NEW YORK (Aug. 30, 2023) — Today, on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) and The Syria Campaign (TSC) published the Arabic edition of the report, “Framing Justice in Syria: The Road Toward Comprehensive Justice,” which provides a comprehensive overview of domestic and international judicial avenues to prosecute the crimes against humanity that have been committed in Syria.
The systematic use of enforced disappearances by the Syrian regime has plagued the country since the start of the conflict. With reports indicating more than 130,000 Syrians have disappeared so far, it’s crucial to highlight the most effective methods for seeking justice for survivors and family members of victims of those who have been forcibly disappeared and accountability for perpetrators of their crimes. To that end, in April 2022, HRF and TSC published an English-language report on the Assad regime’s appalling human rights record.
To inform the report, HRF and TSC conducted interviews with more than a dozen international legal scholars and practitioners, Syrian activists, survivors, and family members of disappeared Syrians, and tech experts, all of whom provided a unique perspective on the extent of the systematic abuse perpetrated by the Syrian regime and the effects this has on building a case for Syrian justice, using the historic Koblenz trial in Germany as a case study on the use of the legal principle of universal jurisdiction.
Correspondingly, the Arabic edition of the report examines the advantages and limitations of universal jurisdiction, a principle that establishes a state’s jurisdiction over gross violations of international law, including crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and torture, even though the crimes occurred outside of its territory and neither the victim nor the offender is a citizen of that state. It also offers a series of recommendations, among which includes uncovering the fate of the disappeared.
As today serves to highlight those who have been forcibly disappeared, HRF and TSC recommend a victim-centered approach to justice. Any mechanism of justice or accountability, should respect and include the full participation and input of Syrian survivors and survivor-led groups. Such an adoption supports short and longer-term efforts toward building and framing comprehensive justice.
Enforced disappearances stand as just one of the countless human rights violations committed by the Assad regime. Therefore, HRF and TSC’s Arabic edition of the report also serves as a reminder of the urgent need for democratic reform within Syria.
“Since 2011, the Assad regime has knowingly committed egregious crimes against Syrian civilians that qualify as ‘crimes against humanity,’ including enforced disappearances,” HRF Chief Legal Officer Javier El-Hage said.
“In light of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Arabic edition of this report is a reminder that universal jurisdiction provides a glimmer of hope to the Syrian people — particularly survivors of enforced disappearances and the families of victims of this form of abuse. Our report gave a voice to these people and HRF will continue to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people and their struggle for democracy and for holding the perpetrators of enforced disappearances accountable for their crimes.”
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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