For too long, far too many Syrian families have had no information about what has happened to their loved ones. The impact of not knowing the fate or whereabouts of a loved one is devastating, deep, and enduring- sometimes lasting for decades. Especially when violations and abuses of human rights including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, ill-treatment and kidnappings as well as deaths in custody, are well documented.
Syrian families have spent so many years in limbo, without answers, and without clarity.
As they wait years for answers, the psychological toll only grows larger and larger. Understandably, lack of substantial progress on this file makes it hard for everyday Syrians to move forward. People have the right to know what has happened to their missing relatives. The status quo is not sustainable. A sustainable and inclusive political solution to this 11-year war is needed.
We strongly support the Special Envoy’s efforts to move the political process forward in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We welcome also the general amnesty for non-lethal terrorist crimes announced by the Syrian authorities. However, only a few hundred have been released from detention sites so far, and we know the number of detained and missing is drastically higher. We are following closely the implementation of this amnesty, and we expect the Syrian authorities to adhere to their commitments.
We urge the Syrian authorities to use this measure to build confidence and transparency by sharing information with the population: the names, statuses, and locations of detainees, and a plan for their release. We call on all parties to allow the relevant humanitarian actors access to all detention centres to monitor implementation of the amnesty, and to cooperate fully with them to establish the fate of missing persons, and restore family links.
The issue of missing persons and the unlawfully detained in Syria is an enormous challenge with a truly multi-faceted scope. From the very beginning, civil society- including family associations and women’s organizations- have worked to ensure that this issue is prioritised and that their loved ones will not be overlooked. Syrian women’s organizations, women survivors, and women with relatives that are detained or missing have highlighted in particular the gendered dimensions, and specific barriers impacting their ability to get: information, documentation, and property, as well as to receive support.
They have worked tirelessly to call for the release of detainees, and obtain information on the fate and whereabouts of the missing, often at the risk of their own safety. Yet, women are largely excluded from decision-making on these issues. This is why we applaud the focus today on amplifying Syrians women’s voices. If we want efforts on this issue to lead towards sustainable and inclusive solutions - we must continue to call for women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation.
Indeed, those who have disproportionately suffered from the conflict in Syria must be at the centre of all decision-making towards its solution.