A report released today by Human Rights Watch reveals the existence of 27 detention facilities in Syria, where prisoners are brutally tortured and forced to endure unspeakable horror. Former detainees and defectors have identified the locations, torture methods used and even some of the commanders who ran the torture centers.
Human Rights Watch argues the systemic patterns of ill-treatment and torture in the Syrian detention centers indicate a clear-cut case of a crime against humanity.
The 81-page report titled, “Torture Archipelago: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture and Enforced Disappearances in Syria’s Underground Prisons Since March 2011,” was compiled from over 200 interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch since the uprisings in Syria began.
“The intelligence agencies are running an archipelago of torture centers scattered across the country,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By publishing their locations, describing the torture methods, and identifying those in charge we are putting those responsible on notice that they will have to answer for these horrific crimes.”
Nearly all the former detainees who spoke with Human Rights Watch said they had been tortured or witnessed the torture of others while imprisoned. According to the report, interrogators, guards and officers used a variety of torture methods including prolonged beatings with batons and cables, holding detainees in painful stress positions for long periods of time, using electricity, burning with acid, sexual assault, the pulling off of fingernails and mock execution to provoke psychological distress.
Human Rights Watch was able to identify more than 20 individual torture methods used at the Syrian detention centers.
A 31-year-old former detainee who was held in Idlib governorate in June described his experience at the facility — It is absolutely horrifying:
They forced me to undress. Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful. They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days.
Even worse, some of the torture victims interviewed reportedly included woman, children and the elderly. However, the majority of the victims were young men aged 18 to 35.
Human Rights Watch released a video that include some of the interviews with former detainees of Syria’s torture centers. It can be seen, below:
Human Rights Watch has been able to identify Syria’s most brutal torture centers, which are run by the nation’s four main intelligence agencies, known collectively as the “mukhabarat”:
- The Department of Military Intelligence (Shu`bat al-Mukhabarat al-`Askariyya)
- The Political Security Directorate (Idarat al-Amn al-Siyasi)
- The General Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-`Amma)
- The Air Force Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya)
Further, some of the witnesses interviewed said the conditions of the detention centers were torturous on their own merit. They cited extreme overcrowding, inadequate food and a regular lack of medical assistance. Syrian officials obviously have shown no regard to legal standards required in the country’s detention facilities.
Human Rights Watch has called for the U.N. Security Council to bring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and implement sanctions to curb the ongoing abuse.
“The reach and inhumanity of this network of torture centers are truly horrific,” Solvang said. “Russia should not be holding its protective hand over the people who are responsible for this.”
The United Nations has estimated more than 10,000 people have been killed since the uprisings in Syria began roughly 16 months ago.
The Human Rights Watch report revealed that tens of thousands of people had been detained by the previously mentioned four main intelligence agencies.
The Daily Mail reports the documented cases of tortures gathered by the group match the account of a former Syrian intelligence officer who told CNN how he was frequently ordered to torture prisoners.
“Whatever we wanted the prisoner to say, he would say. We took their fingernails out with pliers and we made them eat them. We made them suck their own blood off the floor,” the former officer told CNN.