A visitor looks at photographs of victims of Assad regime prisons, at an exhibition in UN headquarters in New York (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria reports that tens of thousands of civilians, detained in Syria’s 10-year conflict, are still missing.
The Commission added that thousands of detainees have been executed or subjected to torture and sexual violence.
Since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the Assad regime has tried to break protests with mass detentions. Tens of thousands have been executed, tortured to death, or perished from poor conditions in regime prisons.
On February 18, the Commission summarized the regime’s “widespread commission” of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”.
The latest report is based on more than 2,500 interviews, conducted over 10 years, and investigations into more than 100 specific detention facilities of the regime and of other armed groups such as the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army and Syrian National Army, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the Islamist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, and the Islamic State.
While documenting that the large majority of detentions, disappearances, and killings have been in regime prisons, the Commission also cites “war crimes” by the other factions and a “genocide” by the Islamic State.
Commission chair Paulo Pinheiro summarized:
Hundreds of thousands of family members have a right to the truth about their loved ones’ fate. This is a national trauma that needs to be urgently addressed by action from the parties and the international community. Greater attention should be paid to the psychosocial needs of the victims and their families.
The Commission appealed to the regime to “take urgent, comprehensive steps to reveal the fates of those who have been forcibly disappeared”, while calling on the international community to establish a mechanism to account for the missing.
The panel specifically notes last week’s “ground-breaking” conviction and sentencing in Germany of a former regime intelligence official as it calls on other states to enable prosecution of crimes against humanity.
The Commission’s report, as well as its February 18 document on commission of war crimes, will be presented on March 11 to the Human Rights Council.