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Syria: Group of experts call for action into enforced disappearances as crimes against humanity

GENEVA (20 March 2014) – The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances called for action by the highest United Nations bodies to tackle the disappearance issue in Syria.

“Enforced disappearances are being perpetrated as a systematic and widespread attack on civilians, thus qualifying as a crime against humanity,” they observed relying on the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. “The situation of enforced disappearances in Syria is alarming and deserves immediate UN attention,” the five-strong group of experts emphasized.

The Working Group has been following the situation in Syria since the beginning of the conflict. In September 2011, the expert body sent an official communication to the Government of Syria reporting systematic human rights violations committed by the Syrian authorities, including enforced disappearances. Since then, the experts have received an increasing number of cases under its different procedures.

“We are also deeply concerned that opposition forces have resorted to similar practices against civilians perceived to be supporting the Government, human rights defenders, journalists and religious leaders,” they said.
In light of its serious concern and the gravity of the situation, the Working Group requested last week the Security Council “to consider referring the matter to the International Criminal Court”. The independent experts have also called on the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Representative for Syria requesting action by their respective bodies and mandates.
“We also call on Syria to take decisive action to eradicate enforced disappearances, ensure its prevention and bring perpetrators to account,” the experts concluded.

(*) The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world: Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina), Chair-Rapporteur; Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon), Vice Chairperson; Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France); and Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa).

The Working Group was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person are clearly established.

The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ugo Cedrangolo (Tel: +41 22 9179286 / ucedrangolo@ohchr.org) or Marlene Urscheler (Tel: +41 22 917 9396 / murscheler@ohchr.org), or write to wgeid@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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