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HomeWorldFate Still Unclear Of ‘Tens Of Thousands’ Of Civilian Detainees In Syria

Fate Still Unclear Of ‘Tens Of Thousands’ Of Civilian Detainees In Syria


The fate of tens of thousands of civilians being
held in Syria’s “notorious” prisons or detention
centres is still unclear, 10 years after the country’s
civil war began, UN investigators
said
on Monday.

According to the Commission
of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
, thousands more
have been subject to torture, sexual violence or death in
captivity.

Despite the “staggering” wealth of
evidence, almost all parties to the conflict “failed to
investigate their own forces”, said Commissioner Karen
Koning AbuZayd.

“The focus appears to be on
concealing, rather than investigating crimes committed in
the detention facilities”, she added in a
statement.

More than 100 detention sites

The
findings, which the panel will deliver to the Human
Rights Council
in Geneva next week, highlight
investigations into more than 100 specific detention
facilities.

They cover mass arrests of demonstrators
in the early days to the mass internment of men, women and
children today.

Such arbitrary detention and
imprisonment have been “a root cause” and were a key
“trigger” for Syria’s conflict, the investigators
insisted.

No clean hands

While the panel
insisted that the Government of Syria was responsible for
detention, other armed groups also played their part in
disappearances and other crimes and abuses on a “massive
scale”. These include the joint forces of the Free Syrian
Army (FSA), the Syrian National Army (SNA) and the Syrian
Democratic Forces (SDF).

The practices of terrorist
groups Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant (ISIL) is also highlighted in the report,
which is based on more than 2,500 interviews conducted over
10 years.

“Tens of thousands of people in Syria have
been unlawfully deprived of their liberty at any one
time”, the Commissioners said.

“Arbitrary
detention and imprisonment have been deliberately
instrumentalized to instil fear and suppress dissent among
the civilian population or, less frequently, for financial
gain. Armed groups have also targeted religious and ethnic
minority groups.”

‘Unimaginable
suffering’

On the cusp of the conflict’s 11th
year, the investigators maintained that the warring parties
have continued to mistreat detainees held in “notorious
detention facilities across the country”, forcing them to
endure “unimaginable suffering”.

The report
concludes that this has been happening with the knowledge
and acquiescence of the governments who have supported the
different parties to the conflict, and calls on them to
bring an end to the violations.

“While the
Commission has consistently urged such releases based on
abhorrent, inhuman conditions of detention, the urgency is
even greater now given that overcrowded prisons are likely
breeding grounds for COVID-19, where
detainees in fragile health may not survive”, said
Commissioner Hanny
Megally.

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