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Qatar votes in favour of new UN body investigating fate of 100,000 missing persons in Syria

Syria’s Bashar Al Assad regime, Russia, Belarus, China, North Korea, Cuba and Iran were among those voting against UN resolution.

Qatar has voted in favour of a United Nations General Assembly resolution to create an independent body that investigates the fate of thousands of people who remain missing in Syria since the war broke out in 2011.

The resolution, which was passed on Thursday with 83 votes in favour, 11 against, and 62 abstentions, will “clarify the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons” in the country and “provide adequate support to victims, survivors, and the families of those missing.”

Today's #UN General Assembly vote establishing an international institution to uncover the fate of Syria's disappeared is a landmark moment. Our tireless work as victim and family associations has borne fruit.
Support Families for Freedom and stand for justice.

— Families for Freedom (@FamiliesSyria) June 29, 2023

Among the GCC countries, Qatar and Kuwait are the only two countries that voted in favour of the resolution. 

Bahrain,  Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates abstained from the vote.

Syria’s Bashar Al Assad regime was among those opposing the resolution, adding that the regime will not cooperate with the new institution.

Russia, China, Belarus, North Korea, Cuba and Iran also voted no.

The resolution calls for the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant parties to define the new organisation’s mandate in the next 80 days.

Over 130,000 people are documented missing and forcibly disappeared in Syria, with activists and human rights organisations estimating the number to be much higher. The perpetrator is the Bashar Al Assad regime, which is opposition and human rights groups also claim is responsible for the killing of an estimated 600,000 people in the country since 2011, including women and children.

“A much-needed initiative! Families have the right to know fate & whereabouts of loved ones, to help heal society as a whole,” the UN Human Rights Office said on Twitter.

Human Rights Watch said the new organisation needs to have the right tools at its disposal to do its job.

“UN member countries should ensure that this new institution has the staff and resources necessary to determine what happened to so many thousands of people who vanished during Syria’s 12 years of conflict,” Louis Charbonneau, the group’s UN director, said in a statement, adding that “the people of Syria deserve no less.”

Qatar closed its embassy in Syria in 2011 amid Assad’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests. The Gulf state was also the first to establish an embassy for the Syrian opposition in its capital Doha.

Qatar has on multiple occasions renewed its stance in supporting investigations into crimes committed against Syrians by the Assad regime since the revolution of 2011.

Qatar was among the few states to reject Bashar Al Assad’s reinstatement to the Arab League last month, reaffirming multiple times their staunch stance against normalisation.

Amir Tamim is said to have left the summit before the speech of Bashar Al Assad, his first since Syria’s membership was severed in 2011.