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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Syrians no safer despite decrease in violence, UN says, as 100,000 detainees remain in missing

The commission called for steps to ensure the sustainable return of refugees [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 September, 2020

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Despite a reduction in violence, Syrians remain subject to 'gross' human rights violations, a UN commission has said.

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Syria, UN.

The United Nations' Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has called for an end to arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, as one of six steps to move forward from the country's bloody war.

Speaking via video link during a session of the UN's 45th Human Rights Council, commissioner Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said that despite a reduction in violence, Syrians "are still not any safer and continue to suffer gross human rights violations by all actors controlling territory".

The former Brazilian minister also outlined six steps which the commission is urging all parties involved in Syria's conflict to facilitate. These include an end to arbitrary arrests and disappearances, an international mechanism to coordinate and collect information on an estimated 100,000 missing or disappeared people, detention monitoring by an independent body, a moratorium on executions, and the implementation of rule of law reforms.

Lastly, the commission called for a removal of barriers to the sustainable return of Syria's 5.6 million refugees and 6.6 million internally displaced people. The United Nations has consistently warned that conditions in the war-ravaged country are not suitable for such returns, while the Syrian economy also remains in a state of near collapse with reports of mass hunger.

"No factor will be more important for healing internal divisions and rebuilding trust at a local level than how the government deals with the issues of housing, land and property," Pinheiro said.

After losing vast swaths of territory to opposition groups during the early days of Syria's civil war, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad turned the tide of the war, backed by Russia and Iran.

The country is now broadly divided between regime controlled-areas, Kurdish-held territories and areas held by rebels, Islamist groups and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

Idlib, in northwestern Syria, is one of the last areas controlled by anti-Assad rebels, with the hardline Islamist faction Hayaat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) currently the largest and strongest group in the area.

Much of eastern Syria is controlled by the Kurdish-led, US supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who generally avoid confrontation with the Assad regime.

However, the southern Syrian province of Daraa also remains unstable, despite a 2018 deal which allowed the Assad regime to take control of the area from rebels.

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