Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: 6 April 2022
United Nations human rights experts have expressed deep concerns about the overall physical, mental, educational and health well-being of children arbitrarily detained in detention centers in northeastern Syria, as well as children who appear to be missing and unaccounted for.
In a statement published by the Media Center of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the independent experts called on the de facto authorities to allow all humanitarian workers full and unhindered access to children.
“We are extremely concerned that since the January 2022 attack, the fate and whereabouts of at least 100 of those boys remain unaccounted for which raises serious concerns relating to their right to life,” the experts said. “Some of these cases might amount to enforced disappearance, and where children are concerned, States – and de facto authorities – must undertake special measures of protection that reflect their vulnerability.
“The authorities in charge of the prison, who have been calling for the immediate repatriation of all foreign nationals, have been given an almost impossible humanitarian, human rights and security responsibility by third country states. Under international law, it is nonetheless incumbent on them to carry out a prompt, transparent, impartial and independent investigation relating to the circumstances in which these boys have disappeared, and to make the results public.”
Harm to these children must be identified, and those responsible must be held accountable to prevent impunity.
“States of nationality have clear obligations to protect these vulnerable children caught up in the conflict and violence, and cannot eschew these obligations by simply ignoring the fate of their citizens,” the experts added.
The experts also expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of clear information regarding the number of minors already held in prisons prior to the attack, and that this could be used to refuse to acknowledge the current fate and whereabouts of those who followed the ISIS attacks.
The experts called on the authorities to immediately restore full access to all humanitarian actors, including the United Nations, to all individuals in prisons, saying that humanitarian access was a necessary initial step to ensure the well-being, fate and whereabouts of detained boys, as well as ensuring their access to proper health care.