Syrian Policy Coordination Group on Missing Persons Reviews Processes Related to Mass Grave Investigations and Amnesty Decrees

The Hague, 21 October 2022: At an online meeting held this week the Syrian Policy Coordination Group (PCG) on missing and disappeared persons completed a new policy paper that proposes the adoption of a national legal framework to address the issue of investigations into mass graves in Syria. The PCG discussed also a new draft paper on the Syrian “amnesty” decrees and their effect on the issue of missing persons and detainees.

“The multiple ‘amnesty’ decrees issued by the Syrian regime have not resulted in the release of the tens of thousands of detainees who were subjected to enforced disappearance in Syria,” one PCG member noted. “The decrees have also failed to reveal the fate of missing and disappeared persons in detention centers.”

Another member pointed out that “The decrees do not cover political charges that have been used to detain or imprison individuals,” and added that there is a fear “the decrees could be used to eliminate accountability for perpetrators.”

The PCG was established following a conference organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons in The Hague in February 2020. The PCG comprises 27 members, including Syrian family associations, civil society organizations, jurists 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, a UPR submission to the UN Human Rights Council, a Proposed Constitutional Principles paper, a Legislations paper on 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.

ICMP’s assistance to the PCG is funded by the United Kingdom 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, with the support of Syrian families of the missing and Syrian Civil Society Organizations, ICMP has collected data from more than 60,000 Syrian families of the missing, including genetic reference samples for DNA testing and matching.

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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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