terms of many types of violations against children, and therefore the situation in Syria requires more humanitarian assistance compared to other states and regions, especially considering that those violations are ongoing to this day.

At least 228 Cases of Arbitrary Detention Cases Recorded in May 2024, Including of 13 Children and Four Women

The Syrian Regime Arrests 23 Refugees Returning from Lebanon and Jordan

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Press release: (Download the full report below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) revealed in its latest monthly report released today that no fewer than 228 cases of arbitrary arrests were documented in May 2024, with those detained including 13 children and four women. The group also noted that the Syrian regime has arrested 23 refugees returning from Lebanon and Jordan.

The 21-page report notes that, given the staggering rates of continuing arbitrary arrests, the number of Syrian citizens classified as missing has skyrocketed, so much so that this can be called a phenomenon in itself. Indeed, Syria is now one of the worst countries worldwide in terms of the numbers of ‘disappeared’ citizens. The report adds that the Syrian regime surpasses many of the world’s other authoritarian regimes by virtue of having absolute hegemony over the legislative and judicial branches of government. The regime has wielded this hegemony to promulgate a multitude of laws and decrees that violate international human rights law, as well as the principles pf law and the parameters of arrests and interrogation established in domestic legislation and the current Constitution of 2012. A part of this process, the report stresses, is legitimizing the crime of torture. Syrian law contains several texts that outlaw torture, including Article 53 of the current Syrian constitution which bans arbitrary arrest and torture and Article 391 of the Public Penal Code, which provides that anyone who uses coercion during interrogation shall receive a timed prison sentence ranging from three months to three years, while torture is wholly prohibited. Despite these texts, however, other legal texts, including Law No. 16 of 2022 on Criminalizing Torture, explicitly contradict the aforementioned legal articles, and legitimize impunity for torturers.

The report summarizes the arbitrary arrests/detentions and the releases of detainees from various detention centers documented as having been carried out by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in May 2024. The report does not, however, include abductions carried out by unidentified parties. Another exception made by SNHR is of individuals detained for committing criminal offenses, such as murder, theft, narcotics-related crimes, and other crimes that have no political nature or are unrelated to the armed conflict, dissident activism, or freedom of opinion and expression. The report also touches upon the laws and decrees promulgated by the parties to the conflict in relation to issues of arrest and enforced disappearance in the period covered. In much of its reportage, the report incorporates a descriptive and analytic methodology.

The report documents no fewer than 228 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention in May 2024, with those detained including 13 children and four women (adult females). Of these, 189 have subsequently been classified as enforced disappearances. Syrian regime forces were responsible for 102 of the 228 cases, including of two children and three women, while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were responsible for 49 cases, including of 11 children. Additionally, the report records 41 arbitrary arrests/detentions at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), while all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) were responsible for 36 arbitrary arrests/detentions, including of two children and two women.

The report also shows the distribution of May’s cases across Syria’s governorates. Analysis of the data shows that Aleppo governorate saw the highest number of arbitrary arrests/detentions documented in May, followed by the governorate of Idlib, then in descending order Rural Damascus, Deir E-Zour Homs, Damascus and Daraa, and finally Hasaka. The report also compares the number of arbitrary arrests/detentions carried out by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria with the numbers of releases of detainees from the various forces’ detention centers documented in May 2024. In this regard, the report stresses that the number of arbitrary arrests far surpasses the number of releases from detention centers, with the number of releases equaling approximately 30 percent of all the detentions documented; this confirms again that at least two or three times as many people are detained as are released, primarily by the Syrian regime, which indicates that these arrest and detention practices are standard policy in comparison to the extremely limited numbers of people released by all parties to the conflict, but mainly from regime detention centers.

The report further notes that Syrian regime forces carried out arrests/detentions of refugees who had been forcibly repatriated from Lebanon. This took place after the Lebanese army had carried out raid and arrest campaigns targeting Syrian refugees in Lebanon who were then deported to the border. Most of those arrested at the border by Syrian regime forces were taken to security and military detention centers in the two governorates of Homs and Damascus.

