Human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the use of “large-scale” torture in prisons in Syria.
The rights group which interviewed 65 former detainees noted that the Syrian government had for decades “used torture as a means to crush their opponents” adding that “today, it is being carried out as part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against anyone suspected of opposing the government”.
Electric shock, scalding by hot water and rape were some of the forms of torture the prisoners were subjected to.
For decades, Syrian government forces have used torture as a means to crush their opponents. Today, it is being carried out as part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against anyone suspected of opposing the government
Amnesty International says the use of torture against the civilian population “amounts to crimes against humanity” adding that “those responsible for these heinous crimes must be brought to justice”.
“The international community, in particular Russia and the USA, which are co-chairing peace talks on Syria, must bring these abuses to the top of the agenda in their discussions with both the authorities and armed groups and press them to end the use of torture and other ill-treatment,” Amnesty’s Director for Middle East and North Africa prograame, Philip Luther said.
The rights group’s report also noted that an estimated 17,723 people have died in custody in Syria since the country’s crisis began in March 2011 with an average rate of more than 300 deaths recorded each month.
Majority of the survivors of torture told Amnesty International that their abuse would begin instantly upon their arrest and during transfers, even before they set foot in a detention center.
Anas Hamado, a former inmates of the Saydnaya Military Prison near Damascus said: “When they bring the food – it sounds like a battle. In every cell. They take out the head of the cell, or two others, to be beaten. You hear sounds – your heart drops to the floor. You begin to shake, you can’t control it.”
Another inmate who preferred to remain anonymous said:“When we were beaten in front of the cells, I had seen a lot of blood on the floor. There was a rancid and bloody smell.”
The torture and other ill-treatment in Saydnaya, the rights group said appeared to be part of a relentless effort to degrade, punish and humiliate prisoners.
The detainees said they were deprived of food and were forbidden from speaking or looking at the guards who regualrly humiliated and taunted them apparently just for the sake of it.
Omar S, a former detained was said to have described how on one occasion, a guard forced two men to strip naked and ordered one to rape the other, threatening that if he did not do it he would die.
Amnesty International says most of the survivors of torture and other ill-treatment have been physically or psychologically scarred by their ordeals.
The group is thus calling on the international community to ensure that torture survivors receive the medical and psychological treatment, as well as social support necessary for their rehabilitation.