‘Civilians disappearing’ as part of Syrian campaign of terror

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People around Syria are systematically vanishing without a trace as part of a widespread campaign of terror against civilians, a UN panel probing war crimes says.

The expert panel says it found “a consistent country-wide pattern” of Syrian security, armed forces and pro-government militia seizing people from mass arrests, house searches, checkpoints and hospitals, then making them disappear – and denying that they even exist.

The four experts reported yesterday that rebel groups such as the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant that control large parts of northern Syria also have begun seizing people and running secret prisons.

It said the opposition’s abductions of human rights advocates, journalists, activists, humanitarian workers, religious leaders and perceived supporters of President Bashar Assad’s government usually differ because the victims tend to be taken as hostages for ransom or prisoner exchanges, and their existence isn’t concealed. However in recent months the groups have also begun adopting the government’s practice of making people vanish.