The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on Wednesday stressed the need for greater information and accountability to be provided to the families of missing persons and detainees.
The report begins by noting that the Syrian government is still carrying out mass public arrests and detentions. These detentions have led to the torture and eventual death of a number of individuals while their families were induced to pay bribes to learn their whereabouts. The report goes on to say that many families did not learn of their relatives’ whereabouts at all until May 2018 when information was provided in bulk by the Ministry of the Interior. The Commission notes that even after this information was disclosed, it was obfuscated with causes of death being listed as “heart attack” or “stroke” while many individuals died on the same day. The Commission infers that mass executions may have occurred in some of these facilities particularly as so many of them are military facilities.
After stating their observations, the report then lays out a number of duties and recommendations for the Syrian government. It states first that the Syrian government has a custodial duty to anyone detained in its care both for the individual’s human rights and the rights of their family members. The Commission then recommends that the Syrian Government take six steps to begin to rectify these harms:
- Halt all capital punishment, particularly in military or field courts.
- Release information on any missing, detained, or deceased persons and allow access of both families and humanitarian organizations to those still in detention.
- Allow families to retrieve the remains of the deceased.
- Halt criminal fines for the filing of late death certificates.
- Conduct transparent investigations including medical reports of all custodial deaths.
- Establish a nation-wide mechanism for individuals to seek reparations for custodial harms and deaths.
The Commission briefed the UN Security Council on this report Wednesday.