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Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lock hands during a group photo in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, April 4, 2018.  © 2018 Tolga Bozoglu/Pool Photo via AP

(Beirut) – The Astana working group on detentions and abductions in the Syrian conflict should take immediate steps to address the Syrian government’s arbitrary detentions, torture of detainees, and enforced disappearances, 11 human rights organizations said in a joint letter today. The group was set up by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

On September 7, 2018, the presidents of Turkey, Russia, and Iran will hold their third meeting to discuss the Syrian conflict, according to media reports. The working group, which includes representatives from the three foreign ministries, should ensure that detentions and abductions are on the agenda of the meeting, the groups said.

The letter, signed by 11 organizations, expresses concern at the Syrian government’s failure to disclose more information about the deaths of arbitrarily detained and disappeared persons after it updated civil registries records to reflect their deaths.

The letter asks the working group to clarify the steps it will take to ensure the government and anti-government armed groups provide more information on the fates of those disappeared, detained and abducted; deliver the remains of those declared dead to the families; and allow access for international monitors to formal and informal detention facilities where thousands remain detained and at risk of torture and ill-treatment.

“The Astana guarantors have promised to address the enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions that have marked the Syrian conflict for seven years,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “They can address these horrors on September 7 by demanding justice for the disappeared and wrongly detained, and their families.”

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