In the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, we should never forget the rights of victims, we should keep calling for revealing the names and whereabouts of all forcibly disappeared persons.
Syria is a sadly famous name since 2011, many people have started hearing about this country after what we call the arab spring began and “reached Syria” in March 2011.
Little are those who know that 2011 was preceded with long decades of opposition and resistance from small groups.
Little know that the atrocity we cannot name and many could not even imagine before 2011 are only the fruit of a deep and well established system of oppression instaured in the late 50s, a system that has been drawn and developed with jails, dilation, threats, spying, torture and killing. A system that was strong and controlled by the regime before 2011 and that became massively used after 2011 to punish the people of Syria for dreaming and claiming for legitimate better political, economical and social living conditions. Their claims have been met with death, torture, violence and enforced disapearance.
Enforced disappearance has been a weapon used in Syria since the late 50s with the instauration of the apparatus of State security, thousands of people’s whereabouts remain unknown till today. Enforced disappearance turned into a systematic practice of the government against opposing parties and persons. Despite that there aren’t any accurate records of the persons forcibly disappeared before 2000, as the government ceased to reveal the truth, it is estimated that 17.000 persons were forcibly disappeared between 1980 and 2000.
Since 2011, according to our documentations conducted by the Violations Documentation Center in the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, this phenomenon has amplified, there are more than 93.453 people who were arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared and tortured. Despite the fact that the majority of these violations were committed by the Syrian government, other parties to the conflict have participated systematically in spreading terror and increasing the number of forcibly disappeared and tortured persons in their prisons.
In the last 9 years, there are more than 13.500 persons killed under torture documented in Syrian government detention facilities.
In 2013, a brave Syrian military photographer so-called Caesar leaked evidence of torture and killing of over 6250 detainees in the Government’s detention facilities. This evidence of systematic killing of forcibly disappeared persons was adopted as evidence of the regime crimes by legitimate states representatives such as Laurent Fabius, the former French foreign minister who qualified them as “crimes that strike the human conscience, this bureaucracy of horror, faced with this negation of the values of humanity, it is our responsibility to act against the impunity of these assassins”. However, the perpetrators still largely benefit from impunity, they walk free and the Syrian government keeps denying to reveal victims’ names and whereabouts while the Syrian Civil Society holds no effort to identify the victims and accompany families in their search for their loved ones among these photos. Syrian families have started a path to claim for truth, accountability and reparation, they do so as no one else does and have dedicated their lives to this cause as they remain strong in combating for justice and change.
Today, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk and remind you of our actions
- We will save no efforts in using any international legal avenue or mechanism to hold perpetrators accountable and send the most important message, impunity won’t be the rule and justice is for all.
- We will continue to pursue the establishment of a transparent, fair and national accountability mechanism with international guarantees that investigate crimes and ensure accountability, reparation, and non-repetition, as only this guarantee will ensure sustainable peace in Syria.
- We call on the international community to support our efforts to ensure that the Syrian Government and all parties to the conflict reveal the names and whereabouts of all detainees and forcibly disappeared persons under their custody in all official and clandestine detention centers.
- We demand that all parties to the conflict comply with international laws and ensure effective investigation of crimes committed against detainees and victims killed under torture and deliver the victims’ bodies to their families to ensure burials in respect to human dignity and families’ rituals, while making sure that perpetrators are prosecuted and tried according to international laws.
- Our first and last demand will always be “The immediate release of all detainees”