Amnesty denounces abuse in Syrian jails

Amnesty International says Syrian authorities are committing torture on a "massive scale" in government prisons.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Syrian regime forces
Syrian regime forces

Syrian authorities are committing torture on a "massive scale" in government prisons including beatings, electric shocks, rape and psychological abuse that amount to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said in a new report late on Wednesday.

More than 17,700 people are estimated to have died in custody in Syria since the country's conflict began in March 2011, an average of more than 300 each month, the watchdog said, according to AFP.

Anyone seen as an opponent of the government is at risk of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance and death in custody, according to Amnesty.

The organization noted the report was based on interviews with 65 torture survivors, mostly civilians, who described "appalling abuse and inhuman conditions" in intelligence agency detention centers and the Saydnaya Military Prison near Damascus.

Most described witnessing at least one, if not several, deaths in custody, Amnesty said.

Detainees are frequently subjected to a beating, known as a "welcome party", after their arrival at a prison by guards using tools such as silicone bars or hoses.

"They had to break us; they treated us like animals. They wanted people to be as inhuman as possible," according to a former detainee identified as Samer, who Amnesty said was arrested while transporting humanitarian supplies.

"I didn't see anyone die but I saw the blood, it was like a river," he said.

Omar S, who was a 17-year-old high-school student at the time of his arrest in 2012 after taking part in demonstrations, said the detainees were asked upon their arrival if they were ill.

"It felt like the purpose was death, some form of natural selection – to get rid of the weak as soon as they arrive," he said.

"They first asked my friend and he said, 'Yes, I have breathing problems – I have asthma.' They started beating him until he died, right there in front of me."

The rights group said it had documented cases of rape and sexual violence against both men and women.

As well, access to food, water and sanitation facilities is often severely restricted in regime prisons and infestations of scabies and lice thrive along with diseases, according to the report.

Amnesty urged world powers, in particular Russia and the United States, to pressure the Syrian authorities and armed groups to end the use of torture and other ill-treatment.

Previous Amnesty reports have found that it is not only the Syrian regime is guilty of crimes. Last month, the organization determined that Islamist rebels and jihadists in Syria are guilty of war crimes.

The London-based rights group named five Syrian anti-regime factions operating in northern Syria: Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, hardliner Ahrar al-Sham, Nureddin Zinki, the Levant Front and Division 16.

The groups have detained and tortured lawyers, journalists,and children – among others – for criticizing them, committing acts seen as immoral, or being minorities, the report said.

AFP contributed to this report.