Syria: government using thousands of disappeared people as 'cash cow'
'The Syrian government is using a policy of subjecting thousands of people to enforced disappearance as both a means to crush opposition and to make large amounts of money for itself, said Amnesty International in a new report today.
Amnesty’s 70-page report - Between prison and the grave: Enforced disappearances in Syria - reveals that the Syrian authorities are profiting from widespread and systematic enforced disappearances amounting to crimes against humanity, through an insidious black market in which family members desperate to find out the fate of their disappeared relatives are ruthlessly exploited for cash.
As part of this black market, “middlemen” or “brokers” are paid bribes ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds by family members. Such bribes have become “a big part of the economy” according to one Syrian human rights activist. A lawyer from Damascus also told Amnesty that the bribes are “a cash cow for the regime … a source of funding they have come to rely on”.
The report gives a tragic insight into the psychological trauma, anguish, despair and physical suffering experienced by family members and friends after an enforced disappearance. Saeed, whose brother Yusef was forcibly disappeared in 2012, said his mother never stops crying now. “Sometimes in the night I wake up and she is awake, looking at his picture and crying,” he said.
While some states and the UN have condemned enforced disappearances, much more is needed than words of censure. More than a year and a half ago, in February 2014, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2139, which calls for an end to enforced disappearances in Syria, but it has yet to take further steps to ensure it is implemented. “States supporting the government of Syria, including Iran and Russia, which has recently begun military operations in Syria, cannot wash their hands of the mass crimes against humanity and war crimes being committed with their backing. Russia, whose patronage is essential for President Bashar al-Assad’s government, is in a unique position to convince the government to end this cruel and cowardly campaign of disappearances.” '