Moreover, the report records widespread arrests/detentions of civilians by regime personnel in the governorates of Rural Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa on the pretext of the detainees failing to join the regime’s military or reserve forces as part of the regime’s mandatory military service policy. These arrests were carried out during raids or mass arrests at checkpoints, and even targeted individuals who had previously agreed to settle their security situation with the regime in the areas that saw settlement agreements. Also, the report recorded arrests/detentions targeting returning refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) as they attempted to go back to their original areas which are currently under the control of regime forces. Those arrests targeted refugees returning from Lebanon, and from Jordan via the Nasib Border Crossing in southern Daraa. Furthermore, the report recorded arrests/detentions at regime checkpoints in Aleppo governorate, targeting citizens travelling from their places of residence in SDF-held areas to regime areas in Aleppo city. There were also widespread, random arrests/detentions targeting citizens, including university students, in the governorates of Damascus, Rural Damascus, and Daraa. Most of these arrests were carried out as part of mass raid and arrest campaigns, as well as at checkpoints. We believe these arrests were the result of ill-intentioned and malicious security reports.

On a related note, the report stresses that, through these arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances carried out in May, the Syrian regime continues to violate the orders of the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued on November 16, 2023, on requesting provisional measures in the case brought by Canada and the Netherlands against the Syrian regime on the application of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Meanwhile, the report notes, the SDF also continued enforcing the group’s policies of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance in May 2024. In pursuit of these policies, SDF personnel continued carrying out campaigns of mass raids and detentions, targeting civilians on the pretext of fighting ISIS, with some of these arrest campaigns backed by US-led Coalition helicopters. We also documented arrests/detentions of civilians over accusations of working with the SNA. Moreover, we documented arrests/detentions of members of the Khnaf Folklore Troupe, including children, as well as members of the Yekiti Party of Kurdistan – Syria (PYKS), primarily in Hasaka governorate. The report also recorded more arrests/detention of civilians for forced conscription, with these detainees taken to SDF military training and recruitment camps, which are concentrated in SDF-controlled areas of Aleppo governorate. Moreover, the report documented a number of arrests targeting individuals accused of being affiliated with the Arab tribes’ forces. Those arrests were concentrated in Deir Ez-Zour governorate. Additionally, the SDF also continued abducting children with the objective of conscripting them for military training, sending them to military training camps; the parents and families of these conscripted children are not allowed to contact them, while the SDF refuses to disclose their fate.

As the report further reveals, HTS detained more civilians in May 2024. These arrests, which were concentrated in Idlib governorate and some areas of rural Aleppo governorate under the group’s control, targeted media activists, political activists, and local dignitaries. Most of these arrests were carried out in connection with the detainees expressing opinions critical of HTS’s management of areas under its control. These detentions are routinely and arbitrarily carried out in the form of raids in which HTS members storm their victims’ homes, often breaking down the doors, or abducting their victims in the street or while they’re passing through temporary checkpoints. The report also documented arrests/detentions mostly carried out as part of raids and mass arrests, or at checkpoints in Idlib governorate that targeted individuals over their participation in the recent anti-HTS protests in the governorate.

Furthermore, armed opposition factions/SNA continued carrying out arbitrary arrests/detentions and kidnappings in May 2024, including of women. Most of these detentions were conducted on a mass scale, targeting individuals coming from areas controlled by the Syrian regime or the SDF. In addition, we documented detentions that exhibited an ethnic character, with these incidents concentrated in areas under the control of the armed opposition factions/SNA in Aleppo governorate. Most of these arrests occurred without judicial authorization and without the participation of the police force, which is the sole legitimate administrative authority responsible for arrests and detentions through the judiciary, as well as being carried out without any clear charges being presented against those being detained. Also, the report documented raids and arrests by SNA personnel targeting civilians who were accused of working with the SDF, with these arrests being concentrated in some of the villages which are administratively part of Afrin city in Aleppo governorate. Moreover, the report recorded arrests/detentions of civilians by the SNA’s ‘al-Sultan Squad’ in retaliation for those people demanding the return of their homes which had been seized by al-Sultan Squad at an earlier date. Those arrests were concentrated in Afrin city. Additionally, we documented the arrests of a number of refugees and IDPs returning to their houses in SNA-controlled areas. Those arrests were also concentrated in Afrin city.

