Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kept in the dark – the murky world of enforced disappearances

Amnesty International

"For more than a year, 67-year-old Abd al-Akram al-Sakka has been missing in what amounts to an enforced disappearance – a crime under international law.

Despite desperate pleas from the elderly imam’s relatives, the Syrian authorities have not revealed any information about his whereabouts or the conditions of his detention.

In fact, they never even acknowledged his arrest – the only thing his loved ones can be sure of is that on 15 July 2011, around 20 members of Syria’s Air Force Intelligence arrived at his house in the Damascus suburb of Daraya and whisked him away.

The imam’s son-in-law Haytham Al Hamwi– who now lives in exile – recently told Amnesty International about his family’s anguish and the lack of information around al-Sakka’s disappearance since the Syrian uprising began in early 2011.

“Disappearance means that you don’t know anything about them, and even if you know anything – you are always worried that this information is not OK,” Al Hamwi said.

Last September, the Syrian authorities also detained his father Muhammad Yassin Al Hamwi, a shopkeeper, and his brother Muhammad Muhammad Al Hamwi in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance.

They were held incommunicado for five and six months, respectively, before being released earlier this year. During that time, their family did not know whether they were dead or alive. No charges were brought against them, but it is believed they were arrested for taking part in anti-government protests....."

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