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UN demands accountability over Syria mass disappearances

Geneva: The UN Human Rights Council called for those behind “massive scale” enforced disappearances in Syria over the past decade of conflict to be held accountable.

The resolution, presented by Britain and a number of European countries, along with the US, Turkey and Qatar, decried that Syria’s crisis had entered a second decade “marked by consistent patterns of gross violations.”

The war in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011, with all sides in the increasingly complex conflict accused of war crimes.

Tuesday’s resolution, adopted with 26 of the council’s 47 members in favor, six opposed and 15 abstaining, voiced particular concern about the fate of tens of thousands of people who have vanished.

The text “strongly condemns the continued use of involuntary or enforced disappearances in the Syrian Arab Republic, and related human rights violations and abuses, which have been carried out with consistency, in particular by the Syrian regime.”

It also criticized enforced disappearances by other parties to the conflict, including the Daesh group, but said the Syrian regime was the main perpetrator.

The resolution voiced alarm at recent comments by the UN’s independent commission of inquiry on the rights situation in Syria indicating that “widespread enforced disappearance has been deliberately perpetrated by Syrian security forces throughout the past decade on a massive scale.”

The investigators had indicated that such disappearances had been used “to spread fear, stifle dissent and as punishment,” and that tens of thousands of men, women, boys and girls detained by Syrian authorities “remain forcibly disappeared.”

Presenting the resolution to the council, British Ambassador Simon Manley slammed the regime’s role in such a massive number of disappearances was “simply inexcusable.”

That regime, he said, “has the bureaucratic means to provide information on these disappeared individuals, the means to end the suffering of the families and loved ones of these people.”

“But it chooses not to employ those means. This is a deliberate act of unspeakable cruelty.”

He echoed a charge in the resolution, accusing Damascus’s forces of “intentionally prolonging the suffering of hundreds of thousands of family members.”

It emphasized “the need for accountability, including for crimes committed in relation to enforced disappearance,” stressing that “accountability is vital in peace negotiations and peace-building processes.”

Steep bread and diesel price hikes have gone into force in government-held parts of Syria, bringing more pain for civilians in a long-running economic crisis.

Damascus has repeatedly raised fuel prices in recent years to tackle a financial crunch sparked by the country’s decade-long civil war and compounded by a spate of Western sanctions.

The price of diesel fuel nearly tripled and the price of bread doubled, according to the official SANA news agency, only days after Damascus announced a 25 percent increase in the price of petrol.

“This was all expected and now we fear further increases in the price of … food and medicine,” Damascus resident Wael Hammoud, 41, said while he waited for more than 30 minutes to hail a cab to take him to work.

The price hikes coincided with a decree issued by President Bashar Assad that increases public sector salaries by 50 percent and sets the minimum wage at 71,515 Syrian pounds per month ($28 at the official rate), up from 47,000 pounds ($18). Arab News

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