On 1 December 2021, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) and the European Union co-hosted a webinar on ‘Arbitrary Detention of Children in Syria’. The purpose of the webinar was to give a platform to those who have directly suffered from this egregious human rights violation. The panel brought together survivors, international justice actors and civil society representatives to explore strategies for addressing the needs and supporting child detainees, their families and their communities in the pursuit of justice.
The webinar was attended by 58 actors working on the Syria crisis, comprising representatives from the international donor community, international justice and humanitarian sector, and Syrian civil society. Panelists Omar Alshogre, former detainee and Director for Detainee Affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force, Mahmoud Meemar, Coalition of the Families of Persons Kidnapped by ISIS-Da’esh, Hanny Megally, member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Sonia Khush, Syria Response Director for Save the Children, and Michelle Jarvis, the Deputy Head of the International Independent and Impartial Mechanism for Syria,
LAW’s Executive Director Antonia Mulvey chaired the webinar, with panelists exploring the profound impact of arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of children in formal and informal detention centers across Syria. The panelists also discussed the importance of investigating and documenting evidence from former child detainees to support justice and accountability efforts. Lara Scarpitta, Political Advisor to the Delegation of the European Union to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva added closing remarks emphasizing the need to release child detainees, amplify voices of survivors and urging the international community to find durable solutions.
Recommendations generated from the discussion include:
- Authorities within Syria must live up to human rights standards by recognizing that children should never be detained for the actions of their parents or detained out of fear of their future role within society. Children should only be detained as a last resort and, even then, for the least amount of time possible.
- The international community must press for the release of children who have been arbitrarily detained and find ways to increase pressure to access detention facilities with independent monitors.
- The international community must step up support for survivors and their families and invest in children and their well-being to avoid a ‘lost generation’.
- For children kidnapped by ISIS, there is a need to declassify documents and responsibly exhume mass graves. Prosecutorial authorities must investigate ISIS fighters and find ways to make legal processes more transparent and responsive to the needs of families.
- Originating countries must repatriate female nationals and their children from camps in Northeast Syria.
- For all actors working on the Syria crisis, amplify the voice of survivors and develop robust methodologies to fill gaps in documentation of crimes and violations against children.