Syria government executes 13,000 prisoners

By @mik_mapa on
syria jail
Blindfolds are pictured inside a prison, which according to Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters belonged to Islamic State militants, in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 17, 2016. Reuters/Rodi Said

Amnesty International reported that the Syrian government has executed almost 13,000 prisoners from 2011 and 2015 through mass hangings. According to the human rights watchdog, the government has carried out systematic torture at the Sednaya military jail located near Damascus.

The report indicated that between 5,000 to 13,000 people were executed with an equal average of 20 to 50 people each week. The detainees were killed after torturing them repeatedly. They were deprived of food, water and medicine and medical care.

The report said that civilians, whom were thought to oppose the government, were among the victims. The prisoners faced military courts and sometimes tortured to make confessions. Some prisoners were people involved in unrest while some were alleged as disloyal military personnel. The victims of the execution were buried in mass graves outside the capital. Because the executions were carried out secretly, the families did not know the fate of the victims.

"The horrors depicted in this report reveal a hidden, monstrous campaign, authorised at the highest levels of the Syrian government, aimed at crushing any form of dissent within the Syrian population," Lynn Maalouf said in a statement. Maalouf is the deputy director of research at Amnesty's Beirut office.

Amnesty interviewed 84 witnesses including experts on detention in Syria. It also interviewed lawyers, judges, detainees, guards and officials. The findings in the report were completely in line with the United Nation's (UN) paper entitled "Death in Detention."

"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," chairman of the UN panel Paulo Pinheiro said, according to Reuters. "It is one of the clearest instances of a systematic practice that we had and based some of the key findings upon."

Amnesty International researcher Nicolette Waldman called the UN to act immediately. She said in her statement that Russia has a special responsibility to uphold peace and security in the world.  She added that Amnesty was calling them to use their influence with the Syrian authorities to push for access to monitor all of the prisons run by the government.

"I want to be very clear that these practices are unacceptable, and they have to stop. They have to be brought to an end. Mass killings of civilians and extermination so that people are dying of starvation, of illness, of treatable diseases must stop, and Russia has a very special responsibility to uphold peace and security in the world," Waldman said.

UK Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Wilson said that they have seen Amnesty's report about the atrocities in Syria. He noted that the foreign secretary was sickened by the report. "We strongly condemn these atrocities, and we continue to effort to shine a light on what's happening in Syria and to hold people accountable for these actions," Wilson said.

A total of 400,000 people killed in Syria since the war started as reported by the UN. President Bashar al-Assad said in November 2016 that the accusations of the killings were politically motivated. He has not released a statement on Amnesty's current report.

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