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UN rights body calls for accountability over mass disappearances in Syria

UN Human Rights Council’s resolution, adopted with 26 of the council’s 47 members in favour, voiced particular concern about the fate of tens of thousands of people who have vanished in the war-ravaged country.

Children gather in the playground in front of Abu Ali's cafe, set up on the ground floor of a building heavily damaged during the civil war, in the Jabal al-Arbain hiltop residential area, in the Syrian town of Ariha in the rebel-held northwestern Syrian Idlib province, on July 11, 2021.
Children gather in the playground in front of Abu Ali’s cafe, set up on the ground floor of a building heavily damaged during the civil war, in the Jabal al-Arbain hiltop residential area, in the Syrian town of Ariha in the rebel-held northwestern Syrian Idlib province, on July 11, 2021. (AFP)

The UN Human Rights Council has called for those behind “massive scale” enforced disappearances in Syria over the past decade of conflict to be held accountable.

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The resolution on Tuesday, presented by Britain and a number of European countries, along with the United States, Turkey and Qatar, decried that Syria’s crisis had entered a second decade “marked by consistent patterns of gross violations.”

The war in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011, with all sides in the increasingly complex conflict accused of war crimes.

The resolution, adopted with 26 of the council’s 47 members in favour, six opposed and 15 abstaining, voiced particular concern about the fate of tens of thousands of people who have vanished.

‘Widespread enforced disappearance’

The text “strongly condemns the continued use of involuntary or enforced disappearances in the Syrian Arab Republic, and related human rights violations and abuses, which have been carried out with consistency, in particular by the Syrian regime.”

It also criticised enforced disappearances by other parties to the conflict, including the Daesh, but said the Syrian regime was the main perpetrator.

The resolution voiced alarm at recent comments by the UN’s independent commission of inquiry on the rights situation in Syria indicating that “widespread enforced disappearance has been deliberately perpetrated by Syrian security forces throughout the past decade on a massive scale.”

The investigators had indicated that such disappearances had been used “to spread fear, stifle dissent and as punishment,” and that tens of thousands of men, women, boys and girls detained by Syrian authorities “remain forcibly disappeared”.

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