Arrests in South-West Syria – June 2018 – November 2020
A total of 1348 people have been arrested in south-west Syria since the 2018 settlement agreement, including the arbitrary arrests of 628 civilians, 375 former opposition members and 60 civil workers. Of these arbitrary detentions, 37 have been women, and at least 5 have had their young children detained with them. From January-November 2020, there were 211 arbitrary arrests, the majority of them former opposition, followed by civilians. While the regime scaled back its arbitrary arrest campaigns targeting civilians due to community outrage, it has aggressively targeted former opposition members, not only for arrests, but also assassinations. In contrast, as ISIS activity has significantly increased over this past year, they account for a negligible number of the regime’s arrests and almost one-third of the ISIS members arrested in 2020 were released.
- Arbitrary Arrests Numbers: Since the regime’s takeover of south-west Syria, a total of 1348 people have been arbitrarily arrested, including 211 arrests during 2020. Of the total arrests since 2018’s settlement agreement, 628 are civilians, 375 are former armed opposition, 60 are from civil society organizations, 31 are from extremist groups (e.g. HTS, Ahrar al-Sham) and 254 are from ISIS.
- Arrested, Released, Missing, Tortured: Of the total number arrested since July 2018, 880 remain arbitrarily detained, 383 were released, 80 were killed in prison, and 5 are still missing.
- Civil Society Arrests: Over 2020, 82 civilians have been arbitrarily arrested, and most of them are still being held in detention. A growing number of the arrests have been directly related to the country’s economic crisis, with the regime arresting those working in money exchange offices and charging up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for their release. There were also a number of arrests in Daraa related to accusations of illegally selling wheat in October 2020 as the country faced a severe bread crisis.
- Former Opposition Detentions: Throughout 2019 and 2020, former armed opposition members have been the most targeted group for arbitrary arrest by the regime, despite the “settlement of status” process. Of 375 former opposition members arrested since July 2018, more than 80% held “settlement of status” papers. A number of former opposition members who turned themselves in to the regime following presidential amnesties were arbitrarily arrested, detained and died in prison.
- Party Conducting Arrests: The regime’s Military Intelligence is responsible for 46% of arbitrary arrests & Air Force Intelligence is responsible for 23% of the total arrests.
- ISIS: In 2020, only 19 ISIS members have been arrested to date, in spite of a significant increase in ISIS activity – including attacks and assassinations – throughout south Syria. Since 2018, 36% of all arrested ISIS members have been released by the regime.
- Women Detainees: Since July 2018, 37 women have been arbitrarily arrested, the majority of them civilians. There are 5 documented cases of women being arrested with their young children. Some of these women have been targeted for being family members of former opposition members. In other cases, these women have been arrested while searching for information on detained family members from regime intelligence branches.
- Arrests Locations: The most widespread arrests campaign in 2020 was in As-Sanamayn following the regime’s offensive on the area in March 2020. Civilians and former opposition members also continue to be targeted in former opposition strongholds. More than 300 individuals of the total number arbitrarily arrested have been detained outside of the south-west, mainly in Damascus.