UN launches probe for finding disappeared people in Syria

UN launches probe for finding disappeared people in Syria
The Independent Institution on Missing Persons (IIMP) is dedicated to determining the fate and whereabouts of missing people in Syria.
3 min read
04 April, 2024
It is estimated that the fate of 100,000 Syrians remains unknown since the start of a brutal crackdown on the anti-government protests in 2011 [Getty]

The United Nations has launched a mechanism to uncover the fates and whereabouts of tens of thousands of missing Syrians since war broke out in 2011.

The UN General Assembly created an Independent Institution for Missing persons in June 2023, overriding objections from the Syrian regime with at least 155,604 people disappeared between the start of the war in March 2011 to August 2023.

The body began operations on Wednesday, with the Syrian Campaign saying it will "clarify the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons" in the country and "provide adequate support to victims, survivors and the families of those missing".

The Syrian regime had detained an estimated 135,638 individuals, including 3,693 children and 8,478 women, while the Islamic State group, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, and rebel groups are thought to be responsible for the other disappeared.

Syria has been reeling from its ongoing conflict since 2011 when protests erupted against Bashar Al-Assad and were brutally suppressed with tens of thousands of suspected activists and protesters detained.

It is estimated that the fate of 100,000 Syrians is still unknown since the brutal crackdown on the anti-regime protests, according to the UN, including family members who were forcibly disappeared, abducted, tortured, and arbitrarily detained.

There have been harrowing accounts of mass executions and medieval conditions in Syria's jails, with fears about the safety of the disappeared.

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The war that erupted following an armed rebellion against the Syrian regime has left the country with significant humanitarian needs and forced millions to flee the country to seek asylum in neighbouring countries.

Over 350,000 Syrians were killed in over a decade, according to the United Nations, while thousands more were subject to ill-treatment and torture, including sexual violence or died in custody.

Other groups put the number of dead in Syria's war at over 500,000, the vast majority killed due to Syrian regime violence.

The launch of the UN institution was welcomed by the Caesar Families Association, which is made up of families of Syrians who have been forcibly disappeared in Syrian prisons. 

"We will persist in our responsibilities toward our beloved detainees and missing individuals, being their voice as long as their voices remain detained" the Caesar Families Association said in a statement.

"We consider that we have taken an additional step forward in our progress in advocating for the cases of detainees, the forcibly disappeared, and the abducted," the association added.