The Hague, 21 December 2021: – The Policy Coordination Group (PCG), a Syrian-led initiative on the missing and disappeared facilitated by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), adopted a set of Proposed Constitutional Principles on Syria’s Missing and Disappeared today.
These principles address the legacy of systematic human rights violations in Syria, including the widespread practice of enforced disappearance, and the need to establish rights-based guarantees to protect all persons from going missing or from being disappeared.
The document adopted today by the PCG is divided into two sections and a descriptive annex. The first section includes provisions directly related to the issue of the missing, including the right to life and dignity, safeguards against the deprivation of liberty, and transitional justice measures. The second lists provisions that are indirectly linked to the missing persons issue such as supporting a political transition based on the rule of law and the separation of powers.
The Proposed Constitutional Principles are based on recommendations discussed at the fourth session of the PCG, held in Istanbul/Turkey and via Zoom, in early October 2021.
“These principles are an essential framework for addressing the issue of missing persons as part of a lasting peace settlement,” said the Head of ICMP’s Syria/MENA Program Lena Alhusseini. “Securing the truth, justice and reparations for families of the missing is an indispensable element in post-conflict recovery.”
“Several provisions should be included in the next Syrian constitution to ensure that all persons are effectively protected against enforced disappearances, on one hand, and to lay the pillars for the State of law which can reveal the fate of Syria’s missing persons and provide necessary reparations to the victims, on the other hand”, said Nael Georges, ICMP’s PCG Facilitator and Researcher.
Today’s virtual meeting was the sixth session of the PCG since it was established following a conference organized by ICMP in The Hague in February 2020. The PCG comprises 27 members, including Syrian family associations, civil society organizations, legal and human rights defenders, and international advisors. It aims to develop broad recommendations and a policy framework for a future Syrian missing persons process, including purpose-specific legislation and institutions. The PCG has adopted several documents related to Syria’s missing, including an Ethical Charter on Data Collection and Documentation and a UPR submission to the UN Human Rights Council.
Following the adoption of the Proposed Constitutional Principles, participants at today’s meeting discussed a plan to disseminate the document through effective advocacy. This discussion was facilitated by ICMP Senior Advisor to Syria/MENA Reem Salahi. The participants were also briefed by PCG Member and Lawyer, Aref Alshaal and PCG Moderator/ICMP Researcher Nael Georges, on proposed legislative and institutional approaches to a future missing persons process.
More than 100,000 people are believed to be missing as a result of the conflict in Syria. 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, and thousands of Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes.
ICMP’s assistance to the PCG is funded by the European Union (EU) through the support it provides to ICMP’s Syria/MENA program. The PCG is 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 from Syria. To date, ICMP has collected data from more than 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.