SOHR demands the immediate disclosure of the fate of the kidnapped and holding kidnappers accountable
Having a record number of incidents of kidnapped men and children, as well as a plethora of other violations documented against human rights since the beginning of the conflict, Syria has been labeled as the most dangerous country. The UN Security Council has ratified the Resolution 2225 and formally approved the necessity of holding accountable all individuals and bodies involved in the kidnapping of children, old, adult and young men and women for the purpose of collecting ransom or exacting revenge against the victims, mostly opponents.
The Syria regime’s government, rebel factions and other military formations operating in Syria have turned kidnapping into a tool of blackmail in order to obtain political gains, retaliate against opponents or collect large ransoms. This phenomenon has become rampant in the past few years, especially kidnaps which are committed by gangs and armed groups.
The kidnapping of the child, Fawwaz Al-Qutayfan, whose family paid a ransom of an estimated 150,000 USD in return for his release, and the kidnapping of the Syrian civilian, Abdulqader Khalaf Al-Ibrahim, in Al-Darbasiyah countryside in Al-Hasakah province, who was released after the kidnappers having received a ransom of 15,000 USD, according to SOHR, are two examples, among many, showing a side of the tragedies of Syrian people in all zones of influence across Syria. However, the largest share of kidnaps has been documented in regime-controlled areas where regime opponents, namely young and adult men and women, human rights activists and politicians are kidnapped and their families are asked to pay large ransoms for their release.
Since the onset of the Syrian Revolution in 2011, millions of Syrian people, who called only for democracy, security and freedom, have been forced to displace, and millions have become refugees in many countries. Also, millions of Syrians have fallen victims to a series of violations to the international law which emphasises and promotes the people’s right to enjoy decent life in their free homeland. Unfortunately, autocratic and tyrannical regimes, which are clinging only to power, do not believe in such principles, and they never hesitate when it comes to killing innocent civilians and destroying the entire country just for defending their “thrones.”
The escalation of kidnaps in Syria is attributed to the deteriorating social situation and dreadful living conditions, while the security vacuum, which is a by-product of the war, has exacerbated the situation further. Exploiting this ongoing security chaos which coincides with the inactive role of the state authorities and occupation by foreign powers in different parts of Syria territory, armed gangs have been proceeding with their evil plans; this, in turn, has deepened the sufferings of Syrians.
In the meantime, kidnappings have been linked directly with the behaviour of influential figures working for the regime security services and military formations. These individuals arrest civilians who have nothing to do with political affairs on “fabricated charges,” before asking their families to pay ransoms for their release.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked kidnappings in all zones of influence across Syria in the past six month, precisely from early January to late June. During this period, SOHR documented the kidnapping of 121 people, including 23 children and five women. Here is a regional distribution of the kidnapped in the first six months of 2022:
-Areas under control of Ankara-backed factions: 74 people, including a child and five women, were kidnapped by gunmen, some of whom operating under the banner of the “National Army” factions; they are as follows:
- “Olive Branch” areas: 61 people, including a child and four women.
- “Euphrates Shield” areas and its surroundings: 11 people, including a woman.
- “Peace Spring” area: Two persons.
-Areas under regime control: 26 people, including two children, were kidnapped by unknown gunmen; they are as follows:
- Al-Suwaidaa: 11 people, including a child.
- Homs: Ten people.
- Daraa: Three persons.
- Aleppo: A child.
- Al-Hasakah: One person.
-Areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration: 20 children under the age of 18 were kidnapped by “Al-Shabibah Al-Thawriyah” in Al-Hasakah, Al-Raqqah and Aleppo.
-Areas under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and opposition factions: One person was kidnapped by unknown gunmen.
SOHR warns against the unwelcome repercussions of the ongoing kidnapping of civilians, which violates all international laws signed by Syria decades ago, at a time when the international community continues its shameful silence regarding this contentious and troubling issue. We, at the Syrian Observatory, call upon the international community to take action to disclose the fate of kidnapped people and expose all perpetrators involved in such reprehensible practices.
We also demand establishing a committee supervised by UN authorities as soon as possible to be tasked with disclosing the fate of forcibly disappeared and kidnapped civilians held by all warring powers in Syria, so that such intimidating and terrorizing acts practiced by those powers to oppress opponents or collect ransoms can come to an end. Such blatant violations must be condemned by all international powers, and we stress that curbing these practices needs joint efforts leading to securing a better future and security stability in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and all human rights, civil and feminist regional and international organisations and patriotic Syrian activists believing in democracy and promoting human rights emphasise that the Syrian regime and all military formations disregarding the international laws will continue circumvent and abdicate their responsibilities for handling this complex issue.
We affirm that this proposed committee will ease efforts by the international community and Syrians searching for their loved ones who have been forcibly disappeared or kidnapped through receiving and tracking complaints in a humanitarian and legal framework.
SOHR depends on the international community’s efforts to break the deadlock on this issue and help families of the kidnapped to find their loved ones or, at least, disclose their fate. SOHR also condemns practices by several actors which have turned this issue into a financial resource by collecting ransoms for the release of kidnapped victims.
We, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), demand:
- Establishing an independent international committee as soon as possible to investigate the incidents of kidnapping across Syria.
- Exerting extra pressure on the Syrian regime to disclose the whereabouts of the kidnapped and forcibly disappeared.
- Starting negotiations with armed organisations for the release of the kidnapped.
- Bringing everybody responsible for and or involved in kidnapping Syrians to international courts.
- Starting broad media campaigns to shed the light on reprehensible practices and heinous crimes and expose all perpetrators and those who aided and abetted these crimes.