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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

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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well as the arrests/detentions made by regime forces, in addition to any relevant articles of legislation promulgated, repealed, or modified by the regime during the period.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.

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