Approximately 82,000 Forcibly Disappeared and 14,000 Died due to Torture at the hands of the Syrian Regime
Tens of thousands of Syrians have fallen to the machine of systematic arrests that hasn’t only targeted activists or those who were part of the popular uprising that rose against the family rule, but targeted many merely on suspicion or kinship. Syrian authorities usually deny to have made the arrest as people go to great lengths just to know the whereabouts of their beloved ones. Consequently, most arrest cases, a percentage of over 85%, turn into enforced-disappearances. These practices are deliberate and a central policy of the Syrian regime’s.
A report released by SNHR today notes that the Syrian regime was deliberate in omitting the fates of tens of thousands of detainees in order to inflict as much agony and degradation upon their families as a way of punishment for letting their beloved ones go out and demand changing the family rule. The report also outlines the distribution of arrests by year since March 2011, adding that 2012 and 2013 recorded the most arrests, which turn into enforced-disappearance which aimed to break and submit the popular uprising.
In addition, the report notes that the Syrian regime has ruled the Syrian people with an iron fist, submitting it to a culture of a deadly fear. The Syrian regime has never been merciful towards the Syrian people or showed any sign of compassion for the feelings of the victims’ families. The report stresses that those policies go back to the era of the Hafez al Assad whose regime is responsible for the enforced-disappearance of approximately 17,000 Syrian citizens since the Hama city incident if 1982.
Things haven’t dramatically changed, the report says, during the era of his son Bashar al Assad, as the Syrian regime still conceals the fates of the forcibly-disappeared persons through its official departments. Even if a detainee died during the detention, the Syrian regime chooses to conceal the news of their death for long years, just to keep the suffering, and to benefit its mafia-like networks who receive large sums of money from the residents just to get little information which are even false information in most cases.
In May 2018, the Syrian regime started revealing the fate of a large number of forcibly-disappeared persons by tampering with their data in civil records and having them registered as dead. The report raises a question about the real motives behind the Syrian regime’s decision to reveal the fate of approximately 836 incidents at a timing like this.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“It is difficult to tell for sure what the Syrian regime’s goal is, but I think there are two possible answers – the first is that the Russians were the ones who told the Syrian regime to do that in order to end this issue that has become a hurdle in the way of wrapping up the Syrian catastrophe. The second one is that the Syrian regime wants to show that he has achieved victory on the ground, and all that is left to do is to end the detainees issue so residents and society can go back under its submission accepting the fact that this is their only choice. As defenders of human rights, we have to question the purpose of the Security Council, the OHCHR, and the international law in light of all of this.”
The deport draws upon cross-checks conducted by SNHR team between its database, which contains the names of approximately 82,000 forcibly-disappeared persons, against the names revealed recently by the Syrian regime and received by SNHR. The cross-checking concluded that 77% of the cases revealed by the Syrian regime were recorded in SNHR’s enforced-disappearance database, while the reaming 23% were new cases that haven’t been documented at this point. Another cross-check was conducted against the database containing victims who died due to torture at Syrian regime prisons, which are estimated at 14,000 victims killed between March 2011 and August 2018. It was discovered that only 28 individuals were recorded before by SNHR as having died due to torture. As such, 97% of the new death cases were previously recorded as enforced-disappearances.
The report contains four accounts for victims’ families. Most of the families, who were contacted, have confirmed that they relatives were in good health at the time of the arrest, and that they didn’t know anything about their relatives after they were arrested by Syrian regime forces.
The report documents 836 cases where the Syrian regime has revealed that they all died. The report stresses that the Syrian regime didn’t mention the cause of death, deliver the dead bodies to their families, or reveal the death when it happened. Also, the Syrian regime has denied, according to the report, having any forcibly-disappeared persons inside its detention centers. Among the cases documented in the report were nine victims who were children when they were arrested and one woman (adult female).
According to the report, all of the cases in question died due to torture excluding a number of cases who were killed in summary executions that were the result of military field trials, known as Al-Midan Court. We documented 37 cases of this kind, about 5% of the overall number of cases documented.
The report outlines the distribution of documented cases across Syrian governorates – Damascus suburbs governorate recorded 193 cases, while 146 cases were recorded in Homs governorate, 141 in Hasaka governorate. 117 in Hama governorate, 92 in Damascus governorate, 78 cases in Daraa governorate, 29 cases in Idlib governorate, 23 cases in Latakia governorate, eight cases in Aleppo governorate, six cases in Deir Ez-Zour governorate, and three in Suwayda governorate.
The report stresses that as long as the Syrian regime is yet to deliver the dead bodies of the detainees who died, the crime of enforced-disappearance is still existing. According to the international law, all of those cases are still enforced-disappearances as long as the individual hasn’t been found, dead or alive, and the main accused in those crimes is the Syrian regime.
Further, the report analyzes the data from the new death cases which were revealed by the Syrian regime, concluding that most of those whose death was revealed by the Syrian regime were arrested in 2011 and 2012. Also, the report notes that most of them were forcibly-disappeared inside Saydnaya Military Prison, branch 215, and branch 227. The findings also suggest that 41 death cases involved kinships, such as siblings, fathers, and uncles.
According to the report, the 836 cases included no less than 22 popular uprising activists, 10 university students, two engineers, three athletes, four teachers, and three religious figures.
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 82,000 individuals and terrorizes the whole Syrian society, find methods and mechanisms to prevent the Syrian regime from tampering with the living and the dead. The report also 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. The report also stresses that the Security Council should take action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to protect the detainees from a certain death inside detention centers.
The report calls on the OHCHR to Issue a statement to condemn and address this blatant violation of the most basic standards for human dignity, and release an extensive report on this barbarian phenomenon and clearly condemn it.
Additionally, the report calls on the Commission of Inquiry and the International, Impartial and Intendent Mechanism to start investigating this crucial matter, as the report notes that SNHR is prepared to provide any additional details and data.
Lastly, the report calls on the Syrian regime to 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.