On the subject of releases, the report documents the release of 17 detainees by Syrian regime forces, including the release of one detainee in connection with the amnesty decree promulgated by the Syrian regime on April 30, 2022 (Decree No. 7 of 2022). Also, in Damascus governorate, the report documented the regime’s release of three individuals originally from the governorates of Aleppo and Damascus. These detainees were released after serving the full term of their arbitrary sentences, which ranged from one year to four years. Additionally, the report documented the release of 13 individuals who had been held without trial for a few days. Most of these detainees came from the governorates of Rural Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa, and most had spent the duration of their detention in regime security branches.

As the report further reveals, 19 people, including three children, were released in May from SDF detention centers, where they had been held for various periods ranging from a few days to few months, with most of these detainees originating from the governorates of Deir Ez-Zour and Aleppo. Most of these releases were the result of meditation by tribal intermediaries or came after the detainees had completed their sentences. Meanwhile, the report documents the HTS’ release of 12 individuals from its detention centers in Idlib governorate, with the released detainees having been detained for periods ranging from a few days to few months, without any clear charges being brought against them. Meanwhile, all armed opposition factions/SNA released nine individuals, including one child, after detaining them for periods ranging from a few days to four months without bringing any clear charges against them or putting them on trial. Most were released only after their families had been extorted into paying sums of money to secure their release.

As the report further notes, SNHR’s data is classified as a reputable principal source of information by many UN bodies, being used in numerous statements and resolutions. The most recent of these was a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Syria (A/C.3/78/L.43), passed by a vote on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, which condemned the Syrian regime’s continuation of gross, systematic, and widespread violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. This latest resolution also acknowledged that the number of detainees in Syria continues to rise steadily, already exceeding 135,000. Relatedly, the resolution holds the regime responsible for the systematic use of enforced disappearance, which, it notes, constitutes a crime against humanity.

The report notes that the issue of detainees and forcibly disappeared persons is one of the most crucial human rights issues in Syria which there has been no progress in resolving despite its inclusion in several UN Security Council resolutions, as well as in UN General Assembly resolutions, in Kofi Annan’s plan, in Security Council resolution 2254 of December 2015, and finally in the statement on cessation of hostilities issued in February 2016.

The report stresses that the Syrian regime has not fulfilled any of its obligations in any of the international treaties and conventions it has ratified, most particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It has also violated several articles of the Syrian Constitution itself, with thousands of detainees imprisoned without any arrest warrant for many years, without charges, and prevented from appointing a lawyer and from receiving family visits. Approximate 68 percent of all detentions documented have subsequently been categorized as enforced disappearance cases.

The report further notes that, in light of the continuing high rates of arbitrary arrests, torture, and enforced disappearance at the hands of Syrian regime forces, we see no indicator of any willingness on the Syrian regime’s part to end torture or comply with the ICJ’s order for provisional measures since its issuance on November 16, 2023. Even worse, the regime continues to imprison 135,638 arbitrarily arrested detainees/forcibly disappeared persons in its detention centers, all of whom are still being subjected to torture, which further confirms that the Syrian regime explicitly continues to contravene the Convention against Torture, which the regime ratified in 2004, and continues to fail to comply with the Convention.

The report additionally notes that the other parties (Syrian Democratic Forces, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, and all Armed Opposition factions/Syrian National Army are also all obliged to implement the provisions of international human rights law, and that they have committed widespread violations through arrests and enforced disappearances.

In the report, SNHR again calls on the UN Security Council to follow through with the implementation of Resolution 2042, Resolution 2043, and Resolution 2139.

The report stresses that the UN must form an impartial special committee to monitor cases of arbitrary arrest and reveal the fate of the 102,000 missing persons in Syria, 85 percent of whom are detained by the Syrian regime. The report adds that pressure should be applied on all parties to immediately reveal their detention records in accordance with a timetable, and to immediately make detainees’ whereabouts public, and allow humanitarian organizations and the International Committee of Red Cross to have direct access to them.

Lastly, the report emphasizes that children and women should immediately be released from captivity, and families and friends of detainees or wanted individuals should not be detained as prisoners of war, as well as providing a number of additional recommendations.

47 Civilian Deaths, Including Eight Children and Three Women as well as 15 Deaths due to Torture, Documented in Syria in May 2024

32% of All May’s Deaths Were Victims Who Died due to Torture

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Press release: (Download the full report below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) revealed in its latest report, released today, that 47 civilians were killed in Syria in May 2024, including eight children and three women, as well as 15 individuals who died due to torture. The group also documented two attacks on vital facilities, including two schools.

