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UN calls on Syria to name the dead

November 29, 2018

The UN has called on the Syrian government to provide information about thousands of detained and missing people. "Now is the moment" to provide the information, not after the war ends, a UN official said.

Aleppo skyline viewed through the hole in a building
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Sputnik

Paulo Pinheiro, the head of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, on Wednesday said "now is the moment" for the Syrian government to provide information and "promptly, thoroughly, transparently, and independently" investigate all deaths in custody or resulting from summary or extrajudicial executions.

During a closed, informal meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday, he said the 15 Council members were expected to understand that the issues of detainees and disappeared is not to be dealt with after a peace deal, but that "now is the moment" to consider their fate.

"We're saying the families have a right to know what happened, where the bodies are, to get information about them," Pinheiro told reporters after briefing the Security Council.

More than 360,000 people have died in the 7-year war, according to estimates from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Read more: In Syria, death notices for the missing bring unwelcome closure

'Custodial death'

Last May, the Syrian military police and army provided information on those who had died to government civil registry offices.

Pinheiro described the release of the information as "unprecedented," but added that each of the thousands of deaths of allegedly deceased detainees and/or missing people must be investigated.

"Each custodial death must be independently investigated, and the results must be publicly reported," Pinheiro said. The burden of proof was on the state to prove that the death "did not result from acts of omissions attributable to it."

The commission called on the Syrian regime to "promptly, thoroughly, transparently, and independently" investigate all deaths in custody, or resulting from executions. The result of the investigations should be made public, Pinheiro said.

Read more: Rebuilding Assad's Syria: Who should foot the bill?

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jm/sms (AFP, AP)