Syria involved in widespread ‘disappearing’ of people, says UN panel

Targets include relatives of wanted men and civilians staying in rebel-held areas

People walk along a street in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. Fighting between insurgents and pro-government forces was reported to be raging in the city yesterday. Photograph: Molhem Barakat/Reuters

People walk along a street in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. Fighting between insurgents and pro-government forces was reported to be raging in the city yesterday. Photograph: Molhem Barakat/Reuters

Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 22:29

Syrian government forces have carried out a widespread and systematic campaign of enforced disappearances of people to terrorise the population, a commission set up by the United Nations reported today.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry said the government campaign initially targeted Syrians who participated in protests that erupted in March 2011 but expanded to include relatives of wanted men and civilians remaining in insurgent-held areas.

The commission, set up by the UN’s human rights council in August 2011, characterised enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity.

In its report it warned that the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) has “begun to adopt practices, such as incommunicado detention, that may lead to disappearances”.


Largest group
Amnesty International has accused the Isis of operating secret prisons and carrying out summary executions and floggings. Children and foreign journalists are being held by the group.

The Saudi-sponsored Islamic Front, the largest insurgent group in Syria, has spurned a US offer of dialogue, said US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford.

The front has also rejected the authority of the Western and Arab-backed Supreme Military Council, the military wing of the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

Radical Jabhat al-Nusra chief Abu Mohamed al-Golani has pre-empted the planned January 22nd peace conference involving the government and opposition by rejecting the results of the meeting even before it is held. The Jabhat has been described as its official faction in Syria by al-Qaeda central head Ayman Zawahiri.

Syrian Kurds, who are eager to attend, have demanded their own delegation, arguing that their call for autonomy diverges from the agendas of both the government and coalition. Long divided by a factional power struggle, the Kurds have been holding unity talks in Irbil in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

In Syria, fighting between insurgents and pro-government forces, including units from Lebanon’s Hizbullah movement, is said to be raging in Aleppo city.

Government forces have extended their offensive against insurgent-held districts of the city to villages to the north in a bid to cut opposition supply lines to the Turkish border.

Warplanes struck a village near Safira, south of the city where a large military base and chemical weapons stores are located.

The 33-month war is estimated to have killed more than 126,000 people, the majority combatants, and forced millions to flee their homes.