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The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution to establish an independent body investigating the fate of over 130,000 missing persons from the Syrian war.

Gaining 83 votes for, 11 against, and 62 abstentions from the 193-member global body, the resolution responds to appeals from families who are missing loved ones. The resolution faced opposition from Syria, Russia, China, Belarus, North Korea, Cuba, and Iran, all of whom voted against it. Syria declared its refusal to cooperate with the newly formed entity.

Luxembourg initiated the resolution, highlighting the lack of progress made over 12 years of fighting in Syria to provide families with information regarding their missing relatives. The independent body aims to unveil the fate of the missing persons and offer support to victims, survivors, and the families affected. The resolution specifies that these parties should be represented within the newly established body, which will operate under principles of impartiality, transparency, “do no harm,” and source and information confidentiality.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is now tasked with presenting the new institution’s operational guidelines within 80 working days, following which he will need to establish and activate the body swiftly. New York-based Human Rights Watch stressed the need for the new institution to be adequately equipped to perform its duty. Louis Charbonneau, the UN Director for the organization, said, “UN member countries should ensure that this new institution has the staff and resources necessary to determine what happened to so many thousands of people who vanished during Syria’s 12 years of conflict. The people of Syria deserve no less.”

Syria’s ambassador Bassam Sabbagh criticized the resolution as “politicized,” arguing it displayed evident “interference in our internal affairs” and showcased the “hostile approach” of Western nations towards Syria. Despite urging for a “no” vote, he claimed that Syria had been addressing the issue of missing persons and had conducted “independent investigations” based on available resources and information.


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