The Syrian government’s widespread and murky policies of disappearances have spawned a thriving market of bribery and exploitation, according to a report [text, PDF] released Thursday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. AI explained that tens of thousands of people in Syria have disappeared since 2011. These individuals were reportedly arrested, detained or abducted by the state or agents acting for the state. According to AI, these enforced disappearances have given rise to a black market in which families are paying hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars to find out the whereabouts of their loved ones or whether they are even still alive. These bribes have allegedly become a large part of the economy. Some families have reportedly sold their property or given up their entire life savings to find out the fate of their loved ones, sometimes even for false information. AI said those forcibly disappeared include peaceful opponents and those believed to be disloyal to the government. AI’s research indicates that they are typically denied access to counsel, do not receive fair trials, and are subjected to torture and sexual violence.
Syria has faced repeated criticism for alleged human rights abuses. On Monday Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] stated that Syrian armed groups may be committing war crimes [JURIST report] after a video surfaced that showed cages holding multiple captured soldiers being transported by trucks. AI recently reported [press release] on the unlawful killing of their civilian population in Eastern Ghouta. AI also reported in October that US-backed Kurdish forces and other militant groups have been committing war crimes [JURIST report] in northern Syria in an effort to quash any sympathy or support for the Islamic State. AI stated that “they have maintained unlawful sieges, restricted humanitarian assistance deliveries, deliberately attacked civilians, and carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, arbitrary detentions, abductions and enforced disappearances.”