In March 2011, military forces under the command of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began a series of brutal attacks against peaceful, pro-democracy protestors. Since then, more than half a million Syrians have been killed and tens of thousands have disappeared.
Some of the missing were arrested by the Syrian government and remain in prison, while others were kidnapped by groups that were not affiliated with the government. And some have died or been killed and are perhaps buried in one of the mass graves that have been found on both sides of the battle lines.
“More than 12 years ago, the Syrian people peacefully rose up to demand their freedom and dignity, calling for Damascus to respect their inalienable rights and to stop human rights violations,” said United States Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations Jeffrey DeLaurentis. “Yet, this conflict continues, with devastating consequences for the Syrian people.”
“Today, there are estimates that more than 155,000 Syrians are missing, many of them unjustly detained or disappeared by parties to the conflict in Syria. These include individuals believed to be missing at the hands of Da’esh and other terrorist groups,” he said.
“Nearly every Syrian family is affected by this issue. Despite concerted efforts and significant diplomacy in the past 12 years, there has been limited progress on this protracted issue,” said Ambassador DeLaurentis.
“Confirming the fate and whereabouts of the missing, securing their release, and returning the remains of those who perished to their families is a moral and humanitarian imperative. People deserve to know the truth about their missing loved ones. This is essential to promoting lasting stability, durable peace, and a sustainable political solution to the Syrian conflict,” he said.
On June 29, the U.N. General Assembly voted to form an independent international institution to search for Syria’s missing in both government and opposition-held areas. This entity will collect information from families, Syrian civil society organizations, international organizations and through inquiries to both sides of the conflict.
“This resolution is humanitarian in nature. It is focused on all missing Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation,” said Ambassador DeLaurentis. “We hope all parties to the conflict will cooperate with this body and release all unjustly detained people, clarify the fate of those who are missing, and return the remains of those who have perished to their families.”