More than 130,000 Missing from the Syrian Conflict With Numbers Still on the Rise

The Hague, 15 March 2023 – Today marks the 12th anniversary of the start of the Syrian uprising. As a result of the subsequent conflict, more than 130,000 people have gone missing and the numbers continue to rise. Men, women, and children have been abducted, killed, and forcibly disappeared, or have gone missing along migratory routes while fleeing from the fighting.

“It is critical that those responsible, including the Syrian regime, demonstrate the political will to release prisoners and find missing and disappeared persons in line with international law,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “States are responsible for securing the rights of families to truth and justice.” “ICMP reaffirms its solidarity with the families of the victims of atrocities, enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses committed in Syria, as well as with families of those who are missing following the devastating earthquake earlier this year.” she added.

ICMP remains committed to helping Syrian civil society to build a sustainable process to locate all missing persons and to investigate their disappearance and secure the rights of all families of the missing to truth, justice, and reparations.

To this end, ICMP continues its work with Syrian organizations to advance the development of a comprehensive Central Data Repository on Missing and Disappeared Persons. A secure, centralized and impartial database trusted by all stakeholders is critical if large numbers of missing persons are to be accounted for.  To date, more than 70,000 Syrian relatives of the missing have submitted data to the Repository regarding the disappearance of 25,000 persons. ICMP has also engaged with more than 4,000 relatives of missing persons to discuss the core elements of a law-based approach to accounting for their loved ones; and it has supported numerous civil society efforts to raise awareness about Syria’s missing and disappeared, to document key sites including reported mass graves, and to secure the meaningful engagement of families. For more information, please see ‘In Their Absence.’

ICMP is also supporting the development of policy frameworks for future processes to locate all missing persons. The Policy Coordination Group (PCG), launched in 2020, has developed a series of policy proposals that will inform political negotiations, including the current constitutional talks, and a hoped-for future political settlement and/or legal reform, as well as an Ethical Charter on data collection from victims of the conflict. The PCG proposals articulate and uphold the rights of the missing and disappeared, of detainees and their families, and endeavor to prevent future rights violations that could result in persons going missing. In the near term, as the PCG reviews documents it has produced to help a future Syrian state account for those who have disappeared during and before the conflict, it will incorporate proposals to account for those who have gone missing as a result of natural disasters.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which the PCG has called on the Syrian government to ratify, stipulates that the crime of enforced disappearance must not go unpunished. Enforced disappearances have been and continue to be widespread and systematic in Syria, amounting to crimes against humanity. Perpetrators must be brought to justice.


About ICMP

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.

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