The 23-page report provides a summary of the civilian deaths that occurred in May 2024, shedding light particularly on victims who died due to torture, as well as documenting the massacres perpetrated by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria which the SNHR team was able to document during this period. The report also outlines the most notable incidents that took place during the month, in addition to summarizing the action taken by SNHR in regard to the issue of extrajudicial killings in Syria, as well as providing details of the attacks carried out against vital facilities during this month.

This report draws upon the constant daily monitoring of news and developments by SNHR’s team, and on information supplied by our extensive network of dozens of various sources, as well as on the analysis of a large quantity of pictures and videos.

The report emphasizes the Syrian regime’s continuing absolute failure to register the deaths of any of the hundreds of thousands of citizens it has killed since March 2011 in the official death records of the civil registry. It explains that the regime exerts absolute control over the issuance of death certificates, which are not made available to any of the families of its victims, including the missing and forcibly disappeared, whether these victims were killed by the Syrian regime or by other affiliated parties. The regime only allows death certificates to be issued for those who meet the narrow criteria set by itself and its security services. The report further reveals that the vast majority of victims’ families are unable to obtain death certificates from the Syrian regime, for fear of linking their name with that of a person who was detained by the regime and killed under torture, meaning that he or she was a dissident who opposed the regime, or of their loved one being registered as a ‘terrorist’ if they are wanted by the security services; additionally, many victims’ families have been forcibly displaced outside the areas controlled by the regime.

The report further reveals that on August 10, 2022, the regime government’s Minister of Justice issued Circular No. 22 specifying the procedures for the conduct of proceedings related to registering deaths within Sharia courts. The circular included new conditions stipulating that five items of evidence must be submitted to and approved by the relevant judges in proceedings related to registration of deaths. It also requires that all relevant courts involved in death registration cases comply with the circular’s content. The circular also imposed security clearance conditions on judicial authorities to register death cases, increasing the security services’ intrusion into these legal procedures.

The report documents the killing of 47 civilians, including eight children and three women, in May 2024 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces. Of the 47 civilians killed during this month, 13, including one child, were killed by Syrian regime forces, while one was killed by ISIS. The report adds that all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) killed one civilian. Meanwhile, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) killed three civilians in May, while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed eight, including three children. Finally, 21 civilians, including four children and three women, were killed by other parties. Additionally, the report records the killing of two medical workers, and two attacks on vital civilian facilities, at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria.

As the report further reveals, Daraa governorate saw the highest number of civilian deaths in May accounting for about 26 percent of the total, with all the victims killed in the governorate being killed by other parties. Daraa governorate was followed by Aleppo governorate with approximately 21 percent, then and then Idlib governorate which accounted for approximately 19 percent of the total.

Moreover, the report notes that more victims were killed by the explosion of landmines planted by unidentified parties in May. Adding May’s death toll to the rest of the year’s total to date, 65 civilians, including nine children and 14 women, have been killed by landmines since the beginning of this year.

On the subject of deaths due to torture, the report reveals that 15 individuals were documented as dying due to torture in Syria, in May 2024. Of these victims, 10 died due to torture at the hands of by Syrian regime forces, while three died due to torture at the hands of HTS, one at the hands of all armed opposition factions/SNA, and one at the hands of the SDF.

The report further reveals that SNHR documented two attacks on vital civilian facilities in May 2024, with one of these carried out by the SDF and the other by other parties. Since the start of 2024 up until the end of May, 56 attacks on vital civilian facilities by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria have been documented.

The report additionally notes that the evidence collected by SNHR indicates that some of the attacks documented in the report were deliberately directed against civilians and civilian objects. These attacks, along with indiscriminate bombardment, also resulted in the destruction of more vital facilities and other buildings. Moreover, the report notes, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.

As the report also notes, the use of remote bombardment to target densely populated areas reflects a criminal mindset on the regime’s part, showing that it is intent on deliberately inflicting the greatest possible number of deaths, in clear contravention of international human rights law and flagrant violation of the Geneva IV Convention, Articles 27, 31, and 32.

