The Case for an International Mechanism to Address the Detainees and Disappeared Crisis in Syria

Report Aims:

This project emerged out of a request by the following five Syrian organizations representing survivors and victims who have suffered at the hands of various perpetrators in Syria:

• Association of Detainees and Missing Persons in Sednaya Prison
• Caesar Families Association
• Coalition of Families of Persons Kidnapped by ISIS (Massar)
• Families for Freedom
• Ta’afi Initiative

This report aims to put the goals of the five groups at its heart and ensure that any mechanism set up to deal with the disappeared and detained is victim-centered and focuses on getting the detained released, locating detention facilities, finding the remains of those who are no longer alive and
beginning the process of finding out what happened to them.

This is not to discount long-term justice goals such as prosecutions. As the five groups state in their Truth and Justice Charter launched on 10 February 2021: “We… differentiate between short-term justice and long-term justice. In the short term there are immediate measures that must be taken to put a halt to ongoing violations and alleviate the suffering of survivors, victims and their
families. In the medium- to longer-term we have additional demands to ensure comprehensive justice and non-repetition of the crimes we have suffered and continue to suffer from.”7 Accountability must eventually take its course, but the victims’ immediate priority is finding out the fate of their loved ones.

In setting out the case for establishing a new mechanism to find Syria’s disappeared and detained, this report seeks to shed light on the nature and extent of enforced disappearances and detentions in Syria since 2011 and examines what help is currently available to survivors and family members. It
briefly reviews the lessons learned from how survivors and victims were traced in other conflict zones before setting out options for setting up a new mechanism within the UN, EU or other country blocs.

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