The findings of a UN Secretary General report published today recommending the creation of a new institution dedicated to determining the fate and whereabouts of more than 110,000 missing and forcibly disappeared people in Syria is a triumph for victim and family groups who have been tirelessly campaigning for justice for their loved ones over the past decade.
Creating an international mechanism to establish the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared is a key demand of the Truth and Justice Charter, which was launched in February 2021 by a group of Syrian victim and family-led organizations demanding accountability for mass arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances in Syria.
“The findings of today’s report are long overdue and if implemented will deeply impact the present and future of Syria. The creation of an independent body dedicated to establishing the fate of the disappeared would be a momentous breakthrough for justice. After 11 years of campaigning and living with agonizing uncertainty, it would also offer the first glimmer of hope for the families of tens of thousands of people forcibly disappeared in Syria who continue to live in limbo, waiting for answers,” said Laila Kiki, Executive Director o f The Syria Campaign.
According to the Syrian Network of Human Rights (SNHR), at least 111,907 are missing in Syria including 3,041 children. More than 85% have been forcibly disappeared at the hands of the Syrian regime.
Fadwa Mahmoud, whose son, Maher, and husband, Abdulaziz, have been forcibly disappeared since 2012 is a member of the women-led movement Families for Freedom which is campaigning for freedom and justice for the detained and disappeared.
“Today’s report is the result of years and years of hard work from victim groups, families of detainees and the missing and Syrian civil society; telling our stories and our struggle to anyone who will hear us in the hope that someone listens. We’ve been waiting a long time for this, but it’s just the first step, now we need to see the UN turn these words into action by establishing the mechanism placing the demands of victim groups and detainees’ and missing persons’ families at the center – because we refuse to be on the margins anymore. This is a hugely important joint effort, we know the struggle ahead will be tiring but we will not stop until every detainee’s fate is uncovered and all those detained are released.”
In a statement members of the Truth and Justice Charter said :
“The continuation of the status quo and ignoring the recommendation of the Secretary-General regarding the creation of a new and special institution to address the crisis of the missing in Syria would greatly undermine the rights of the victims, including the families. The signatories cannot accept anything less than what is recommended by the report.”
Diab Serrih of the Association of Detainees and Missing of Sednaya Prison (ADMSP), which works to expose the fate of the disappeared and documents survivors’ testimonies said:
“Creating a mechanism for the disappeared will not just help victims and families of the disappeared, it will send a message to the Assad regime that we will not give up in our struggle for justice until those responsible for these crimes against humanity are held accountable and people in Syria no longer live in fear of being forcibly disappeared at any moment.”