Remarks Before the Vote on a UN General Assembly Resolution on the Independent Institution on Missing Persons in the Syrian Arab Republic

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 29, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. We thank Luxembourg, the core group, and all of the co-sponsors for this important initiative.

More than 12 years ago, the Syrian people peacefully rose up to demand their freedom and dignity, calling for Damascus to respect their inalienable rights and to stop human rights violations. Yet, this conflict continues, with devastating consequences for the Syrian people. This conflict has also led to one of the largest displacement crises since World War II, with millions of Syrians displaced from their homes inside Syria, or seeking refuge in neighboring countries or around the globe.

Today, there are estimates that more than 155,000 Syrians are missing, many of them unjustly detained or disappeared by parties to the conflict in Syria. These include individuals believed to be missing at the hands of Da’esh and other terrorist groups. Nearly every Syrian family is affected by this issue. Despite concerted efforts and significant diplomacy in the past 12 years, there has been limited progress on this protracted issue.

Confirming the fate and whereabouts of the missing, securing their release, and returning the remains of those who perished to their families is a moral and humanitarian imperative. People deserve to know the truth about their missing loved ones. This is essential to promoting lasting stability, durable peace, and a sustainable political solution to the Syrian conflict.

Syrian family associations and victim groups have been calling for the international community to act. This is why the UN Secretary-General and many others have endorsed the new institution proposed in this resolution. It rightly addresses an urgent, unmet need that has haunted Syrian families and survivors for years. A brave representative of one of the Syrian victim and survivor associations once shared with us that “the cost of waiting is unmatched and unimaginable.”

Ahead of today’s vote, many Syrians have asked us to remember who this institution seeks to defend – the humans missing and detained with a full life yet to live. They are not statistics: they are spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, colleagues. As their harrowing testimonies show, we must deliver long-overdue answers to the victims and their families who deserve our support.

This resolution is humanitarian in nature. It is focused on all missing Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation. The core group and the UN have sought to engage with Damascus on this effort, and they were rebuffed. We hope all parties to the conflict will cooperate with this body and release all unjustly detained people, clarify the fate of those who are missing, and return the remains of those who have perished to their families. The core group led an inclusive and transparent negotiation, and sought to engage all UN member states, including Syria. They tried to engage Damascus on this effort several times and at different levels, and Damascus chose not to engage.

Even with limited or no initial cooperation from Damascus, we believe this institution will make meaningful progress. But until that happens – for all Syrian victims, survivors, and families – we must do everything in our power to advance the right to truth. That’s why the United States strongly supports this resolution. We urge Member States to stand with the many Syrian victims and their families and support this resolution by voting “yes”.

Thank you, Mr. President.