12 May 2015

Syria: Enforced Disappearance of Husband & Wife in Homs Governorate for over 2 Years

On 23 April 2015, Alkarama sent a communication to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) concerning the case of Nazir Idris and Sabah Kabakibo, a married couple from the district of Khaldiyeh in Homs and parents of four children, who disappeared after their arrest at a checkpoint of the Air Force Intelligence by the Mediterranean coast over two years ago.

On 29 December 2012, 57-year-old assistant engineer, Nazir and his wife, Sabah, a 55-year-old street vendor were driving back from selling clothes in the nearby village of Al Areda in the Talkalakh district in northwestern Syria when they were arrested by three members of the Air Force Intelligence driving a white Kia Rio at a checkpoint located on the Al Huwash bridge, on the main road between Homs and Tartus. According to eye witnesses, the three men dragged them out of their car and forced them into the trunk of their own car, before driving away in both cars.

Alerted, their son and relatives tried to mediate with people close to the regime and undertook several actions to get more information on them, including contacting the governor of Homs and having the arrest reviewed by the National Reconciliation Committee established for the purpose of trying to reconcile warring groups in the province of Homs, without any success.

Over a year after their arrest, a former prisoner reported that Nazir was alive by and was being tried before a field court in the Al Qaboun neighbourhood, northeast of Damascus. "While the Syrian authorities argue that these field courts only prosecute people for 'security reasons' or to 'counter armed groups', they are known to be used as a means to punish peaceful dissent and to target not only human rights defenders but also humanitarian workers," says Inès Osman, Legal Officer for the Mashreq region at Alkarama. "And military field courts systematically deny defendants their basic fair trial rights."

Individuals tried and convicted by the Al-Qaboun military field court are generally transferred to Sednaya prison near Damascus or Tadmor military prison, a former military base in the desert in eastern Syria, 200 km northeast of Damascus. Earlier this year, at the beginning of April, Nazir was in fact seen by a former prisoner at the Military Police premises in Al-Qaboun. As to Sabah, there has been no news of her since their arrest.

Alkarama is extremely concerned that both Nazir and Sabah may be tortured during their incommunicado detention. Moreover, should Nazir be prosecuted by the Al-Qaboun military field court and subsequently transferred to either Sednaya or Tadmor prison, there is an even higher risk that he will be tortured since torture is known to be routinely practices in both prisons. In Sednaya, prisoners are welcomed with insults, sticks and thick wires. Every day, a guard lists the names of at least 10 prisoners who will be subjected to severe torture, leading to death in many cases.

Torture techniques used in the prison include the hanging of prisoners by their wrists, electrocution and "falaqa", which refers to beating on the soles of the prisoners' feet with sticks and whips to the point of swelling and bleeding, making it impossible for them to walk. Tadmor was the scene of the most brutal massacres in 1980, when between 500-800 inmates were executed. Today, the Syrian authorities refuse to allow human rights groups to enter the military prison, for which details are scarce and reliant solely on the testimonies of survivors, which are equally rare.

In light of this information, Alkarama referred the cases of Nazir Idris and Sabah Kabakibo to Ariel Dulitzky, Chairman of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) to call upon the Syrian authorities to release them immediately or at the very least to put them under the protection of the law and authorise their family to visit them. The Syrian authorities must put an end to the practice of enforced disappearances, in accordance both with their obligations under international law and with the dignity of each human being, and launch an impartial investigation into all cases reported.

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Dir: +41 22 734 1007 Ext: 810)

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