Rights abuse allegations as displaced Syrians head to gov’t areas

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Allegations of torture and mistreatment by Syrian forces have surfaced as folks within the besieged Rukban camp alongside the border with Jordan are moved to government-controlled areas.

The United Nations, in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), has commenced the switch of displaced Syrians residing within the determined Rukban camp to regime-ruled Homs, the place they face the danger of human rights violations, critics say.

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While the operation is predicated on voluntary registration for individuals who want to go away the camp, the Syrian Association for Citizen’s Dignity (SACD) mentioned it was “saddened” by the UN’s involvement within the transfers.

SACD spokeswoman Haya Atassi advised Al Jazeera the organisation is totally towards any makes an attempt to ship Syrians again to regime areas due to the dearth of security provisions.

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“We are surprised the UN is involved in such activities in areas which are really not safe at all,” Atassi mentioned. “The Syrian regime is not trustworthy. We can’t trust the regime with these people.”

The Syrian authorities with the help of its Russian ally has blocked support into the camp since September 2019, forcing some 21,000 folks to depart the determined scenario in Rukban.

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The estimated remaining 12,000 individuals are left with subsequent to no meals or water and an absence of sanitation within the camp.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokeswoman Danielle Moylan, 88 people have registered to depart the camp as a part of the UN-supported mission.

“On September 11, a convoy of five trucks entered Rukban with the sole purpose to support these registered families to voluntarily leave Rukban with their belongings,” Moylan advised Al Jazeera in an announcement.

“However, while inside Rukban a small group of individuals obstructed the convoy and assaulted a driver. As a result, the mission was cancelled and the convoy immediately departed Rukban.”

‘Criminal regime’

A 28-year-old Rukban camp resident, who requested to be recognized by his initials IA, advised Al Jazeera there have been many Syrians protesting on the gates of the camp towards the entry of switch vans.

“I am one of those people who would never return back to areas under [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s control, no matter how bad my situation gets,” IA, initially from al-Qaryateen village in jap suburbs of Homs, mentioned.

“I will never return to an area ruled by the criminal regime who still kills civilians and treats them brutally.”

Rukban lies in an arid “no-man’s land” between the border of Syria and Jordan, near the US army base al-Tanf.

The majority of the displaced Syrians in Rukban fled from the armed group ISIL (ISIS) when it managed Raqqa in 2014, and as soon as Jordan stopped accepting refugees into the nation in 2016 it turned a de facto camp.

Syrian troopers have a good time after they defected and joined anti-government protesters in Homs province [File: AP Photo]

Living within the camp since 2015, IA defined the circumstances in Rukban couldn’t get any worse due to the blockade of support. On some days, he, his spouse, and three daughters don’t get something to eat, and customarily, there’s a scarcity of fundamental gadgets.

“For example, today we ate rice with some yoghurt on the side, and we thank God for that,” IA mentioned.

Returnees intentionally focused

The 1000’s who’ve already left the camp had been despatched to “transition centres” arrange by the federal government in Homs, although they extra resemble detention services the place individuals are interrogated and generally forcibly disappeared.

Amnesty International just lately documented that among the returnees had been transferred to intelligence centres the place they had been tortured.

In its newest analysis on human rights violations in Syria, Amnesty mentioned Syrian safety officers detained 10 people who returned from Rukban camp, and three had been “subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, and two were forcibly disappeared”.

SACD additionally documented the arrest of 174 individuals who had been despatched to “terrorism” courts following their transit from Rukban to the Homs centres, regardless of Russian and Syrian authorities security ensures.

As Atassi from SACD identified, the Syrian regime “really enjoys humiliating” opposition areas and civilians beforehand important of it.

“We think the UN in Syria is failing to properly inform Syrians of the situation and their activities in returning Syrians,” Atassi mentioned.

“The research shows a pattern with which the regime treats people coming back from Rukban. These people are not coming back to their homes, they’re going to their death.”

‘Alive or not’

However, the UN says it’s making certain people have entry to info enabling them to make an knowledgeable determination on the move.

“The UN continues to advocate to all parties in Syria to ensure all civilians are afforded their rights, and that any returns are fully informed, voluntary, and dignified,” Moylan mentioned.

IA mentioned he’s at an elevated threat of being detained if he left Rukban as a result of he joined “the revolution” in 2011 and protested towards al-Assad’s authorities.

“Many of our friends who returned from Rukban were actually detained and until this day, no one knows anything about them,” IA mentioned.

“Some were taken to Sednaya prison and it is still unknown whether they will come out alive or not,” IA added, referring to the Syrian authorities army jail recognized for its torture and execution of 1000’s of Syrians.

The UN mentioned it was conscious of stories, together with the current Amnesty analysis, on detentions and abuse of people who returned to government-controlled areas.

Moylan mentioned the UN continues to make each effort to independently confirm stories and to observe up with Syrian officers.

“It remains the UN’s position that conditions in Syria are not conducive for large-scale, organized returns,” Moylan mentioned. “The UN is not in a position to make security guarantees and has not made any such guarantees to people living in Rukban.”

There are not any follow-up mechanisms for the UN to evaluate the destiny of individuals they assisted in leaving Rukban and entry to the centres are blocked by Syrian authorities.

“The UN at this point in time have the responsibility to inform people that it is not safe to return, rather than facilitating their return,” Atassi mentioned.

“When you’re left between two choices – of either staying in a camp and dying from starvation or cold, or going to Assad detention centres and dying under torture – they choose the lesser evil,” Atassi mentioned.

IA expressed his curiosity in returning to Homs along with his household, “but not with the presence of killers and criminals”.

“Homs is very dear to our hearts. It is the most beautiful city, but without Assad.”

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