Syria: New report finds systemic and widespread torture and ill-treatment in detention
Human Rights Watch
14 March 2012
People caught up in the massive wave of arrests in the wake of the Syrian uprising have been thrust into a nightmarish world of systemic torture, a new report by Amnesty International says today. The scale of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria has risen to a level not witnessed for years and is reminiscent of the dark era of the 1970s and 1980s.
Released a day before the one-year anniversary of the start of mass protests in Syria, ‘I wanted to die’: Syria’s torture survivors speak out documents 31 methods of torture or other ill-treatment by security forces, army and pro-government armed shabiha gangs, described by witnesses or victims to Amnesty International researchers in Jordan in February 2012. (…)
(…) Patterns of torture
Amnesty International said that torture and other ill-treatment of detainees generally followed a set pattern. Many victims said beating began on arrest, then they were beaten severely - including with sticks, rifle butts, whips and fists, braided cables - on arrival at detention centres, a practice sometimes called the ‘haflet al-istiqbal’ or ‘reception’. (…)
But the testimonies given to Amnesty International indicate that detainees are at most risk when being interrogated. (…) Amnesty International said it had observed an increase in the reported use of shabeh - where the victim is suspended, from a raised hook, handle or door frame, or by manacled wrists, so that the feet hang just above the ground or so the tips of toes touch the floor. The individual is then often beaten. (…)
Electric shock torture appears to be widely used in interrogations. Former detainees described three methods: dousing the victim or cell floor with water, then electro-shocking the victim through the water; the “electric chair”, where electrodes are connected to parts of the body; and the use of electric prods. (…)
(…) Crimes against humanity
Amnesty International said that the testimonies of torture survivors presented yet more evidence of crimes against humanity in Syria.
The organization has repeatedly called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but political factors have so far prevented this happening, with Russia and China twice blocking weakened UN Security Council draft resolutions that made no reference to the ICC.
In light of the failure to secure an ICC referral, Amnesty International said it wanted to see the UN Human Rights Council extend the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and reinforce its capacity to monitor, document and report, with a view to eventual prosecutions of those responsible for crimes under international law and other gross violations of human rights.
The organization also said it wanted to see the international community accepting its shared responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity in their national courts - in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty - and called for the formation of joint international investigation and prosecution teams to improve the chances of arrest. (…)