Syrian state running 27 torture sites, group says


SYRIA’S FOUR main military and intelligence agencies operate 27 torture centres across the country where detainees are beaten with cables and staves, burned, hanged from hooks, sexually assaulted and shocked with electric prods and wires, according to Human Rights Watch.

In an 81-page report, entitled Torture Archipelago and published yesterday by the New York-based group, the organisation cites testimony from some of the more than 200 men, women and children who received such treatment in detention.

“Since the beginning of anti- government protests in March 2011, Syrian authorities have subjected tens of thousands of people to arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment, and torture, using an extensive network of detention facilities, an archipelago of torture centres,” says the report, which details the centres on a map.

A list of these centres, some with agencies identified and commanding officers named, is included.

These centres are located in six regions: Damascus, Deraa, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Idlib. Human Rights Watch says the number of facilities could be greater than those mentioned in the report.

According to it, military, airforce, general intelligence, and the political security directorate are involved in the abuses.

They operate without co-ordination and oversight, says the report.

Detainees can be held for 60 days without judicial review in violation of the requirement of “international law that judicial review should take place ‘promptly’.”

Some victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had been held even longer.

Syrian suspects are being rounded up and held in temporary holding centres in stadiums, schools, and military bases until they can be dispatched to the appropriate facilities where conditions are harsh, involving “overcrowding, inadequate food, and routine denial of necessary medical assistance . . . and, in some cases, torture”.

The report documents “more than 20 different methods of torture” and said that victims reported they had been “subjected to several forms of torture, often inflicted with escalating levels of pain”.

A 31-year-old man from Idlib testified that his fingers were squeezed with pliers, staples were put in his fingers, chest, and ears, and he was hooked up to a car battery that delivered electric shocks.

An electric stun gun was applied to his genitals twice and he was tortured three times a day for three days.

Most of the victims were men between 18 and 35 years of age who were held for periods ranging from several days to several months in more than one facility.

Some interviewees said they had witnessed others being tortured and dying from abuse.

Human Rights Watch says that in the vast majority of cases, documented family members could not secure information about the whereabouts of detainees and they were not permitted contacts outside their prison, making such detentions “enforced disappearances”.

The organisation recommends that the UN Security Council demand that Syria release all detainees in accordance with the president Bashar al-Assad’s acceptance of the UN peace plan and grant access to detention facilities to human rights monitors.

The council should refer perpetrators to the International Criminal Court and impose sanctions on officials found to be implicated in torture.