The report further notes that no warnings have been given by Syrian regime forces, Russian forces, or US-led International Coalition forces before carrying out any of their attacks, as required by international humanitarian law. This has been the case since the beginning of the popular uprising in Syria, which shows an utter disregard for the lives of civilians in Syria.

Moreover, it is clear from the volume of violations, their repeated nature, and the excessive level of force used, as well as the indiscriminate manner of the bombardment and the coordinated nature of the regime’s attacks, that they must be the result of orders from the higher echelons of power in accordance with a state policy.

All armed opposition factions/SNA forces, meanwhile, have violated Security Council resolution 2139 through attacks that constitute violations of customary international humanitarian law, resulting in collateral civilian deaths and injuries.

The report calls on the UN Security Council to take additional steps following its adoption of Resolution 2254 and stresses the importance of referring the Syrian dossier to the International Criminal Court, adding that all those involved in perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes should be held accountable.

The report also urges all relevant United Nations agencies to make far greater efforts to provide food, medical, and humanitarian assistance in areas where fighting has ceased, and in internally displaced persons’ camps, and to follow up on payment with those states that have pledged voluntary contributions.

The report additionally calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine (R2P) after all political channels have proved fruitless throughout all the agreements reached, as well as the Cessation of Hostilities statements, and Astana agreements that followed, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII, and to implement the norm of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly.

The report further recommends that the international community should work to launch projects to create maps revealing the locations of landmines and cluster munitions in all Syrian governorates. This, it notes, would facilitate the process of clearing these lethal munitions, as well as educating the population about their locations.

The report additionally calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) to launch investigations into the cases included in this report and previous reports and confirms the SNHR’s willingness to cooperate and to provide further evidence and data in any such investigations, as well as calling on the commission to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions in its next report.

The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools, and markets, as well as ending its acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers and complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.

Lastly, the report reiterates SNHR’s appeal to all the parties to the conflict to provide detailed maps of the locations where they have planted landmines, especially those present in civilian locations or areas near residential communities, in addition to making several other recommendations.

Autonomy of Trade Association in Northwestern Syria Come Under Serious Threat as the Syrian Interim Government Consolidates Control

Resolution 29 Must be Repealed, and Coercive Intrusion into Trade Associations’ Work Must Stop

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On Tuesday, May 14, 2024, Habboush Lata, Minister of Justice in the Syrian Interim Government, run by the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, issued resolution 29, halting the operations of any law firms affiliated with the Free Bar Association in northwestern Syria which do not fulfill the quorum requirement stipulated in Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of Law No. 30 of 2010 on Regulating the Practicing of Law. According to the legal text, in order for a law firm to be recognized by the Free Bar Association, it must have at least 150 lawyer professors and practicing lawyers registered as associates. Resolution 29 states that those lawyers currently working for smaller law firms which don’t meet this criterion will need to transfer to larger firms which fulfill the quorum stipulated in the aforementioned article. Moreover, any lawyers currently practicing in these smaller law firms whose operations will be terminated will have their judicial license to practice law revoked until they move to firms that meet the criteria.

Pursuant to this resolution, the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation and the Director of the Military Police Department both issued a circular to all judicial bodies ordering that they stop dealing with lawyers working with these discontinued law firms until they comply with resolution 29 of 2024. This is despite the fact that the text of the resolution makes no mention of any notification of or correspondence with the Central Free Bar Association Council to clarify which law firms’ activities will be discontinued in light of this resolution, nor does the resolution address in any way the fate of the ongoing legal cases currently being handled by legal agencies established by the firms affected. In short, the resolution will lead to a state of widespread confusion, especially since courts in the region do not know which law firms are discontinued.

In response to Resolution 29, the Free Bar Association’s offices in the affected government issued a statement protesting against it, declaring it unlawful, and a blatant intrusion into their work, and stating that it clearly contravenes the principle of the separation of powers.

In another development, the Free Bar Association issued Resolution 6 of 2024, which consolidates the law offices representing Deir Ez-Zour, Hasaka, and Raqqa into one office; consolidates the law offices of Damascus and Rural Damascus, Homs, and Daraa into another single office; and consolidates the two law offices of Hama and Latakia into a third single office, in line with Law No. 30 of 2010 on regulating the Practicing of Law. Resolution 6/2024 made no mention of having been introduced in light of the resolution issued by the Minister of Justice, which suggests that it does not recognize it.

