Leading Syrian and international human rights defenders and experts, in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, organized a panel discussion on the human rights situation in Syria on Wednesday with particular focus on enforced disappearances and detention conditions, including torture and other ill-treatment.
The main objective of the panel is to raise awareness among the United Nations diplomatic community about the tens of thousands of people who have been forcibly disappeared by the Assad regime since 2011 and its use of this practice as a widespread, as well as systematic attack against the civilian population – amounting to crimes against humanity.
Ambassador Harald Braun, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, said that “the equivalent of a medium sized town has been subjected to enforced disappearance in Syria since the escalation of conflict in the spring of 2011. According to one conservative estimate roughly 65,000 individuals have been brutally snatched from their everyday lives during the last four years often to disappear without a trace and they’ve been snatched from the midst of their families.”
“And while today the perpetrators of such crime are protected by a regime that has institutionalized systematic human rights abuses against its own population they must and they will eventually be held accountable for their actions,” Braun added.
Nicolette Boehland, human rights lawyer and Amnesty International researcher stressed that “these enforced disappearances which were carried out by the Syrian government since 2011 have been so widespread and so systematic that Amnesty International concludes they amount to crimes against humanity.”
She went on to say “the victims of enforced disappearance are held in a nightmarish network of detention centres across Syria where they are made vulnerable to grave human rights abuses. As far as conditions in these prisons the cells are often so overcrowded that detainees are unable to sit down. Disease is rampant, torture is routine and some of the common methods include electric shock, suspension by their wrists, rape and sexual abuse, burning and sleep deprivation. Many die as a result of torture in these horrific conditions.”
“Family members are left with few and dangerous options to find their loved ones and those who try to inquire with or approach a branch to find out where their loved one is have been penalized by being arrested or disappeared. The thing that most affects family members from what I saw is very acute mental anguish and not knowing whether their relative is dead or alive, worrying they might be being tortured, starved or suffering from diseases,” Boehland pointed out. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)