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Statement on the First Anniversary of the Resolution to Establish the Independent Institution on Missing Persons in Syria

A Call to Accelerate the Implementation of the Resolution and End the Suffering of the Families of the Missing

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On this day, June 29, 2024, a full year has passed since the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/77/L.79 on June 29, 2023, which called for the establishment of the Independent Institution on Missing Persons in the Syrian Arab Republic (IIMP). This decision responded to the persistent and rightful struggles and demands of the families, victim associations, survivors, and civil society partners in Syria over the years.

The families of the victims and survivors had hoped that the institution would end years of unbearable anxiety and waiting by providing answers about the fates and whereabouts of the missing. They also hoped it would curb the denial of the rights of the disappeared and their families’ need for knowledge, and prevent a whole generation of Syrians from experiencing the same suffering endured by previous generations for decades. Moreover, they hoped that the institution’s swift establishment, flexibility, efficiency, and impact would reflect the urgency and magnitude of the humanitarian disaster in Syria over the past thirteen years.

However, the process of building the institution’s administrative structure, a year after the decision was made, is progressing much slower than the nature, scale, and requirements of the issue demand. This is despite the commendable perseverance, seriousness, and flexibility demonstrated by the institution’s launch team in communicating with the families of the missing over the months following the decision. The main factor delaying the completion of the institution’s structure and the start of its work is the appointment of the head of the institution, which is also linked to filling several other important vacancies. To date, this appointment has not occurred, and no clear reason has been announced.

Therefore, we at the Truth and Justice Charter feel it is necessary to remind all concerned parties, especially the relevant UN bodies and the states sponsoring the institution’s establishment, that the time of the families and the missing is measured not by the hours and days but by the lost lives, broken bodies by torture and neglect, and hopes shattered by denial and indifference. We are concerned that the political circumstances may influence the appointment of the institution’s head and other related vacancies. Such circumstances, as you know, will neither clarify a fate, liberate a detainee, nor provide answers or resolutions.

We urge you all to adhere to the text and spirit of Resolution A/77/L.79 and to consider the institution’s role from the perspective of the victims and their families. Subjecting the institution’s structure and leadership to short-term political changes squanders its potential and undermines the vision on which it was founded.

We also point out that the Truth and Justice Charter has sent a paper to the UN Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with specific recommendations on the institution’s head from the perspective of the families of the missing and in line with the logic of the resolution, which envisages a structural role for these families in the institution’s work. The paper highlighted the importance of the head holding a high-ranking position within the UN structure. Additionally, it emphasized the need for the head to have experience working on cases of missing persons, along with a deep understanding of the perspectives, priorities, and needs of the families involved in the search for answers. The head should also have experience in political transition, transitional justice, and political and diplomatic expertise to effectively fulfill this role.

As we live in hope, we once again hope that no more time will be wasted and that the remaining months of this year will not pass without seeing the institution fully established and ready to operate.

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