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Activists and relatives of Syrians suspected of being detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian government pose with portraits of missing Syrians during a demonstration in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on May 7, 2022. © 2022 John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

(New York) – United Nations member countries should vote to establish a humanitarian body that will seek to provide Syrians with long-overdue answers about their long-missing loved ones, Human Rights Watch and over 100 other Syrian and international human rights organizations said today.

The groups’ message to the UN General Assembly’s 193 member states was published in a joint letter on June 23, 2023. A vote on the resolution to establish the new UN unit is expected to come as early as the week of June 26. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, well over 100,000 people have gone missing during the 12 years of the conflict in Syria. Many were forcibly disappeared by the Syrian government.

“The idea of a humanitarian institution tasked with finding out what happened to their missing loved ones  was conceived and developed by the desperate families of those missing in Syria,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “UN member countries, including the Syrian government and its ally Russia, owe it to thousands of suffering Syrian families to vote in favor of this crucial initiative.”

The organizations said that establishing this new UN institution will be an important step toward bringing long-awaited answers to countless Syrian families who have long suffered loss and uncertainty. In addition to supporting its creation in the General Assembly vote, UN member countries should ensure that it is fully funded out of the UN’s regular budget and has all the support and resources necessary to fulfill its mission, Human Rights Watch said.

“Progress on this issue is fundamental to families, communities and society as a whole,” the groups said in their joint statement. “The international community must extend a hand of practical support and assistance to families and victims in need. The people of Syria deserve no less.”

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