In 2018, the law firms in the Free Bar Association agreed on establishing one union body representing free lawyers in Syria in accordance with a bylaw. Following a series of meetings, that bylaw went on to become Law No. 30 of 2010 on Regulating the Practicing of Law, after the association dismissed all articles related to the powers and authority of the Baath Party regarding its supervision of the work of lawyers and the bar association.

SNHR Condemns Syrian Regime Forces Forcibly Disappearing Jamal al-Matni for Nearly Three Years, Killing Him, then Registering Him as Dead in the Civil Registry Records

SNHR Reiterates Its Calls for the US Administration to Take the Harshest Measures Possible Against the Syrian Regime for Killing a US Citizen Under Torture

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Jamal Shahin al-Matni, born in 1952, was a naturalized US Citizen originally from Suwayda city in Syria. He was abducted by armed personnel affiliated with the Syrian regime’s Military Security Intelligence Directorate on Monday, July 5, 2021, in a raid on his home near al-Tha’la Roundabout in Suwayda city. He was then taken to an undisclosed location. Jamal has been forcibly disappeared ever since with the regime denying holding him and refusing to allow anyone, even a lawyer, to visit him.

According to intelligence received by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), Jamal was abducted by the locally known militia group ‘Raji Falhout’s Militia Group’, which then handed him over to the regime’s Military Security Intelligence branch in Damascus city. During the abduction itself, militia members also beat his family members. Jamal’s family believes he was abducted over his American citizenship.

On May 26, 2024, Jamal al-Matni’s family obtained a death certificate form the civil registry office in Suwayda, which states that he died in Damascus city on December 23, 2021, with no other details provided regarding the cause of death, meaning that he died about six months after his arrest. SNHR can confirm that Jamal was in need of medical assistance and was taking medication on account of suffering from several illnesses at the time of his arrest, indicating a strong probability that he died due to torture and medical negligence in a regime detention center. SNHR can also confirm that Syrian regime forces did not disclose Jamal’s death to his family at the time it took place, nor have they returned his body to his family. 

International law strictly prohibits torture and all other forms of cruel, degrading, or inhumane punishment. The prohibition of torture is a customary rule that cannot be disputed or balanced against other rights or values, even in times of emergency. Violating this rule is a crime under international criminal law. Those who issue the orders for or assist in carrying out torture are also criminally liable for their actions.

Furthermore, by forcibly disappearing Jamal and then killing him in one of its detention centers, the Syrian regime has also violated the order of the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued on November 16, 2023, in regard to a request for provisional measures in the case brought by Canada and the Netherlands against the Syrian regime on the application of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. According to the ICJ’s court order, the Syrian Arab Republic, as part of its obligations under the Convention against Torture, is bound to “take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and ensure that its officials, as well as any organizations or persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts of torture or other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In addition, the document continues, the Syrian Arab Republic “shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of any evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

SNHR condemns all abduction and torture practices by Syrian regime and affiliated personnel, as by all other forces. We call for the immediate launch of an independent investigation into all incidents of arrest and torture that have taken place, particularly this latest barbaric incident that serves as further proof of the barbarism of the Syrian regime and further highlights the rightful demand of the Syrian people to change this monstrous regime for a democratic government that respects human rights and defends the Syrian people.

The US administration must take the harshest measures against the Syrian regime over its killing of a U.S. citizen under torture in this barbaric, unconscionable way. Jamal’s death is the second recently documented case in which a US citizen has died in regime custody, following that of Dr. Majd Kamalmaz, about which we issued a statement on May 21. The US Department of State must issue an urgent statement of condemnation that clearly expresses its intention to hold the Syrian regime accountable and demand that the regime compensates both victims’ families.

SNHR stands in solidarity with Jamal’s family, extending our heartfelt thoughts and condolences to them and to all bereaved families who have lost loved ones to the Syrian regime’s heinous machinery of torture.

