GENEVA (AP) — A U.N. panel reported Thursday it believes the Syrian government is committing a crime against humanity by making people systematically vanish, and that rebels have also recently begun making their opponents disappear.
The expert panel said it found “a consistent country-wide pattern” of Syrian security, armed forces and pro-government militia seizing people in mass arrests or house searches and at checkpoints and hospitals, then making them disappear — and denying that they even exist. Most of the victims have been young men.
The disappearances are “part of a widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population,” and amount to a crime against humanity, reported the U.N. Syria war crimes panel, chaired by Brazilian diplomat and scholar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. The panel pressed Syria’s government to provide information and called on both sides to stop the practice.
The U.N. panel doesn’t quantify the phenomenon, but says the accounts it has received “only hint at the scope of the crisis ... and the state of fear in which ordinary citizens live.” Among the cases were a 60-year-old woman put in Homs prison for asking about her missing son, and a peaceful protester’s brother taken in a house raid by political security agents.