The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) reported in 2012 that enforced disappearances were used by the ruling regime in Syria to eliminate opposition groups and to instill a climate of fear. The armed opposition, including the Free Syrian Army, were also found to be responsible for abductions and the killing and torturing of government allies and members of the Alawi community.
It is estimated that at least 60,000 persons have gone missing in Syria since the beginning of the civil war. As many as 17,000 are believed to have gone missing as a result of government repression before the beginning of the conflict.
Mass graves as a result of the latest fighting have been reported near cities and towns such as Deraa, Damascus, Aleppo, Sadad, and Palmyra.
In addition, as many as 600 Lebanese nationals are estimated missing in Syria as a result of the conflict in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990 and the subsequent Syrian occupation, which lasted until 2005.
The Violations Documentation Centre, gathers the names of detainees and the place and date of their arrests. The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies are all involved in accounting for the missing, the detained, and the dead, using different criteria and statistical and research methods.
Other agencies engaged in collecting and tabulating data on missing persons in Syria include:
- The Human Rights Data Analysis Group
- The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice
- ACT for the Disappeared
- Human Rights Watch
- Amnesty International
- The International Committee of the Red Cross
- Syria Justice and Accountability Centre
- Syrian Center for Statistics and Research
ICMP currently assists Syrian NGOs who have contacted ICMP, and has worked with the Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice in its efforts to build programs and future plans for restoring justice in Syria.
ICMP has proposed working with Syrian refugees and displaced persons outside the country to collect and collate data on missing family members via the Online Inquiry Center. It has developed a program with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to address the issue of migrants who have been driven out of Syria and have gone missing while seeking shelter in neighboring countries and in Europe.