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UN Syria Commission of Inquiry lauds long-awaited international institution to clarify fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands missing and disappeared


29 June 2023

GENEVA (29 June 2023) – The UN Syria Commission of Inquiry lauds today’s UN General Assembly adoption of the resolution to establish an independent institution to clarify the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons in Syria.

“This is a landmark resolution and a long-awaited step by the international community, finally coming to the aid of the families of all those who have been forcibly disappeared, abducted, tortured, and held in arbitrary and incommunicado detention over the past 12 years,” Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro said.

“They have been left alone in their search for their loved ones for too long,” Pinheiro said, adding that “this institution is a humanitarian imperative and complements the efforts towards accountability.”

“The Syrian Government and parties to the conflict have deliberately prolonged the suffering of the families by withholding information on the fate of the tens of thousands missing or disappeared,” Commissioner Lynn Welchman said.

“The families searching for detained relatives are in constant danger of being arrested, extorted and abused,” Welchman said. “The majority of the disappeared being men, the family heads leading the search are often women who experience discriminatory treatment and abuse based on their gender. These courageous women need all the support they can get from this new institution.”

“Finally, the families and their supporters will be aided by an international body that can help clarify both the scale of the problem and the whereabouts of tens of thousands missing loved ones,” Commissioner Hanny Megally said.

“Their expectation is that the best expertise, methodology, technology and adequate resources will be mobilised for this institution,” Megally said, adding that “as well as helping the search, the new body is mandated to provide assistance, including much-needed psychosocial support, to the families and the survivors.”


Background:The UN Syria Commission of Inquiry has long sought increased focus on the tragic issue of the missing and disappeared in Syria. Already in its very first report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, the Commission recommended to the Government of Syria to establish a mechanism to investigate cases of disappearances by allowing relatives to report the details of their cases and to ensure appropriate investigation. While the Government has established various entities ostensibly to look into the issue of the missing and those forcibly disappeared, and to assist families in finding their missing relatives, very little information has come to light.

In June 2022 the Commission published a paper calling for an institution with an international mandate - following up on its proposal for such a body last reiterated in its 2021 report on a decade of Syrian detention. It also lent support to the Secretary-General’s landmark report in August that year, that gave the clear recommendation to Member States to establish this international body.

Over the past twelve years of investigation the Commission has collected a considerable wealth of information, which will be made available to the new institution in line with the consent provided by the Commission’s sources. The Commission has already begun preparing for the transmission of the data entrusted to it by our sources.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Johan Eriksson, UN Syria Commission of Inquiry Media Adviser, at +41(0) 76 691 0411 / [email protected]; or Todd Pitman at +41 (0) 76 691 17 61 / [email protected]; or Pascal Sim at +41 (0) 22 917 9763 / [email protected]