Syrian opposition calls for release of detainees in Geneva talks

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Syrian regime has secretly executed over 13,000 prisoners in Saydnaya since 2011, Amnesty International reported. File photo

ARA News

The Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) of the Syrian Opposition’s High Negotiations Committee demanded the immediate release of detainees and a credible accountability process in Syria, as Geneva talks restart.

“We came out today to stand in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of Syrian families with loved ones in detention and forcibly disappeared. As talks on Syria’s future resume in Geneva, we must in parallel see the urgent release all Syrian detainees, starting with women and children. This is non-negotiable,” Marah Al-Bukai of the WAC said.

“Six years on, it is high time for accountability in Syria,” said Fadwa Mahmoud, member of the WAC and Families for Freedom.

“Syrian families have suffered immeasurably and only a credible transitional justice process can heal their wounds. A future democratic Syria requires that all war criminals – particularly those complicit in detention and forced disappearances by Assad forces – are urgently held to account,” she said.

The Women’s Advisory Committee called for an ‘immediate release of all detainees, starting with women and children, from all detention facilities.’

“A UN-led independent mechanism must be established to identify the names of Syrian detainees – unlawfully held in Assad’s prisons – who must be released,” the WAC said.

The Syrian opposition’s organization also called for establishing a credible transitional justice process that secures accountability for all war criminals in Syria. “In particular perpetrators who committed war crimes in detention. No war criminal should enjoy local or international amnesty,” the group added.

Furthermore, during the fourth round of Geneva peace talks, the Syrian opposition’s delegation called for a UN-led detainee mechanism to reveal the fates of all Syrians forcibly disappeared and to investigate human rights violations, including torture, sexual violence and forced disappearances across Syria, and especially in security and military detention facilities.

The Syrian Ministry of Justice on 9 February rejected an Amnesty International report of mass hangings of 13,000 prisoners near the capital Damascus, saying the allegations were “totally untrue”.

“The justice ministry denies and condemns in the strongest terms what was reported because it is not based on correct evidence but on personal emotions that aim to achieve well-known political goals,” it said.

The Amnesty report was based on a year of research that included interviews with 31 former detainees at the Saydnaya prison, and more than 50 former guards, judges and experts.

A UN Commission in February 2016 said that thousands of detainees have been killed while in the custody of the warring parties in Syria over the past four and a half years by anti-government and government groups.

“Nearly every surviving detainee has emerged from custody having suffered unimaginable abuses,” Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said of those held by the Government, releasing a report in Geneva ‘Out of sight, out of mind: Deaths in detention in the Syrian Arab Republic.’

“For ordinary Syrians, the spectre of arrest or abduction and the near-inevitable horrors that follow have paralyzed communities across the country,” he said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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