On April 16, 2018, Alkarama and Human Rights Guardians submitted five cases of enforced disappearances in Syria to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID ), requesting that the UN experts promptly intervene with the Syrian authorities to ensure their immediate release.
All five men – two of whom were government employees at the time of their arrest – were abducted by government forces between 2012 and 2014, adding to the thousands of cases of enforced disappearances documented across the country since the beginning of the armed conflict in 2011.
Five cases submitted to UN Working Group
On February 26, 2012, student Raslan Al Khatib travelled to Damascus to receive medical treatment. Al Khatib’s family last heard from him when he called to inform them that he had arrived in Damascus, after which he was arrested by members of the Air Force Intelligence. Three months after the arrest, a former detainee informed Al Khatib’s family that he was in Al Mezzeh military prison, but the family did not submit any complaint for fear of being arrested.
Five months after Al Khatib’s arrest, on July 21, 2012, Abdo Al Saghier was on his way to his work in Adra, in the Rif Damashq Governorate, when he was arrested at a checkpoint controlled by the Air Force Intelligence. A former detainee later informed Al Saghier’s family that he was being held in Al Mezzeh prison near Damascus. However, despite enquiring with several different security branches, Al Saghier’s family has yet to receive any information on his fate and whereabouts.
In a similar case, Ibrahim Al Jaidani, an employee in the government’s General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research, was arrested at his home in Adra on January 3, 2014, as part of a wave of arrests carried out by the Syrian army. Officers took Al Jaidani and the other arrestees to a driving school in Al Jaidani’s neighbourhood, from where they were taken to an unknown location. Al Jaidani’s family enquired at several different security branches in Damascus, but were not provided with any information on his fate and whereabouts.
Another government employee, Ahmad Deib Abdul Aleem, who worked for the Ministry Of Agriculture, was with a friend at the Al Hal Market in Harasta on February 23, 2014, when they were stopped by officers from the Syrian army, who arrested Abdul Aleem. His family did not take any action for fear of being arrested, and Abdul Aleem remains disappeared to date.
Finally, on April 21, 2014, Anas Yassin went to the Criminal Security Branch in Sweida to collect a document in order to obtain his driving license, and was subsequently arrested. When Yassin’s wife tried to call him later that day, a member of the Criminal Security Branch informed her that they would be holding Yassin in the Criminal Security Branch for the next two days. Eight months after Yassin’s arrest, his family was contacted by a former detainee who informed them that he saw Yassin in the Al Mezzeh Military Prison in Damascus. The family did not submit a complaint for fear of arrest or reprisals.
On April 16, Alkarama and Human Rights Guardians submitted the five cases to the WGEID, requesting that the UN experts urge the Syrian authorities to immediately release them or, at the very least, to put them under the protection of the law and disclose their fates and whereabouts.
Enforced disappearances as a tactic of war
Over the past seven years, enforced disappearances have been used routinely as a tactic of war by all parties to the conflict. The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that at least 85,036 individuals were forcibly disappeared across the country between March 2011 and August 2017, 76,656 of whom were reportedly abducted by government forces.
In 2013, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria ’s second thematic report concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that acts of enforced disappearances were committed by Government forces as part of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians amounting to a crime against humanity.”
Again, on April 14, 2018, during his briefing to the Security Council on Syria, the United Nations Secretary-General raised the issue of enforced disappearances among the “litany of horrors” to which the Syrian people have been subjected since the beginning of the conflict.