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UN votes to establish independent body to clarify fate of over 130,000 Syrians missing in conflict

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United Nations (UN) General Assembly approved a resolution on Thursday that will establish an independent body to determine what happened to more than 130,000 people missing as a result of the conflict in Syria.

The resolution, an important response to appeals by their families and loved ones, was adopted by the 193-member world body on a vote of 83-11 with 62 abstentions. Among those opposing the resolution was Syria, which said it will not cooperate with the new institution. Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran also voted no.

The resolution, spearheaded by Luxembourg, noted that after 12 years of fighting in Syria “little progress has been achieved in alleviating the suffering of families by providing answers as to the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons”.

It authorises the establishment of an Independent Institution of Missing Persons in the Syrian Arab Republic, under UN auspices, “to clarify the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons… and to provide adequate support to victims, survivors and the families of those missing”.

It said victims, survivors and the families of the missing should be represented in the new body, which will be guided by principles including “do no harm”, impartiality, transparency and the confidentiality of sources and information.

Under the resolution, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres must present terms of reference for the new institution within 80 working days and take steps to speedily establish the body and put it in operation.

It requests the UN chief to report on implementation of the resolution within 100 working days.

Syrian Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh called the resolution “politicised”, saying it clearly reflects “flagrant interference in our internal affairs” and provides new evidence of the “hostile approach” of the United States and other Western nations to his country.

Urging a “no” vote, he said Syria has addressed the issue of missing persons, processed all claims of disappearances submitted to law enforcement authorities and carried out “independent investigations in accordance with Syrian law and on the basis of available information and resources”.

File photo shows Syrians in a refugee camp for displaced people in Sarmada district, north of Idlib city, Syria. PHOTO: AP