Historic victory! On June 29, 2023 the UN General Assembly voted to establish a new international body, the first of its kind, to work exclusively on uncovering the fate and whereabouts of over 100,000 forcibly disappeared and missing persons in Syria. This is the result of years of tireless campaigning by survivors and families of victims, who came up with the concept and advocated for it, knocking on every door to get their voices heard.
Creating this body is a step on the long road towards truth and justice for Syria. The struggle now begins to ensure that the institution is established swiftly, continues to place demands of victim and family groups at the center and is granted the power and resources needed to make a real difference.
Photo: Yasmen Almashan, a founding member of the Caesar Families Association, holding photos of her brothers
Over 100,000 people are estimated to have been forcibly disappeared in Syria, the majority by the Assad regime, but other armed and extremist groups, such as ISIS, have also used the practice as a weapon of war, which amounts to a crime against humanity.
For years, survivors of detention and families with a missing loved one have been working together, knocking on every door demanding answers to no avail. It became clear that a crisis of this proportion requires a unique solution.
Now there is a significant opportunity ahead – an upcoming vote at the UN General Assembly to establish an international institution dedicated to uncovering the fate and whereabouts of Syria’s missing.
Knowing the truth about what happened to Syria’s missing people is a vital step towards justice. If you and thousands of people around the world sign the petition, we will deliver your voices to all 193 voting member states highlighting the number of people in their country calling on them to vote YES. The vote is expected before the end of June, so please sign the petition now and share it widely.
Those disappeared include political opposition, human rights defenders, doctors, humanitarian workers, and people who just happen to come from areas that opposed the Assad regime’s rule. In the majority of cases, they are held in unofficial, cramped underground centers where they have no access or communication with the outside world and are exposed to horrific conditions.
The families of the disappeared have suffered for years without news about the fate of their loved ones, where they’re being held, and whether they’re alive or dead. Some families have identified their relatives in the leaked ‘Caesar photos’, shocking photos of torture smuggled out by a military defector, but many are denied confirmation of their death or information about where they are buried.
Family and victim-led groups have tirelessly advocated for the establishment of this institution. In August, the UN Secretary-General issued a landmark report backing those demands and emphasizing the importance of involving families in the work of the institution. Many countries have voiced their support for the institution, and now a group of UN member states have stepped up to draft a resolution to create this unique body, requiring a simple majority at the UN General Assembly to pass. All 193 voting members have an equal say, and no state has veto power.
For tens of thousands of families who are still waiting for any news about their missing loved one, this vote is a glimmer of hope. First, people like you around the world need to urge every UN member state to vote in favor of establishing the institution. It is not too often that we get an opportunity like this and we must seize it. Join the campaign and sign the petition.
On behalf of the 10 families and survivors associations that form the Truth and Justice Charter Group, calling for this new international institution: the Association of Detained and Missing Persons in Sednaya Prison, Caesar Families Association, Coalition of Families of Persons Kidnapped by ISIS (Massar), Families for Freedom, the Ta’afi Initiative, Families for Truth and Justice, Adraa Detainees Association, Hevdestî – Synergy, Release-me, General Union of Detainees.