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SNHR Participates in the Event, ‘Detainees and Forcibly Disappeared Persons in Syria: Paths to Truth and Accountability’


The Syrian Regime Must Release Nearly 136,000 Political Prisoners, including 96,000 Forcibly Disappeared Persons

The Speakers (Jeremy Sarkin, Radwan Ziadeh, Fadel Abdul Ghany, Hala Al Ghawi) at the event, ‘Detainees and Forcibly Disappeared Persons in Syria: Paths to Truth and Accountability’’ – April 20, 2023

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On Thursday, April 20, 2023, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) participated in an event entitled, ‘Detainees and Forcibly Disappeared Persons in Syria: Paths to Truth and Accountability’. The event, which was held by the Arab Center Washington DC, featured Jeremy Sarkin, former Chair-Rapportuer of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearences (WGEID), Hala Al Ghawi, co-founder of Families for Freedom, and Fadel Abdul Ghany, Executive Director of SNHR, and was moderated by Radwan Ziadeh, senior fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC.

The event discussed the scale of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearences in Syria, and the procedures put in place to combat this issue, while also analyzing the international and legal mechanisms that deal with cases of disappearence and detention in Syria, and the pertaining shortcomings and challenges. The event also proposed new mechanisms to combat this pressing crisis.
Mr. Sarkin shed light on his twenty-plus years of experience in the field of enforced disappearence and arbitrary arrests. He outlined the egregious scale of detention centers operated by the regime as well as other parties to the conflict in Syria. Further, he detailed the challenges of documentation and accountalbity, and gave suggestions as to how to better address this issue and bring justice to the victims and their families.
In her speech, Ms. Al Ghawi talked about her work with arbitrary arrest survivors and their families towards realizing truth and justice. She discussed the prospects of establishing an international mechanism that would ensure reparitation for the victims and accountability for the crimes.
Mr. Abdul Ghany shed light on the scale and nature of enforced disappearence in Syria, and why the country is the worst worldwide in terms of this issue, claryfing that “what is taking place is abudctions, not arbitrary arrests”, since in the overwhelming majority of cases, detentions are carrioued out without a judicial warrant, without charges, without disclosing the identify of the individuals carrying out the detenition, and without disclosing the location to which the victims are being taken. The victims, on the other hand, are denied any opportunity to contact their families, telling anyone, or hiring a lawyer. The Syrian regime also does not record arrest cases, nor does it publish lists, and always denies when asked by the families of the detainees.
Mr. Abdul Ghany also added that the Syrian regime kills forcibly disappeared persons and then records them as dead in the civil registry without notifying their families. On December 20, 2022, Mr. Abdul Ghany noted, SNHR released a report entitled, ‘SNHR Obtains Hundreds of Death Certificates for People Forcibly Disappeared by the Syrian Regime, Whose Families Have Not been Notified of Their Deaths, Which Have Not Been Announced by Civil Register Offices’ that noted that SNHR has obtained 547 new death certificates that have not been published by the civil registry offices, while the families of the victims in question have not been notified of their beloved ones’ death.

Moreover, Mr. Abdul Ghany stressed that it is unlikely that any detainees will be released by the Syrian regime whose impunity, afforded, first, by the Russia’s backing and, second, the lack of a willingness for political change on the international community’s part, has enabled the regime to continune with and repead its violations for 12 years. He also expressed that we have serious concerns for the lives of 95,000 persons who were arrested and are still forcibly disappeared at the hands of Syrian regime forces since March 2011.
Additionally, Mr. Abdul Ghany stressed that the attempts by some Arab states, or any other states for that matter, to reestablish any form of relations with the Syrian regime are grievously insulting, first and foremost to those states deciding to take such action, sending the wrong message to their own peoples, that they support a regime that has committed crimes against humanity and choose to side with said regime atop the backs and skulls of its millions of victims. Furthermore, restoring relations with the Syrian regime encourages the regime’s own impunity, and that of other similar authoritarian regimes, and is an unconscionable and monstrous insult to its millions of victims. Therefore, any such restoration of relations constitutes an expression of support for all the Syrian regime’s previous and continuing violations against the Syrian people; this is particularly shocking since opposing such horrific violations which are classified as crimes against humanity and war crimes is, under international law, a core part of the responsibilities of all the world’s states as ratifiers to the Geneva Convention.
He concluded by giving some recommendations to the states that are willing or feeling in need of restoring relations with the Syrian regime, and to the international community, most notably:
Demand that the Syrian regime immediately releases nearly 136,000 political prisoners, including 96,000 forcibly disappeared persons.
1. Demand that the Syrian regime immediately releases nearly 136,000 political prisoners, including 96,000 forcibly disappeared persons.
2. Insist that the regime disband all extraordinary courts and repeal all of their rulings.
3. Demand that the perpetrators of violations against the Syrian people be held accountable (the Syrian regime has failed to hold even one individual who was involved in committing crimes accountable since March 2011).
4. Insist that the regime fully acknowledge its responsibility for committing violations and issue an apology to the victims and their families.
5. Work to expedite a political resolution in Syria, which remains the only acceptable path for the Syrian state to return to the Arab League, and to ensure the return of millions of IDPs and refugees.
To watch the event in full (available only in English), please click on this link.


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