December Quarterly Update
Helping to uncover the fate of missing people in Syria
A decade into Syria’s crisis, and after more than 9 years of war, more than 150,000 Syrians are either unjustly detained or their whereabouts unknown. That presents a daily agony for families and a source of injustice that is yet another obstacle to peace for Syria’s people.
A key ask of a Crisis Action led coalition on Syria was adopted in November by a UN resolution that calls on the UN Secretary-General to conduct a study “with the full and meaningful participation of victims, survivors and their families”, on how to bolster efforts to clarify the fate of Syria’s missing. The resolution passed with the support of 95 UN member states (see below) and commits the UN to presenting a report to the General Assembly by June 2022. It is expected that the report will recommend the creation of an independent mechanism, which could then be approved by the UN General Assembly in a resolution in 2022.
Since early 2021, Crisis Action has supported a coalition of those that have survived detention along with the families of those that remain disappeared to establish a new international mechanism that, according to partners, “will overcome one of the hardest barriers in advancing toward justice, provide short-term satisfaction and contribute to reducing the scale of enforced disappearance and torture.”
To spur this latest development, Crisis Action:
- Facilitated the public launch in May 2020, of a report “Humans Not Numbers: the Case for an International Mechanism”, by the Truth and Justice Charter Group, which set out in detail the need for an international mechanism.
- Convened joint meetings for partners with key UN member states as well as with relevant decisionmakers, including the UN Commission of Inquiry, UN Department of Political Affairs, and the International Independent Impartial Mechanism for Syria (IIIM) to gauge support and identify a strategy to take recommendations forward.
- Supported the coalition to call for a study by the UN Secretary General to answer technical questions, widen political support and ultimately recommend the creation of the mechanism in 2022.
- Presented a proposal on behalf of partners to the US Mission to the UN, who in mid-October agreed to include a paragraph (para 64) in the draft resolution, requesting the UN Secretary General “to conduct a study on how to bolster efforts, including through existing measures and mechanisms, to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people in the Syrian Arab Republic”. The draft was tabled on 10th November and adopted by a majority of UN member states on 17 November.
According to Ahmad Helmi from survivors’ group Taafi, “As grass roots Syrian associations, we don’t have the capacities to do even half of the advocacy efforts we are doing now. Thanks to Crisis Action we know where to focus our efforts rather than wasting our limited resources, and without Crisis Action this UN study would not have happened. With the expertise and support Crisis Action has provided, we are getting to steps ahead of time and are very close achieving one of our main objectives.”