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SNHR Welcomes French Court’s Conviction of Three Senior Regime Security Officers Over the Murder of Frenchmen Mazen Dabbagh and His Son Patrick

The World’s States Must Move Ahead to Achieve Justice for At Least 15,087 Victims Killed due to Torture in Regime Detention Centers

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On Friday, May 24, 2024, the Paris Criminal Court officially convicted three Syrian regime security leadership officials in absentia on charges of complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the case of the Franco-Syrians Mazen Dabbagh and his son Patrick (Abdul Qader), who were arrested, forcibly disappeared, and subsequently killed under torture in a detention center operated by the Syrian regime’s Air Force Intelligence Directorate. The Syrian regime also seized the Dabbagh family’s properties in Damascus.

This ruling followed several trial sessions held in absentia against the accused from May 21-24, 2024. The case had been under investigation by the War Crimes Unit in Paris since November 2016, before a decision was made by the city’s General Prosecutor to launch a judicial examination on the grounds of the universal jurisdiction principle. On October 8, 2018, the examining judges issued arrest warrants against the three officers accused, namely Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud.

This landmark trial would not have been possible without the tireless and brave efforts of Obayda Dabbagh, Mazen’s brother, and Ms. Hanan Dabbagh, Mazen’s widow.

The Court sentenced the three high-ranking regime officers in absentia to life imprisonment, as they were convinced of complicity in imprisonment, torture, enforced disappearance, and causing deliberate harm to life, constituting crimes against humanity; and extortion and property seizure, constituting war crimes.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), represented by its Executive Director Fadel Abdulghany, closely followed, and attended the recent proceedings over the past four days. Moreover, SNHR’s data and reports were referenced in many of the statements made by the Dabbagh family’s lawyer, as well as the witnesses, and experts.

Since the ICJ Order Was Issued Six Months Ago, the Syrian Regime Has Killed No Fewer than 29 Individuals Due to Torture, and Arrested At Least 534 Civilians, Including Eight Children and 21 Women

All ICJ Members Must Cut Any and All Forms of Political, Economic, and Military Ties With the Syrian Regime

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The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights today released a report entitled, ‘Since the ICJ Order Was Issued Six Months Ago, the Syrian Regime Has Killed No Fewer than 29 Individuals Due to Torture, and Arrested At Least 534 Civilians, Including Eight Children and 21 Women’, in which the group stressed that all members of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) must cut any and all forms of political, economic, and military ties with the Syrian regime.

The report notes that, on November 16, 2023, the Hague-based ICJ issued an order regarding the provisional measures requested by Canada in the Netherlands on the ‘Application of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’, also known as Canada and the Netherlands v. Syrian Arab Republic. Since then, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has been closely monitoring all violations of international human rights laws taking place in, or related to Syrian regime detention centers, as well as the arrests/detentions made by regime forces, in addition to any relevant articles of legislation promulgated, repealed, or modified by the regime during the period. The group has also been monitoring any changes in the regime’s security structure, with these being the bodies primarily responsible for committing violations against civilians in Syria. Those efforts, the report clarifies, go into releasing a periodic report assessing the Syrian regime’s commitment to the ICJ order, while also analyzing and submitting conclusions in case of non-compliance. As such, this report is the second in our series of reports on the ICJ order. The first report, which was as released on February 22, 2024, i.e., three months after the ICJ order was issued, concluded that the Syrian regime had taken no real action to comply with the conditions of the ICJ order. That report further stressed that, as shown by the data recorded, the Syrian regime has continuously breached the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified by Syria in 2004.

As Fadel Abdul Ghany, SNHR Executive Director, says:
“One of the main goals of our daily monitoring of the Syrian regime’s actual commitment to the ICJ order is to assist the ICJ team in assessing the said commitment before making a conclusive decision, which we hope will come sooner rather than later. Another of our goals is to help build the case against the Syrian regime, which has shown no regard for the ICJ order as evidenced by the dozens of violations we’ve documented since the order was issued.”

Since the issuance of the ICJ’s order on November 16, 2023, up until May 16, 2024, the report has documented at least 534 arbitrary arrests, including of eight children and 21 women. Of these detainees who were arrested and placed in various regime detention centers, 63 were released, while the remaining 471 have been subsequently categorized as forcibly disappeared persons. Moreover, the report has documented no fewer than 29 deaths due to torture in the same period, noting that the dead body of only one victim had been returned to their family, while all the other victims’ bodies have yet to be returned.

