On the international day of victims of enforced disappearance, August 30th, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression SCM sent a letter to the UN secretary General Mr. Antoneo Guterres
To the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres
To the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
In the 30th of August, International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances
Thousands of families of victims await the truth and the delayed justice
Dear Mr. Secretary General
Dear Ms. High comissioner
Since 2011 and through years of conflict, the cases of enforced disappearances increased to reach horrifying levels mostly by the Syrian government and its militia. Other conflict parties were later also engaged in the matter such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and the National Army Force of the Armed Opposition. Instead of continuing the efforts to access truth, justice and holding perpetrators accountable for their violations, conflict parties are still using kidnapping and disappearance as war tools to apply pressure, a primary method for hiding their crimes, and perpetuate a culture of impunity.
Enforced disappearance is a crime against humanity, which is condemned as a denial for fundamental rights and freedoms stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including violations to right to life, right to freedom, right to personal security and humane treatment including not being subjected to torture, right to a fair trial, right to legal counselling, right to equal protection under the law, and right to the presumption of innocence and more. It also includes the economic, social and cultural rights of the disappeared and his/her family members, and forms a violation of the right to the truth stated as a general principle in the Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions.
Enforced disappearance ends with death due to torture in several cases where bodies are hid and buried in mass graves, which is a violation of the sanctity of the deceased and the return of the remains to their families per Customary Rules 114, 115, and 116 of the International Committee of the Red Cross in addition to the two Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions.
Furthermore, disappearance is against the current Syrian Constitution where several provisions are committed to the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating the respect of personal freedom and prohibition of depravation outside the law specifically in articles 51, 53 and 54. These are crimes that are punishable by law under articles 357, 358, 359, 555, and 556 of the Penal Code without clearly mentioning Enforced Disappearance where criminalization is only limited to persons assigned to official tasks and personal responsibility without including the government and its agencies.
In accordance with the Security Council resolution 2139 released in February 2014 that unequivocally condemn mass violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law including enforced disappearance and homicides under torture, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression calls the United Nations Secretary General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to pressure conflict parties and international actors to access the following:
The Syrian Government:
– Revealing the fate of the missing persons through official lists with all the names of the detainees in Syria and to be handed to specialized international actors. The lists must include the full name (triple name) and the mother’s name, place and date of arrest with the responsible actor, charges in case the detainees are prosecuted, death cases and their underlying reasons, and identify arrests that turned to cases of enforced disappearance after the end of the arrest’s statutory period.
– Ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, it must withdraw reservations on the mechanism of individual complains under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
– Immediate abolition of decrees and legislations devoted for impunity, which grants immunity of crimes committed under service by security and police members who are exceptionally not held accountable. For instance, decree number 549 of the year 1969, decree number 14 of the year 1968, decree number 64 of the year 2008, decree number 55 of the year 2011, decree number 1 of the year 2012 and some of the Code of Military Procedures’ articles.
– Immediate and unrestricted permission for international and local detention monitors, Human Right violations’ monitors including Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry in Syria, and the Special Rapporteur of Syria to access all detention centers where they can initiate regular and sudden visitations and access records.
The Rest of the Conflict Parties:
– Ensuring the output of the files of the disappeared and detained from political negotiations, and, for amnesty laws not to cover impunity of human right violations, no subsequent amnesty shall be granted to perpetrators of torture and disappearance crimes.
– Releasing all the detainees and the forcefully disappeared from prisons and detention centers, and undertaking all necessary measures to end the practices of disappearance, the immediate and absolute cessation of executions, emphasize the principle of a fair trial including the absolute prohibition of secret tribunals, and the disclosure of all detention centers including the secret ones.
The international Community:
– International supporters of negotiations to end the conflict in Syria must ensure that any transition process will include an independent committee that is authorized to investigate, collect evidence, hear witnesses, and consider thousands of disappearance cases where the fate and location of the disappeared will be investigated as well.
– Creating programs and mechanisms for prompt, proportional and effective compensation for violations of economic, social and cultural rights due to enforced disappearance. Moreover, compensation must not be confused with social protection measures that any established authority must offer for families who lost their main provider. There shall be protection for the right of victims and their families to access justice and claim compensation in the event of proven subsequent forms of psychological and physical harm.