SACD confirms 174 Rukban returnees arrested by Assad regime despite
Russian guarantees

Istanbul, 13 December 2019 – The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity can confirm that Syrian security services have arrested 174 people who returned from the Al-Rukban camp to the so-called IDP shelters in Homs.

Using our networks inside Homs, we can say that the rumours and reports that have appeared in recent days are true, and that the arrested individuals have been transferred to “terrorism courts” despite having previously received security clearances from the regime. The arrests raise urgent protection concerns and questions which need to be answered before any further returns are facilitated to Homs from Rukban, to ensure returns are safe and dignified, as guaranteed under international law.

Those arrested can be categorized in two groups:

  • Defectors and those who fled compulsory military service in the Assad’s military (including reserve forces). This group were handed to Assad’s military police in Al-Qaboun.
  • Youth who never reported for the compulsory military service. They were sent to prisons in Adra and to the Homs Central Prison.

From among the 174 taken from Abyada and Der Balba, the SACD can confirm the following names, which we have received permission to share: Mosa Alshlel, Mostafa Aldaas, Allaa Alzaal, Fares Alqas, Khaled Alkasab, Nadem Alsalama, Ahmad Alabdlah, Tarek Baejan, Fawaz Alrakad, Ebrahim Alkasham, Rakan Abore , Abd Alhade Alhankat, Fawaz Alshlel, Motlk Almotlk, Fawaz Abd Alkarem, Hasan Alnajm.

Most of those arrested come from Palmyra and the eastern countryside of Homs province.
It is crucially important to note that all the arrested youth and men received guarantees and commitments from the regime and its Russian allies to receive a “personal settlement” which would protect them from persecution and forced recruitment. This process has been taking place in ‘reconciliations’ across Assad-held parts of Syria and returnees from Rukban were forced to check their suitability for this process in the eyes of regime’s security services in advance of leaving the camp.

SACD has repeatedly warned about the dangers facing those forced to return from Rukban under Russian guarantees. We issued detailed, documented reports about the targeting of Rukban returnees by Assad’s security apparatus. This is a direct quote from one such report dated 30 August this year:

“We have repeatedly warned that for many, especially men and boys, this amounts to being sentenced to interrogation, forced recruitment, torture and death. And now the world is witnessing what we warned against: the displaced people from Rukban forced to move to Assad-held areas facing separation of men and boys from women and children, so that men and boys can be “interrogated”. Do we need to remind that the last time such separation of the displaced people happened under the UN watch was in the case of Srebrenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a terrifying parallel, the displaced from Rukban who have been remanded in Assad’s “IDP shelters” are facing harassment, arbitrary arrest, torture and forced conscription into the Assad regime army where Syrians are forced to kill other Syrians against their will. And in some cases death, as it has been reported from Bab Amr and Deir Balba.“