Geneva – The UN said on Monday that the Syrian government is committing crimes against detainees held in the country’s prisons which include extermination, murder, rape, torture, forced disappearance and other inhumane acts.
The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, which is investigating crimes committed in the Syrian civil war, have documented violations of human rights in the Syrian conflict since late 2011 and asked the Security Council to impose sanctions on high-ranking Syrian civilian and military officials responsible for or complicit in deaths, torture and disappearances in custody.
The report entitled “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic,” which covers detentions from March 10, 2011 to November 30, 2015, gathered evidence based on interviews with 621 people who managed to survive a period of detention, former employees of prisons, relatives of dead prisoners and witnesses.
The UN commission also denounced the mistreatment and executions of captured soldiers in places controlled by rebel groups, accusing Nusra Front and the Islamic State of war crimes.
“Prison officials, their superiors throughout the hierarchy, high-ranking officials in military hospitals and the military police corps as well as the government were aware that deaths on a massive scale were occurring. Thus, we concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct described amounts to extermination as a crime against humanity,” Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chairman of the United Nations commission, said in a news conference.
Pinheiro said that nearly every detainee has suffered unimaginable abuses, such as being beaten to death during interrogation or in their cells, or left to die of severe injuries sustained from gruesome torture.
The report also included several deaths described by eyewitnesses. One witness described how an elderly man held at a military security branch in Homs had been severely beaten, hung by his wrists from the ceiling, gotten his eyes burned with a cigarette and pierced his body with a heated, sharp metal object. The men died after hanging in the same position for three hours.
Others died from lacking medical care and inhuman living conditions, including severely overcrowded and unhygienic cells. Prisoners lack food and clean water, many of them were forced to use their toilet as a source of drinking water. A high number of prisoners across detention facilities died of severe and continuing diarrhea.
There was no immediate response from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which has rejected previous reports.
Even though this report brings to light al-Assad’s human rights abuses, detention facilities remained one of Syria’s dark zones, with little subsequent information about a policy that even 18 months ago had already responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.