UN human rights chief highlights the tragedy of missing persons in Syria

Child in an abandoned van in Syria Child in an abandoned van in Syria Ahmed Akacha on Pexels

8 April 2022

Thousands of families in Syria don’t know the fates of their missing relatives, UN human rights chief told the General Assembly

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet spoke about the problem of missing persons in Syria earlier this month, explaining that people in Syria have been going missing in different contexts. These include displacement, detention, abduction or disappearance during hostilities. The International Commission on Missing Persons explains that Syrian migrants have also gone missing in treacherous crossings, along migratory routes or as a result of criminal enterprises that prey on migrants and refugees, including child trafficking.

Ms. Bachelet spoke about the importance of families being informed about the whereabouts of their loved ones and being allowed to visit or communicate with them, highlighting the pain that families of missing persons go through. The human rights chief explained that women have had to become sole breadwinners for their families while searching for their loved ones, noting that “many are unable to sustain basic livelihoods, access their property, civil documentation, bank accounts, or access inheritance due in part to persisting discriminatory laws and practices pre-dating the conflict.” Many women have to fight for guardianship of their own children.

The chief human rights officer outlined other obstacles that families of missing persons face, including fear of reprisal when reporting cases, extortion, bribery and a black market in false detention and interrogation reports.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is working on a report on the problem of missing persons in Syria and has emphasized the importance of listening to victims and their families when discussing how to deal with this matter.


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Author: Irina Kovacevic; Editor: Catherine Meunier

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