ICMP-Facilitated Policy Coordination Group Discuss Paper on Syrian Amnesty Decrees

The Hague, 9 December 2022: At its 11th meeting today, the Policy Coordination Group (PCG) discussed a paper on the failure of the Syrian amnesty decrees to address the issue of missing persons and detainees. The PCG is a Syrian-led initiative on the missing and disappeared, facilitated by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Today’s meeting was held online under Chatham House rules.

The paper examines issues related to revealing the fate of missing persons and securing the release of detainees under amnesty decrees issued by the current authorities in Syria. It reflects the PCG’s refusal to accept any attempt under these decrees to deny accountability for perpetrators involved in violations against missing persons.

“These decrees have been abused in the past,” said one participant, “and they will simply be the basis for further human rights violations if they are used to pardon preparators. Amnesty can be a transitional justice measure to help address the issue of missing persons and promote peacebuilding, but it should not be used to deny accountability.”

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.

The PCG was established following a conference organized by ICMP in The Hague in February 2020. It comprises 27 members, including Syrian family associations, civil society organizations, jurists and human rights defenders, as well as 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 paper on Proposed Constitutional Principles, a paper on missing persons legislation, and a paper on addressing the issue of mass graves in Syria.

At its meeting today, the PCG also discussed an Advocacy Plan to disseminate and promote its Policy Papers and secure implementation of PCG recommendations.

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, ICMP has collected data from more than 60,000 Syrian families of the missing, including genetic reference samples for DNA testing and matching.

 

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.

 

Contact ICMP