28,000 activists claimed 'disappeared' in Syria
HUMAN RIGHTS groups operating inside Syria say as many as 28,000 opposition activists and suspected supporters have been forcibly disappeared since unrest erupted 19 months ago.
Arrested at checkpoints, detained in the streets or abducted from their homes by troops or pro-government militias, the forcibly disappeared are held without warrants or formal notification of relatives. Activists say many are being held in prisons and secret detention centres, where they may be abused, tortured and killed.
Introducing a report released yesterday, Alice Jay, campaign director at the Britain-based Avaaz rights movement, said: “Syrians are being plucked off the street by Syrian security forces and paramilitaries and being ‘disappeared’ into torture cells. Whether it is women buying groceries or farmers going for fuel, nobody is safe. This is a deliberate strategy to terrorise families and communities” and silence dissent.
Avaaz gave estimates from Fadel Abdul Ghani of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, who said 18,000 names of the disappeared had been provided by relatives, while information, but no names, had been given for otherpeople because families had been too frightened to provide them.
Avaaz also cited Muhannad al-Hasani, head of Sawasya, a Syrian human rights body, as saying that the number of disappeared could be as high as 80,000.
It is not clear, however, if the figures given for the forcibly disappeared include people known to be imprisoned at specific places of detention or by specific agencies.
In July 2011, Avaaz estimated the number of enforced disappearances at under 3,000. The organisation compares the current situation in Syria to the period of junta rule in Argentina, from 1977 to 1983, when 30,000 people disappeared. Avaaz plans to submit its report to the UN Human Rights Council.
Meanwhile, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay compared the situation in Syria to Bosnia’s sectarian war and urged world powers to work together to end the conflict. Her appeal coincided with a visit to Jordan by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, where he discussed his proposal for a temporary ceasefire during next week’s festivities marking the end of the Muslim pilgrimage.