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Syria: In midst of civil war, enforced disappearance affects all sections of Syrian society

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On September 15, 2017, Alkarama submitted two cases of disappearances in Syria to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID). Both Jamil Samin and Lama Basha were forcibly disappeared by pro-government forces between 2013 and 2014.

Syrian-American businessman Jamil Samin disappeared since 2013

Jamil Samin, a 62-year-old Syrian-American businessman from Homs, was abducted by Syrian military security forces on April 12, 2013 while visiting the manager of a mini-market near his home. According to his family, he was last seen by a former detainee at the Military Security Branch in Homs, who testified that Samin had previously been detained for one night at the former Baath Party offices in Homs, now converted into a detention centre.

Following the arrest, Samin’s family inquired about his fate and whereabouts with several security services, including the Military Intelligence Division – which falls under the authority of the Ministry of Defence and is also known as “Military Security” – but to no avail. Additionally, the family requested information from the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations headquarters in New York City, but the ambassador denied his detention.

Family unaware of whereabouts of student Lama Basha

Lama Basha is a 25-year-old project management student at the Damascus Open Education University. In late November 2014, she received a call from an unknown woman asking her if she could give English lessons to her daughter. She agreed to meet at the woman’s home in the Damascus suburb of Al Tall on November 16, 2014.

When Basha arrived, a group of unidentified forces arrested her and subsequently handed her over to the Political Security at the checkpoint of Al Tall. The Political Security is one of the country’s intelligence agencies affiliated with the Ministry of Interior. Basha had no contact with the outside world until her family managed to visit her several times at the Adra prison in April 2015.

During these visits, she told her family that she had been subjected to torture, including repeated electric shocks. She complained of acute back pain and a loss of sensory capacities in the limbs. The prison’s administration informed the family that Basha had been sentenced to death by a military field court, a court that does not meet the minimum requirements and standards for fair trial.

Visits have not been permitted since April 2015, and Lama’s relatives have been kept in the dark regarding her fate and whereabouts. “We want Lama back as soon as possible, especially her mother who is in poor health,” Lama’s family told Alkarama. “At the very least, we want to know if she is still alive.”

These two cases are part of a wider pattern of systematic enforced disappearances that has prevailed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict, affecting all sections of the Syrian population.

For more information or an interview, please contact media@alkarama.org (Dir: +41 22 734 1008)