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Syria: UN experts urge General Assembly to address plight of the missing and forcibly disappeared

19 June 2023

GENEVA (19 June 2023) – UN experts* today urged the General Assembly to establish a human rights body to meaningfully address the tragedy of missing and forcibly disappeared persons in Syria.

“It is high time to establish this long-awaited institution —with an international mandate— to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing and forcibly disappeared persons and provide support to their families,” the experts said.

“With little progress in the past 12 years and violence and conflict in Syria, families are struggling more than ever to learn the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.”

The experts said the new body must be guided by a victim and survivor-centred approach. Families must be consulted and able to participate in all stages of the process. This includes its establishment, design, implementation, evaluation, and decision-making, they said.

“Throughout these tragic years of conflict, we have repeatedly highlighted the plight of victims of enforced disappearance in Syria and the urgent need to end the anguish of families,” the experts said. Enforced disappearance is a particularly egregious form of arbitrary detention, they said.

The experts underlined the importance of a gender-sensitive approach to addressing enforced disappearances. “This is essential given the magnitude of the economic, social and cultural impact on those left behind – most of whom are women – and the sexual and other forms of gender-based violence to which women who have been subjected to enforced disappearance are particularly vulnerable,” they said.

In Syria, where people have disappeared in a variety of contexts, the experts noted the necessity to break down different types of cases, including alleged enforced disappearances. “The investigations must comply with human rights-based forensic best practices, including the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016),” they said.

“Establishing the truth is essential for victims, survivors and families, as well as for society as a whole,” the experts said. “At the same time, it is crucial to continue working towards accountability through the relevant mechanisms available at the national or international level,” they said.

They reiterated their unwavering support to the relatives of the missing and forcibly disappeared in their struggle for truth, justice and reparation.

“We stand ready to provide advice on the establishment of the new body and its implementation, within the framework of our respective mandates,” the experts said.


*The experts: Ms. Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair); Ms. Grażyna Baranowska, Ms. Ana-Lorena Delgadillo Pérez and Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Ganna Yudkivska (Vice-Chair on Follow-Up), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mumba Malila, Working Group on arbitrary detention; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Juan Pablo Alban Alencastro (Rapporteur), Mr. Mohammed Ayat (Vice President), Mr. Matar Diop, Mr. Olivier de Frouville , Ms. Suela Janina, Ms. Milica Kolakovic-Bojovic (Vice President), Ms. Barbara Lochbihler (Vice President), Mr. Juan José Lopez Ortega, Mr. Horacio Ravenna, and Ms. Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana (Chair), of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN human rights country page: Syrian Arab Republic

For further information or media enquiries please contact Ugo Cedrangolo [email protected] or [email protected]

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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