The Assad regime has constructed and is using a crematorium at its notorious Sednaya military prison near Damascus to clandestinely dispose of the bodies of prisoners it continues to execute inside the facility, the US State Department said Monday.
“Thousands of executed detainees have been dumped in mass graves in recent years,” said acting US Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Jones. Jones said the crematorium allows the regime to manage to dispose of a large number of corpses without evidence.
“We believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Sednaya prison,” Jones said in a briefing for reporters.
The Assad regime, Jones said, “has treated opposition forces and unarmed civilians as one and the same,” continuing to “systematically abduct and torture civilian detainees, often beating, electrocuting and raping these victims,” and authorizing “the extrajudicial killings of thousands.”
Jones said that newly declassified information on this and other atrocities by the Assad regime came from intelligence community assessments, as well as from nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International and the media.
According to numerous nongovernmental organizations, Jones said, “the regime has abducted and detained between 65,000 and 117,000 people between 2011 and 2015,” a period in which Amnesty International has said that nearly 18,000 detainees died. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimated in March that at least 106,727 people were arrested or had been forcibly disappeared.
In addition to the Sednaya Prison outside Damascus, which is the most notorious one, prisoners are held in a network of prisons across Syria, including the Mazah Prison and military security branches 215, 227, 235, 248, 291.
Jones cited “multiple sources” that “the regime is responsible for killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Sednaya,” where he said up to 70 people were packed in cells designed for five.
A recent Amnesty International report described the prison as a “human slaughterhouse.” In February, the watchdog group defied Bashar Al-Assad to open his prisons to international monitors to check on the conditions of detainees after the dictator denied that he had 13,000 people executed in the facility between 2011 and 2015.
Amnesty’s report prompted a strong reaction from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said he was “horrified about what was in the report.”
France called on the international community to take action to prevent impunity for these crimes, while British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was “sickened” by the findings of Amnesty’s report and said the dictator had “no future as leader.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)