Arbitrary arrests, kidnappings and forced disappearances constitute some of the most common and widespread human rights violations in the Syrian conflict since 2011. According to the database of the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), 72,667 cases of arrests and kidnappings have been documented since March 2011 up until now. The Syrian government is considered to be the main perpetrator of these types of violations, with documented cases amounting to 66,922—more than 92% of the total figure.
The harm caused by these violations is not limited to the victims themselves but also affects the families of the victims, who in most cases do not know anything about the fate of their families and loved ones. This leaves open wounds that do not heal within the families and the community at large. The lives of many families of victims are setback as they await the fate of their loved ones. This sudden disappearance controls the fate of the families, their future, and their day-to-day lives.
There have been several cases documented across different conflicts worldwide whereby the families of victims played a very important role in conveying the tragedy of their loved ones and the magnitude of the crisis. The participation of families is an essential cornerstone in any future transitional process that will allow society to heal its wounds from the past for the sake of stability and resilience. It is not possible to draw clear transitional justice strategies without hearing out the voices of the victims. The victim’s’ self-representation is a key element in shaping the appropriate strategies that will allow for major social transformation towards stability and making peace with the past.
Civil society organizations in Syria have continuously tried to make the voices of the victims heard. However, their role will remain minor if it is not coupled with the representation of the victims themselves. In this regard, the role of civil society organizations is to encourage the establishment of spaces for this expression that could take the form of committees and associations that can address international and national justice organizations and their initiatives. Alternatively, they could take the form of personal stories that give the desired palpable human perspective instead of continuing to only provide dry figures and statistics.
Without the cooperation of the victims’ parents and families, the important role played by the Syrian human rights centers in documenting violations and maintaining records will remain insufficient and will fail to raise real awareness of the magnitude of violations in Syria. Following up on different cases and providing updates on previous constraints are some of the most common challenges to data accuracy and integrity. Therefore, the VDC always encourages initiating communication with its representatives and monitors on providing any data related to the various violations, which will then be entered into the legal methodology of documentation and properly kept in the database of the center. In the future, this information can be used in processes of destiny-detection or in building cases against war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Syria.
The VDC works to support and encourage the initiatives of the families of victims, facilitate their meeting, and provide technical support and legal backgrounds for the various violations. This helps in allowing families of the victims, the most important stakeholders in these cases, to understand the potential of working on their relatives’ issues.
In this regard, the VDC, in cooperation with Basamat For Development, the Lebanese Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (LIFE), and the Save the Rest Campaign, is holding a large meeting for the families of detainees, abductees and forcibly disappeared persons. The primary goal is to encourage the families to document their relatives’ cases and cooperate with human rights organizations to preserve and archive data in a proper and precise manner. In addition, support will be provided to any representative committees for victims that may emerge from this meeting. The center looks forward to working with the committees and providing legal and technical support as well as conveying the voices of the real victims in international corridors and forums.
The meeting will be held on November 30th at the Chtaura Park Hotel in Lebanon.