Tens of thousands of people rounded up by Syrian authorities during a decade of conflict are missing, with many tortured, raped, or killed, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, UN investigators said on Monday.
Opposition groups including the Free Syrian Army, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and the Islamic State (ISIS) have also unlawfully detained, tortured, and executed civilians in custody, they said.
“The fate of tens of thousands of the victims who were subjected to the arbitrary and incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance by Syrian government forces, and at a lesser scale, by ISIS, HTS, and other armed groups, remains unknown as we reach the end of a decade,” the investigators said in their latest report.
The issue of detainees represents a “national trauma” that would affect Syrian society for decades, they said.
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied many previous UN accusations of war crimes and says it does not torture prisoners.
The Commission of Inquiry on Syria, led by Paulo Pinheiro, called for perpetrators on all sides to be prosecuted and for the creation of an international mechanism to locate the missing or their remains, some in mass graves.
The investigators welcomed a court hearing in the German city of Koblenz last week sentencing a former member of Assad’s security services to four-and-a-half years in prison for abetting the torture of civilians, the first such verdict for crimes against humanity in the 10-year-old Syrian war.
They have provided information to national jurisdictions handling more than 60 criminal cases and their reports were used as evidence in the Koblenz proceedings, they said last week.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.