Daily Israel Report

Assad's Government Tortured Citizens, Says HRW

Syrians were arbitrarily detained and tortured by government forces in security buildings in northern Syria, says Human Rights Watch.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 5/18/2013, 12:13 AM

President Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad
AFP photo

Syrians were arbitrarily detained and tortured by government forces in security buildings in northern Syria, Human Rights Watch said on Friday, the DPA news agency reports.

The organization’s researchers found documents and physical evidence of the abuse when they visited the State Security and Military Intelligence facilities in al-Raqqa in late April, after local armed opposition groups took control of the city, the New York-based rights group said.

“The documents, prison cells, interrogation rooms and torture devices we saw in the Government’s security facilities are consistent with the torture former detainees have described to us since the beginning of the uprising in Syria,” the group’s deputy Middle East director, Nadim Houry, said, according to DPA.

The charges of Government abuses came the same week that a video was released showing three men being executed in a public square in al-Raqqa, now reportedly under the control of al-Nusra Front and other Islamist militants.

Summary executions and other atrocities have been widely reported on both sides in Syria’s 26-month civil war.

In al-Raqqa, Human Rights Watch said it found rooms that appeared to be detention cells and saw a torture device that former detainees said was used to immobilize and stretch or bend limbs.

The rights group called on the authorities now in control of the city to work with the opposition and neutral experts to collect evidence from the site so that those responsible could be brought to justice, reported DPA.

The group previously said torture by the Syrian regime was a crime against humanity that should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

This week, a video posted to the internet showed that the other side in the conflict, the rebels, was committing atrocities just like Assad’s soldiers.

The extremely disturbing video showed one of the rebels eating the heart of a dead rival. Some in Israel saw the video as further proof that the U.S. is pursuing a wrongheaded Middle East policy.

Meanwhile, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Thursday that three peacekeepers were briefly seized on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the Al Arabiya network reported.

Unknown gunmen held the peacekeepers on Thursday for five hours before releasing them unharmed. The report did not give the nationalities of the peacekeepers.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that despite Israel’s objection, his country would go ahead with selling S-300 advanced missile systems to Syria.

Speaking to the Lebanese-based Al-Mayadeen television, which is close to the Hizbullah terror group, Lavrov said that Russia is “committed to the agreements” signed with Syria regarding the advanced missiles and will “fully carry them out.”

As he has said previously, Lavrov reiterated that Russia does not intend to sign new agreements with Syria for the sale of weapons, but explained that since the S-300 deal was signed before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, Russia intends to carry it out as planned.

"We have no intention of breaking international law," Lavrov explained. "However, we do not want our reputation as reliable suppliers of weapons to be affected."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged Putin in Sochi on Tuesday not to follow through with Russia's decision to ship the powerful surface-to-air missiles, that can take out fighter jets.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)