Annual Report: Syria 2013

May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Syria 2013

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  • Brothers Ahmad and Yahia Ka'ake were arrested at an army checkpoint near Aleppo on 29 September. Days later, a relative located the body of Ahmad Ka'ake in a morgue; it had four bullet wounds. Yahia Ka'ake continued to be detained incommunicado.

Enforced disappearances

Government forces withheld information on the fate of hundreds, possibly thousands, of detainees held in connection with the conflict in conditions that amounted to enforced disappearance. The authorities also continued their failure to account for some 17,000 people who disappeared in Syrian custody since the late 1970s. They included hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese nationals who were arrested in Syria or abducted from Lebanon by Syrian forces or by Lebanese and Palestinian militias. However, the release of Lebanese national Yacoub Chamoun almost 27 years after he went missing reinforced hopes among some families that their loved ones may still be alive.

  • Activist Zilal Ibrahim al-Salhani disappeared after security forces arrested her at her home in Aleppo on 28 July. Her fate was still unknown at the end of the year.


The government took no steps to investigate the numerous allegations against their forces or to bring anyone to justice for alleged gross human rights violations, crimes against humanity or war crimes. The government maintained a regime of impunity, including legislation giving members of the security forces effective immunity for unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. Nor did the authorities take any steps to investigate and hold to account those responsible for gross violations committed in the past, including thousands of enforced disappearances and the killing of prisoners at Saydnaya prison in 2008 and Tadmur prison in June 1980. In February, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry gave the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a sealed list of senior officials whom it said should be investigated for crimes against humanity.

Armed opposition groups also failed to respect international humanitarian law, including by failing to prevent war crimes such as torture and the summary killings of captives.

Refugees and internally displaced people

Government forces launched frequent, indiscriminate air strikes against opposition-controlled areas, prompting almost all residents of these areas to flee. Others, particularly those from minority groups, also fled their homes fearing attacks from armed opposition groups. Many camped in the countryside or sought refuge in caves; others went to live with relatives or left the country. Refugees from elsewhere resident in Syria, including Palestinian refugees, faced particular difficulties in accessing safety.

In December, the UN estimated that over 2 million people in Syria were internally displaced as a result of the conflict, requiring humanitarian assistance. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said almost 600,000 Syrians had been registered or were awaiting registration as refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and North Africa, although the total number of those who had fled Syria was believed to be higher. Neighbouring countries allowed thousands of refugees from Syria access to safety and assistance on their territories; however, in mid-August, Turkey and Iraq curtailed entry, in violation of international law. By the end of the year, thousands of people were living in camps beside the border with Turkey in dire conditions.

Death penalty

The death penalty remained in force. It was not possible to confirm whether any death sentences were imposed or if executions were carried out.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates undertook numerous visits to Syria and to neighbouring countries to carry out human rights research on Syria.
  • “I wanted to die”: Syria's torture survivors speak out (MDE 24/016/2012)
  • Deadly reprisals: Deliberate killings and other abuses by Syria's armed forces (MDE 24/041/2012)
  • All-out repression: Purging dissent in Aleppo, Syria (MDE 24/061/2012)
  • Syria: Civilians bearing the brunt in the battle for Aleppo (MDE 24/073/2012)
  • Syria: Indiscriminate attacks terrorize and displace civilians (MDE 24/078/2012)