Statement by Ambassador Thomas Zahneisen at the Arria Formula Meeting of the UNSC, “Syrian Women’s Voices on Detainees and the Disappeared in Syria”, June 3rd, 2022

03.06.2022 - Speech

I would like to thank the Syrian Negotiations Commission for organizing this Arria-formula meeting on detainees and disappeared persons in Syria. We are proud to be a co-sponsor of a meeting on such an important topic.

I am particularly grateful that we have the opportunity to hear the voices of three Syrian women today. We all know that women and girls are among the most vulnerable and affected in conflict and crisis. This is particularly true for the conflict in Syria. So thank you Mariam Alhallak, Najah Malak, Alise Mofrej for sharing your experience and thoughts with us today.

By the luck of the alphabet I am able to speak after Ireland and Canada because I could not have expressed in a better way the response that we ought to give to your harrowing experience. I thank my colleagues for expressing our sentiment as well.

We must not forget how the Syrian conflict began eleven years ago: peaceful citizens took to the streets in order to call for freedom, political reform and a government that respects human rights. But the Syrian regime responded with even more oppression, violence, torture, murder – and by waging a war against its own People.

Syrians - ordinary civilians, including women and children - throughout the country live in constant fear of arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture, sexual and gender-based violence.

Systematic and wide-scale violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights continue to occur in Syria daily and unabated.

More than 100,000 persons have been arbitrarily detained, have forcibly disappeared or are still missing in Syria. Syrian regime forces account for the overwhelming majority of these cases. We are particularly concerned about the detention of children, the existence of secret detention facilities and conditions amounting to torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Resolution 2254 (2015) calls on the parties to immediately release any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children. During our stay as a non-permanent member in the Security Council, we organized a special meeting on the issue of detainees and missing persons in August 2019. In July 2020 we invited briefers who made powerful appeals to the Council. But unfortunately, there has been no united position of the Council and no progress on the issue of detainees and missing persons since the adoption of resolution 2254.

Given the lack of progress, we welcome the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation for the creation of an independent mechanism with an international mandate to coordinate and consolidate claims regarding missing persons, including persons subjected to enforced disappearance.

We reiterate again today: the Syrian regime must finally release all arbitrarily detained persons, allow immediate, unconditional and unhindered access to all its prisons and detention facilities, and inform the families of the fate and whereabouts of the tens of thousands missing and disappeared persons.

We must also ensure that those responsible for torture and killing in Syrian prisons and for other crimes and atrocities in Syria are held accountable.

Germany will continue to prosecute crimes committed in Syria under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Many of you mentioned the case in Koblenz, and there will be more to come. And we will continue to support international efforts to ensure accountability, in particular through the Commission of Inquiry, the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

For us it is clear: in order to achieve national reconciliation and sustainable peace in Syria, we need truth, justice, accountability as well as the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) in all its aspects.

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