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Syria executes, tortures thousands at military prison — Amnesty

By Reuters - Feb 07,2017 - Last updated at Feb 07,2017

Smoke rises after warplanes reportedly belonging to regime forces carried out air strikes in a marketplace and a settlement in Arbin town of Eastern Ghouta region in Damascus, Syria, on Tuesday (Anadolu Agency photo)

BEIRUT/GENEVA — The Syrian government executed up to 13,000 prisoners in mass hangings and carried out systematic torture at a military jail near Damascus, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Amnesty said the executions took place between 2011 and 2015, but were probably still being carried out and amounted to war crimes. It called for a further investigation by the United Nations, which produced a report last year with similar accusations also based on extensive witness testimonies.

Syria's government and President Bashar Al-Assad have rejected similar reports in the past of torture and extrajudicial killings in a civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

The Amnesty report said an average of 20-50 people were hanged each week at the Sednaya Military Prison north of Damascus. Between 5,000 and 13,000 people were executed at Sednaya in the four years after a popular uprising descended into civil war, it said.

"The victims are overwhelmingly civilians who are thought to oppose the government," the report said.

"Many other detainees at Sednaya Military Prison have been killed after being repeatedly tortured and systematically deprived of food, water, medicine and medical care."

The prisoners, who included former military personnel suspected of disloyalty and people involved in unrest, underwent sham trials before military courts and were sometimes forced to make confessions under torture, Amnesty said.

 

Secrecy

 

The executions were carried out secretly and those killed were buried in mass graves outside the capital, with families not informed of their fate, it said.

The report was based on interviews with 84 witnesses including former guards and officials, detainees, judges and lawyers, as well as experts.

It followed a report issued a year ago by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, whose war crimes investigators said they had documented a high number of deaths in Sednaya Military Prison.

“Amnesty’s findings are almost completely in-line with our ‘Death in Detention’ paper,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN panel, told Reuters.

“We mentioned the executions in Sednaya and have extensive details on the systematic details of the regular ceremonies they have to conduct hangings in front of an audience of public officials. It is one of the clearest instances of a systematic practice that we had and based some of the key findings upon.”

The foreign ministers of Britain and France decried Amnesty’s findings. Boris Johnson tweeted: “Sickened by reports from Amnesty International on executions in Syria. Assad responsible for so many deaths and has no future as leader.”

“@Amnesty has documented the horror in the prisons of the Syrian regime. This barbarity cannot be the future of Syria,” said France’s Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited selected government-run detention facilities since 2011, but its confidential findings are only shared with Syrian authorities.

“We only visit central prisons, which are under the Ministry of Interior,” ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said.

 

The ICRC has systematically requested “access to all detainees arrested by all parties to the conflict”, she added.

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Comments

THE MAN FROM THE MARS GOT THIS ALL WRONG NEVER MIND THE FACT THAT THIS CAN NEVER BE COMPARED TO NAZI WAR CRIME. I THINK THAT IT IS AN INSULT TO COMPARE APPLES AND ORANGES BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. IN ADDITION , I MUST ALSO REMIND WRITER THAT BOTH THE OPPOSITION AND THE GOVERNMENT SIDES DID JUST THE SAME THING IF IT IS TRUE THAT ASSAD FORCES DID THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE. ANOTHER QUESTION IS WHY ARE THESE COMMING OUT NOW AND NOT LAST YEAR OR BEFORE THEN?. IS BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS NOW SEEN AN OPENING TO CREATE MORE TESION IN THE REGION AND GET FRIEND WHO HAS NOT SEEN ANY MEANS TO MAKE WARS IN THE REGION THAT THEY DID NOT LIKE. THERE IS SOMETHING TO THIS BECAUSE OF THE TIMING AND SOURCES NEVER MIND THE FACT THAT THOSE WHO ARE BEATING THIS DRUM OF WAR ARE NOT EVEN SURE OF THEIR SOURCES AND ACCURACY. THE MARS MAN SHOULD ALSO REMEMBER THE " WMD " THEORY THAT CREATED ALL THESE MESS TO BEGIN WITH. CONTRARY TO THIS IDEA OF FIGHTING FIRE WITH FUEL IS NOT WHAT THE REGION NEEDS NOW INSTEAD OF MAKING A " U-TURN " SO THAT WE CAN FIND A PATHWAY TO PEACE AND STABILITY IN THAT REGION OF HIGH VOLTAGE TENSION.

Just as Nazi war criminals were hunted down, we must now hunt down this disgusting Nazi Assad regime. This vicious regime which is responsible for 95% of civilian deaths in Syria by gassing, torture, and the murder of children must be destroyed. We should fully support the Syrian Revolution in their just cause to rid themselves of these brutal foreign backed Nazis.

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