Syria’s forgotten crisis: Enforced disappearances rife amid UN inaction

Enforced disappearances in Syria are continuing more than half a year after the UN demanded that Syria put an end to this abhorrent practice, Amnesty International said ahead of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August. 

“People in Syria are hauled off into the abyss of secret detention on a regular basis, providing clear evidence of the authorities’ systematic use of enforced disappearance as a tool to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Despite the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution in February demanding an end to enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses, countless perceived opponents of the Syrian government – including activists, journalists, medics and lawyers – are routinely plucked off the streets or seized from their homes only to disappear into virtual black holes.”

The disappeared are held incommunicado and secretly at detention facilities across Syria. Many are held in inhuman conditions and, having been placed outside the protection of the law, are tortured or otherwise ill-treated. An unknown number have been killed while in secret detention.

In February the UN Security Council members committed to respond with “further steps in the case of non-compliance”. Yet six months on, the Syrian government has continued its relentless campaign of intimidation against dissidents. 

“Promises by UN Security Council members to take action against those flagrantly flouting the terms of the resolution on Syria have manifestly failed to materialize. This has effectively given the Syrian government free rein to continue its ruthless campaign of enforced disappearance unpunished,” said Philip Luther.

The resolution also called for a lifting of sieges and for humanitarian access, as well as an end to arbitrary detention and torture carried out by both government forces and armed groups. It specifies that all arbitrarily-held detainees, who include numerous prisoners of conscience, must be immediately released. 

For further information about Amnesty International’s campaign, interview requests and access to additional embargoed materials including a feature on enforced disappearances in Syria please contact:

Sara Hashash, MENA Press Officer [email protected] or + 44 (0) 20 7413 5511 Amnesty International’s press office [email protected] or +44 (0) 777 847 2126