As the report further reveals, with the start of 2024, SNHR was able to obtain death certificates for new enforced disappearance cases that had not been publicly disclosed, leading the group to believe that the Syrian regime is sending newly released information about forcibly disappeared persons to the civil registry offices to register their deaths. Since November 16, 2023, up until May 16, 2024, the report has documented the registration of the deaths of no fewer than 14 forcibly disappeared persons in the civil registry records. Among these cases, the report notes, were victims from the same families, political activists, and university students. In all the cases, the cause of death was not given, and the Syrian regime has not returned the victims’ bodies to their families or notified the families of their loved ones’ deaths at the time they took place.

Furthermore, the report stresses that the Syrian regime has appointed or promoted military figures implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity to senior leadership roles in the regime’s security apparatus. Since the beginning of the year, the regime has been making numerous changes to its security structure. Those changes concern leadership roles at security agencies, and changes in the duties and powers of personnel at some security branches,  with the report noting that these actions aim primarily to once again centralize all issues related to the regime’s security agencies in the hands of the National Security Bureau, so as to tighten its control over those bodies and regulate their powers in any way that the National Security Bureau, which is directly connected to Bashar Assad, sees fit, especially since Iran and Russia have encroached on the operational management of some security agencies.

Among the most prominent regime military figures implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity who were appointed to senior positions in 2024 were Ali Mamlouk, who was named as a Special Security Advisor to the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, and Kefah Melhem, who succeeded Ali Mamlouk as the head of the National Security Bureau.

The report concludes that, as evidenced by the continued arbitrary arrests, torture practices, and enforced disappearances at the hands of the regime, which have been documented by SNHR, there is no indication to be seen of any willingness by the regime to cease torture, or even to undertake the most minimal and basic of measures mentioned above in response to the ICJ’s ruling. Furthermore, at least 136,192 people are still arbitrarily detained and/or forcibly disappeared by the regime, and enduring torture in regime detention centers. Despite being responsible for such unimaginably terrible suffering, the Syrian regime has not launched even one investigation into the disappearance or torture of detainees by its personnel. On the contrary, the regime has enacted ‘laws’ shielding them from accountability.

The report calls on the ICJ to issue a statement assessing the Syrian regime’s commitment to the provisional measures indicated by the Court six months after its most recent order, seeing that this case is a genuine test of the credibility and power of the ICJ. As such, the ICJ must take immediate and effective measures to address those violations and ensure the realization of justice and accountability. All possible measure must be taken against the Syrian regime, including the UN Security Council issuing a binding resolution calling for ending systematic torture, all of which constitutes crimes against humanity, and unequivocally condemning the Syrian regime’s breach of the ICJ order. Moreover, the report stresses that all ICJ members, namely every state in the world, must cut all and any forms of political and military association with the Syrian regime over its blatant breach of the ICJ order, and take additional action against the Syrian regime, and intensify sanctions, in order to ensure compensation for victims and the protection of human rights in Syria, in addition to making a number of other recommendations.

Nawwar Salim Shatouri Has been Forcibly Disappeared Since 2013

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The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has briefed the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on the case of Nawwar Salim Shatouri, born in 1985, from Jisr al-Shoghour city in western Idlib governorate. He was working as a truck driver at the time of his arrest in December 2013 when he was detained at a Syrian regime forces checkpoint erected near the Public Water Institution in Jisr al-Shoghour city. The regime personnel also confiscated his car during the arrest. He was then taken to an undisclosed location. He has been forcibly disappeared ever since, with his fate remaining unknown to SNHR as well as to his family.

SNHR has also briefed the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, as well as briefing the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, specifically in regard to the case of Nawwar.

Syrian authorities have denied any connection with the enforced disappearance of Nawwar Salim Shatouri. SNHR has been unable to determine his fate, as have his family members, who fear that they may be arrested and tortured by regime personnel themselves if they continue to ask about his whereabouts and fate, as has happened in numerous previous cases.

SNHR has called on the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearance, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to intervene and to demand that Syrian authorities release him immediately, as well as to secure the release of thousands of other forcibly disappeared citizens whose whereabouts and current conditions must also be revealed.

Although the Syrian government is not a party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, it is indisputably a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Enforced disappearance constitutes a violation of both instruments.

SNHR also confirms that there are well-founded fears that many of those forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime since 2011 may have been subjected to torture and possibly died due to torture, with the number of citizens forcibly disappeared by the regime continuing to grow.