No matter how complex and religiously driven the conflict in Syria may seem, its basic constellation is this: A regime with powerful allies wages a war of annihilation against wide parts of its own population. How could it get to this point? And what is the very least we can do?
This paper draws on primary data collected from 15 semi-structured interviews with Syrian organisations and practitioners working on transitional justice. The interviews were conducted by the author via online communication (calls over Skype or WhatsApp) between March and June 2017. The interviewees were selected based on the relevance, access and availability of Syrian activists working on this topic. It is not clear how representative the views expressed here are, but the high level of agreement among interviewees on the subjects discussed suggests that the issues highlighted here merit additional attention from local and international actors working on this topic in Syria.
Over the past years, tens of thousands of men, women and children in Syria havee become subject to forced disappearances in Syria. All armed factions in Syria engage in arrests, abductions and human rights violations but none does so as systematcially as the Syrian regime. Despite its accession to the international convention against torture in 2004, conditions in regime prisons are excruciating. On July 12, the European Council for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Heinrich Boell Stiftung Berlin screened the film "Syria's Disappeared" in which survivors of Syrian prisons and relatives of some tortured to death speak out.
Many a time, they will reminisce about a pre-revolutionary Syria, albeit a romanticised version, from which they – due to a lack of knowledge, ignorance or quite consciously – omit that the country already was a rogue state at that time, characterised by arbitrary arrests, torture, oppression and discrimination.
It has been common to frequently come across assassination incidents in local Syrian news, which turned them into expected news. The daily killing and atrocities committed in Syria contributed to normalizing this phenomenon not only internationally but locally as well. However, the scale of these incidents and their significant impact on the local dynamics of the conflict make the assassination war in Syria stand out as an important issue that can’t be ignored.
Since February 26, a truce has largely prevailed in Syria. However, hardly any improvements to the humanitarian situation in the country can be observed to date. People continue to suffer starvation. That is part of the war strategy.