Independent UN institution in Geneva to investigate the fate of missing persons in Syria

Press releases, 25.04.2024

On 24 April 2024, the UN General Assembly approved funding for an independent institution to investigate cases of missing persons in Syria, to be based in Geneva. As part of its peace policy, Switzerland is firmly committed to clarifying the fate of detained and missing persons. In doing so, it is making a significant contribution to dealing with the past, which is central to peace processes – including in Syria. Switzerland therefore welcomes the international community's decision for the institution to begin its work in International Geneva in 2024.

On 24 April 2024, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution enabling the funding of an independent institution based in Geneva to investigate cases of missing persons in Syria. The establishment of the institution itself was decided by the UN General Assembly almost a year ago. Since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, the number of missing persons has not yet been systematically and comprehensively documented. Syrian organisations have documented more than 100,000 individual cases of disappearances. This has drastic consequences for affected families and negatively impacts peace efforts, reconciliation and social stability.

The new UN institution in Geneva, which is due to commence its work this year, aims to clarify the fate of all missing persons in Syria. The institution will proceed according to humanitarian principles and investigate missing persons cases in all regions of Syria. This will make a significant contribution to dealing with the past and achieving reconciliation, and can therefore also help the peace process.

The search for missing persons and their identification is a priority in the programmes that Switzerland undertakes as part of its peace policy and its commitment to people affected by armed conflict. The Federal Council's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Strategy 2021–24 also includes provisions to support relatives of missing persons in Syria. Switzerland's efforts on the ground include support for family and victims' associations. Switzerland also collaborates closely with partner organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to strengthen their activities at the local level.

Following the decision to establish the institution last year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres chose Geneva as its headquarters. In the lead-up to this decision, Switzerland supported the necessary work of the UN secretary-general and the OHCHR last year. It facilitated consultation meetings with international expert organisations, Syrian families and civil society organisations. The needs of all parties involved were identified for the work of the new institution.

Further information:

Dealing with the past

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