The Hague, 5 October 2021: Members of the Policy Coordination Group (PCG) for Missing and Disappeared Persons in Syria have recommended adoption of a set of provisions in a future Syrian constitution to enable a sustainable and just process to account for more than 100,000 persons missing from the on-going conflict.
These recommendations include guarantees related to the right to a fair trial, protection of the physical and mental integrity of those under detention or arrest, reform of the security services, the independence of the judiciary, and transitional justice measures, including the establishment of a Syrian Commission on Missing Persons and purpose specific legislation designed to secure the rights of relatives of the missing to just, truth and reparations.
The PCG is a Syrian-led policy process composed of 27 Syrian family associations, civil society organizations, and legal and human rights defenders as well as international advisors. The PCG aims to develop broad recommendations and a policy framework for a future official Syrian missing persons process, including the development of purpose-specific legislation and institutions and measures for reparations for families of the missing, as well as an examination of the issues of detention, data processing and protection, and operational matters in relation to mass graves.
The recommendations were discussed at the fourth session of the PCG held in Istanbul, Turkey. The two-day meeting, which ended today, was facilitated by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).
“The existence of constitutional provisions that protect the families of the missing is a key step in work that aims to secure justice for the missing and their families. It lays the groundwork for a sustainable missing persons process in a future Syria,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today.
“The future Syrian constitution must take into consideration the legacy of systematic human rights violations, including widespread enforced disappearances, and the need to address the issue of victims arising from that, on the one hand, and the establishment of guarantees to protect all persons from enforced disappearance in the future, on the other hand,” said Nael Georges, ICMP PCG facilitator.
“The existence of a constitutional text doesn’t guarantee justice. Justice is only achieved through a fair and transparent political system accompanied by an independent and impartial judiciary,” one group member said in the meeting, held under Chatham House Rules.
On 13 July 2021, the PCG adopted an Ethical Charter on standards and codes of conduct to be followed during data collection and documentation of missing persons. The Charter was published at a virtual event on 30 August marking the International Day of the Disappeared.
Subsequently, on 15 July 2021, the PCG sent a submission to the Human Rights Council’s 40th session for the Universal Periodic Review of Syria. The report examined the issue of missing persons at the hands of the Syrian government and concluded with recommendations related to international agencies and instruments and recommendations related to domestic matters.
More than 100,000 persons are believed to be missing as a result of the conflict in Syria, while many Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes. In addition, the country has a legacy of missing and disappeared persons cases linked to human rights abuses and other causes prior to the conflict.
The fourth PCG session continues a policy process summarized in ICMP’s October 2020 report on accounting for the missing from the Syria conflict. As part of this broad effort, ICMP is facilitating the work of the PCG.
ICMP’s assistance to the Policy Coordination Group is funded by the European Union (EU) through the support the EU provides to ICMP’s Syria/MENA program and forms part of ICMP’s strategy to help lay the foundations for a sustainable missing persons process for Syria. ICMP is also actively engaged in creating a central data repository of missing persons aimed at finding the 100,000 missing and disappeared persons. To date ICMP has collected data from over 60,000 Syrian families of the missing, including genetic reference samples for DNA testing and matching.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.