A report released by human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Assad regime of executing thousands of prisoners in mass hangings and conducting systematic torture in a military prison near Damascus.
The executions took place over a four-year span, though the report indicated that torture and mass executions are likely ongoing. The organization has called on the United Nations to conduct their own investigation into the situation, claiming that their evidence is sufficient to accuse the Syrian government of war crimes.
“The horrors depicted in this report reveal a hidden, monstrous campaign, authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government, aimed at crushing any form of dissent within the Syrian population,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International’s regional office in Beirut.
According to Amnesty International’s investigation, between 2011 and 2015, an average of 20 to 50 people were killed by hanging each week in a single prison—the Saydnaya military prison north of Damascus. Their report claims that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were executed in the prison in the four years immediately following the popular uprising in Syria that promptly descended into civil war.
“The victims are overwhelmingly civilians who are thought to oppose the government,” the report said. “Many other detainees at the Saydnaya military prison have been killed after being repeatedly tortured and systematically deprived of food, water, medicine and medical care.”
The report goes on to charge that the prisoners of the Saydnaya military prison were given “sham” trials before being sentenced to jail time. The executions were then carried out in secret, with the victims being buried in mass graves and the families of those killed never being notified.
“Before they are hanged, victims undergo a perfunctory, one- or two-minute procedure at a so-called military field court. These proceedings are so summary and arbitrary that they cannot be considered to constitute a judicial process,” Amnesty International stated via a press release.
They cite Russia and Iran specifically in their report, calling on each of Syria’s allies to condemn these executions.
“We demand that the Syrian authorities immediately cease extrajudicial executions and torture and inhuman treatment at Saydnaya Prison and in all other government prisons across Syria. Russia and Iran, the government’s closest allies, must press for an end to these murderous detention policies.”
According to the Amnesty International press release, the report was the product of 84 individual interviews with witnesses to these crimes that included “former Saydnaya guards and officials, detainees, judges and lawyers, as well as national and international experts on detention in Syria.” These interviews were all conducted between December of 2015 and 2016, before being consolidated into the report released on Monday.
“They kept them [hanging] there for 10 to 15 minutes. Some didn’t die because they are light. For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks,” the report said, quoting a former judge that testified to witnessing the hangings.
Amnesty International has no formal authority, but is well regarded throughout the world for its efforts in the human rights arena. The United Nations recognizes the non-profit organization as a “special consultant” and has allowed them to have a hand in shaping U.N. legislation in the past.
The report concluded, “The Syrian state’s backers, in particular Russia—with its permanent seat on the Security Council—and Iran, must condemn the extrajudicial executions and extermination policies of the Syrian state and do what is in their power to bring them to an end.”
Image courtesy of Al Arabiya