The Hague, 25 March 2022: – The Syrian Policy Coordination Group (PCG), together with families of the missing, and civil society representatives, discussed an international mechanism for Syria’s Missing and Disappeared with representatives of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at a roundtable today facilitated by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).
Today’s discussion followed up on the eighth session of the PCG earlier this month, at which participants called for a meeting to discuss a new international mechanism.
On 24 December 2021, the UN General Assembly (Resolution 76/228) asked Secretary-General António Guterres to conduct a study on missing persons in Syria, in consultation with the OHCHR. OHCHR announced that the study would endeavor to bolster efforts, including through existing measures and mechanisms, to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons from Syria, identify human remains and provide support to families “with the full and meaningful participation of victims, survivors and their families and in consultation with other relevant actors”. An interim update is to be given to the General Assembly by April 2022, to be followed by a report before the end of June.
At today’s meeting participants exchanged ideas a strategy to find the missing. “We want to give a prominent place to the issue of the missing to make sure that future resolutions take the matter into account,” said a participant in today’s discussion, which was held under Chatham House rules. “For that we need to lay the groundwork for the General Assembly to take action.”
Another participant pointed out that families have the right to an official and meaningful investigation into the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones, adding that some families from Syria have already waited eleven years to learn what happened to their relatives.
ICMP’s Syria/MENA program is actively laying the foundations for an effective process to account for those who have gone missing from Syria. It has collected data from almost 60,000 relatives of 23,000 persons who have gone missing in the Syria context. This data is stored in ICMP’s Integrated Data Management System (iDMS). The volume of data, which will be used in a comprehensive missing persons program that can be launched as soon as conditions on the ground in Syria allow, is continuously growing as more and more relatives provide information.
The PCG convened today’s roundtable as part of its effort to develop a strategic policy framework for domestic, regional and international mechanisms to account for those who are missing from Syria.
The PCG comprises 27 members, including Syrian family associations, civil society organizations, legal and human rights defenders, and international advisors. It has released several documents related to Syria’s missing, including an Ethical Charter on Data Collection and Documentation, a UPR submission to the UN Human Rights Council, Constitutional Provisions and a review of Syrian legislation related to missing persons.
More than 130,000 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.
Today’s roundtable was funded by the United Kingdom as part of its ongoing support to ICMP’s Syria/MENA program.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization that seeks to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration, and other causes, and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.