Minister for National Reconciliation Affairs Ali Haidar revealed a decline in the rate of kidnappings in Syria by 70 percent, adding that the number of captives registered by the ministry is about 10,000 with around 240 released last year.
In an exclusive statement to Al-Watan, Haidar attributed the decline in criminal kidnapping to work of the relevant authorities, led by the Interior Ministry.
Haidar added that the draft kidnapping law, in which the punishment was raised to death and hard labor, played a role in the decline of criminal kidnappings. In addition to this, the regaining of control over many areas and the victories which the Syrian army achieved also led to a major decline in kidnapping operations carried out by militants.
The minister believed the number of liberated captives was small compared to the overall number of detainees, adding that there was currently no progress in the file because of intransigence from the armed groups and kidnapping entities. He said that international backers of these groups have issued instructions not to release captives in order to pressure the Syrian state in a political process.
Haidar added that the obstruction of this issue is not coming from the Syrian state. He said that there should be differentiation between the individual efforts through which a small number of captives have been liberated and between dealing with the issue comprehensively, in which there has been no progress.
Regarding disappeared people, Haidar said that the Justice Ministry had formed a committee for this issue, adding that matter is one to be dealt with in the future.
Haidar said that this issue had been present since the time the ministry was founded and that an office for disappeared people and captives had been established to document the cases. He said that every case reviewed by the ministry is documented and that this is the first phase in the process of searching for the disappeared.
The minister said it was not currently possible to discuss the number of missing because it is still moving, however there was tens of thousands registered and there are new numbers on a daily basis. He added: "Apart from the numbers, we can say there is a file ready, completed and being addressed."
Haidar said that the possibility of conducting searches is unlikely because there are still areas that are not under state control. He pointed to the inability of accessing these areas to carry out a scientific, accurate search process, in addition to the displacement of armed groups with information and secrets in their possession.
The minister said that work on the issue of missing people will also include investigating mass graves and uncovering their numbers. He said that finding bodies or remains does not mean that the required information is obtained, especially given that uncovering the identity of these remains requires a complicated process from laboratories.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.