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Syria’s not-so-secret crimes against humanity

A new report by an independent United Nations panel investigating human rights violations in Syria has concluded that enforced disappearances and secret detention committed by the Syrian regime forces are “part of widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity.” The UN investigators documented a “consistent, country-wide pattern” in which people are seized by the security forces and the army, as well as by pro-regime militias, during mass arrests, house searches, at checkpoints and even in hospitals. In all the cases documented, survivors described being subjected to torture.

Some of the extreme armed groups in fighting against the regime in Syria, especially the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), are also known to have kidnapped people disagreeing with them, and detained or killed them. But most witnesses interviewed by the UN investigators identified Syrian intelligence services, soldiers and pro-government militias as the perpetrators of such crimes. “Human rights abuses have been rife in Syria’s civil war, with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad responsible for many of the worst ones,” the report said.


The Lebanese Hezbollah, which is armed and controlled by Sepah Pasdaran, is also known to have repeatedly kidnapped Syrian activists in Lebanon and handed them over to the Assad regime. Moreover, Hezbollah has been fighting along the Syrian regime forces inside Syria, and is therefore participating in these crimes against humanity documented by the UN investigators and others. This, in turn, makes the Iranian government complicit in these crimes. In legal jargon, this is called ‘aiding and abetting war crimes’.

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