Syria: UN expert urges States to ‘save their boys’ caught up in ISIL prison attack

Geneva, January 25, 2022.-  A UN human rights expert today expressed serious concerns for the welfare of close to 700 children held at Al-Sina’a/Ghuwayran prison in Al-Hasakeh in northeast Syria, the scene of a deadly ISIL jailbreak, and called on States to urgently repatriate all their children detained in the country.

“Boys as young as 12 are living in fear for their lives amid the chaos and carnage in the jail,” said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism. “They are tragically being neglected by the own countries through no fault of their own except they were born to individuals allegedly linked or associated with designated terrorist groups.

“The treatment of hundreds of boys who have been detained in grotesque prison conditions is an affront to the dignity of the child and the right of every child to be treated with dignity,” she added. “Their lives in the prison have always been at risk”.

Reports from the prison, which holds some 5,000 individuals allegedly associated to ISIL, say that close to 300 people – mostly detainees – have been killed in days of fighting in and around the prison run by Kurdish forces backed by the Coalition. The attempted jailbreak began with two car bomb attacks last Thursday.


“The abject refusal of States to repatriate their children is a contributory factor in the security and human rights morass that has ignited in Al-Hasakeh in recent days,” said Ni Aoláin, who last year identified 57 States with nationals held in Syria’s camps.

“Their failure to repatriate these children, who should rightly be considered victims of terrorism and as children in need of protection under international law, beggars belief.

“Many of these boys, forcibly separated from their mothers and family member in recent years, have been denied their most fundamental human rights their entire lives.

“They have been held arbitrarily and never participated in any legal process that would justify depriving them of their liberty, and in conditions that constitute torture, cruel and degrading treatment under international law.

“Treating boys as a distinct class, refusing to recognize in practice their rights as children is a form of gender discrimination that has had horrific consequences for these children now caught up in the violent confrontation at Al-Hasakeh prison.”

Ni Aoláin called on all States and other actors engaged in northeast Syria to ensure the protection of civilians, and for those involved in regaining control of the prison to ensure the protection of children held there and to prevent further harm occurring to them.

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