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SNHR Condemns Syrian Regime Forces Detaining and Forcibly Disappearing University Student Amjad Idrees for Nearly 10 Years, then Registering Him as Dead in the Civil Registry Records

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Amjad Walid Idrees, born in 1994, was a student at the Al Baath University’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the time of his arrest by Syrian regime forces in 2014. Amjad, who was originally from al-Qsair city in rural Homs governorate, was arrested on March 31, 2014, by regime forces in front of the Immigration and Passport Department in Homs city. He has been forcibly disappeared ever since with the regime denying holding him and refusing to allow anyone, even a lawyer, to visit him.

Amjad rose to popular prominence with the start of the popular uprising for democracy in Syria in March 2011. He was known for his peaceful civilian activism, including the provision of relief and humanitarian aid through his volunteer work with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). He was also a member of one of the local coordination committees in Homs governorate, and a member of the ‘General Commission of the Syrian Revolution’, and worked with a number of local councils. Because of this, he, and others like him, were viewed as strategic targets by the Syrian regime, which spared no effort in persecuting, detaining, and forcibly disappearing them in its detention centers with no legal grounds.

On March 18, 2024, Amjad Idrees’s family obtained a family statement from the state registry office which stated baldly that Amjad had died on April 9, 2014, providing no other details, including the place or cause of his death. By cross-checking this document with the data on Amjad’s arrest stored on the Syrian Network for Human Rights’ (SNHR) database, it can be concluded that he died 10 days after his arrest. We can confirm that he was in good health at the time of his arrest, indicating a strong probability that he died due to torture and medical negligence. We can also confirm that Syrian regime forces failed to publicly announce the death when it happened, and also failed to return Amjad’s body to his family.

This failure to return Amjad’s body to his family is the norm rather than the exception, with the regime routinely failing to return its victims’ bodies to their families to enable them to lay their loved ones to rest. Without returning the body, the documents from the registry office confirming the victims’ deaths in custody do not constitute a full revelation of the truth. Like many tens of thousands of Syrian families, Amjad’s family has no possible recourse to legal action to find out the cause of his death, or even to obtain his body since, as stated earlier, the Syrian regime absolutely refuses to return any of its forcibly disappeared victims’ bodies. SNHR is gravely concerned at the mechanisms and methods used by the regime to conceal and dispose of the bodies of its victims who died due to torture.

Since the start of 2018, SNHR has been documenting a practice by the Syrian regime, whereby forcibly disappeared individuals are registered as dead in the civil registry’s records without any notification being issued to their families; we have detailed this phenomenon in previous reports. To this day, the families of persons forcibly disappeared continue to learn about the deaths of their loved ones through civil registry records. In total, we have documented 1,624 cases of this kind as of this writing, with the victims including  24 children, 21 women (adult female), and 16 medical personnel. In all of the 1,624 cases, the cause of death was not revealed, and the regime failed to return any of the victims’ bodies to their families or even to notify in the families of the victims’ burial places.

SNHR must reiterate that the Syrian regime bears a serious and binding responsibility to reveal the fate of forcibly disappeared persons and to launch independent investigations under the supervision of the UN to reveal the truth about the violations that occurred, hold those responsible accountable, and return the victims’ bodies to their families so they can be laid to rest with a proper funeral and burial. This practice by the Syrian regime of registering deaths in the civil registry records falls far short of conclusively and properly clarifying the fate of forcibly disappeared persons. Rather, it constitutes another damning indictment of the Syrian regime which, having arrested and forcibly disappeared these individuals, and denied any involvement or responsibility for their disappearance, then registers their deaths in its civil registry records without providing any details or returning their bodies to their grieving families. As such, we at SNHR reiterate that these victims are still included among the ranks of the forcibly disappeared, with the crime of enforced disappearance still continuing to this day as international law indicates, with the primary culprit behind these crimes being the Syrian regime.

SNHR condemns all arrest and torture practices by Syrian regime forces, especially against political activists. 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. We also call for all of those involved in such crimes to be held accountable, from the officials issuing the orders to the individuals who carried them out and colluded in the process. The findings of these investigations and accountability processes must be made public to the Syrian people. All of those involved in arrest and torture practices must be exposed, while the survivors and victims’ families must be compensated for the grave physical, psychological and emotional trauma inflicted on them.

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