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Syria: Enforced Disappearance of Three Members of the Bakkar Family Since 2011

On 18 May 2015, Alkarama and Human Rights Guardians sent a communication to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGEID) regarding the case of three members of a same family – Abdul Aziz, Abdel Hakim and Mahmoud Bakkar – all disappeared since their respective arrests by members of the Syrian Army and the Security Forces between November and December 2011.

Abdul Aziz, 38, and his brother, Abdel Hakim, 34 – both married, with children and serving as volunteers in the Syrian Army – were arrested in the comfort of their homes on 26 November 2011 by members of the Syrian Army and the Security Forces who were carrying a raid searching for members of the opposition in the village of Al Buwaydah Al Sharqiyah, 35km southeast of Homs. Their relatives fear that the two brothers were confused with supporters of the opposition because of anti-regime slogans written on their walls, and firmly deny the Army and Security Forces' allegation that they found a bag of shells and rocket-propelled grenades in their homes.

The two brothers were reportedly beaten up before being taken away. Worried about their fate, their relatives, who witnessed the arrest, inquired informally on their whereabouts, but with no success. It was only two years later that they were told by a former detainee that both brothers were detained in Sednaya prison, a detention centre in the outskirts of Damascus infamous for its practice of torture and abhorrent conditions of detention, which led numerous detainees to their death.

A month after the two brothers' arrest, on 25 December 2011, their relative Mahmoud Bakkar was arrested at a checkpoint in Qatana, a city in the Rif Dimashq Governorate, 25km west of Damascus, by members of the Syrian Army dressed in uniforms and plainclothes Security Forces. According to witnesses, Mahmoud was so severely beaten that he lost consciousness before being taken away to a secret location.

On 24 September 2012, Mahmoud appeared in an interview aired on Addounia TV – a private Syrian television station owned by people close to President Bashar Al Assad, which serves the regime's interests in spreading its official message. The interview showed Mahmoud accused of "terrorism" and "confessing" to his crimes, a confession obtained as a result of torture, as it is commonplace in Syria. This was the last time Mahmoud was seen. Fearing reprisals, in particular given that Mahmoud was the third member of the Bakkar family to be arrested, his relatives did not file any formal complaint

Left with no other recourse, the Bakkar family contacted Human Rights Guardians and Alkarama in order to shed light on the fate and whereabouts of Abdul Aziz, Abdel Hakim and Mahmoud Bakkar, who remain disappeared to date. Alkarama and Human Rights Guardians in turn seized the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the cases of the three relatives, calling upon it to ask the Syrian authorities to release them immediately or, at very least, to put them under the protection of the law by disclosing their whereabouts and allowing their families to visit them without restriction. Alkarama calls upon the Syrian authorities to put an end to the systematic practice of enforced disappearance in accordance with their obligations under international law, to open investigations into all reported cases of disappearances, to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes and to provide reparations to survivors and their families.

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

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