The Assad regime is killing so many detainees in Syria that it now amounts to “extermination” and a crime against humanity, a UN report has found.
In a document published by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights on Monday, international investigators found the Assad regime has carried out a state policy of extermination against thousands of detainees.
The report, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention”, covers a period of time from March 10, 2011 to November 30, 2015 and is based on interviews with 621 survivors and witnesses. Evidence was gathered by a team led by Head of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro.
“The mass scale of deaths of detainees suggests that the government of Syria is responsible for acts that amount to extermination as a crime against humanity…Prisoners are routinely tortured and beaten, forced to live in unsanitary and overcrowded cells, [and] with little food and no medical care many perish,” Pinheiro said in a statement.
Member of the Syrian Coalition Yasser al-Farhan said the United Nations report supports the demands of the opposition’s High Negotiating Committee which reiterated the humanitarian issues should be prioritized and should not be subject to negotiations. “A political settlement cannot be achieved while thousands of detainees endure severe torture in the regime’s prisons,” Farhan stressed.
Farhan pointed out that “the UN report highlights the need to enforce UN Security Council resolution 2254 which calls for the release of detainees and lifting the sieges on civilians. The report stresses the need for the international community and the UN Security Council to take all necessary measures to enforce UN resolution 2254 to ensure full protection for the detainees, secure their release, and hold the Assad regime to account for mass detentions of Syrians in military sites.”
Farhan reiterated the Syrian Coalition’s calls for referring the situation in Syria, especially the file of detainees, to the International Criminal Court as what is happening in Syria constitutes war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Farhan also called for the need to thwart the regime’s attempts to evade responsibility for war crimes it has already committed against detainees. Such crimes include incarcerating Syrians in security centers, government complexes, and military installations amid strict blackout imposed on their numbers and places of detention. The regime’s crimes also include brutal torture of detainees, killing under torture and summary executions.
In a news briefing, Pinheiro said the victims were mostly civilian men: “Never in these five years have these facilities that are described in our report been visited and we have repeatedly asked the government to do so.”
“Prison officials, their superiors throughout the hierarchy, high-ranking officials in military hospitals and the military police corps as well as government were aware that deaths on a massive scale were occurring,” Pinheiro said.
“Nearly every surviving detainee has emerged from custody having suffered unimaginable abuses,” Pinheiro added.
The report also cites torture and execution policies by armed groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front. It seeks “targeted sanctions” against unspecified individuals and groups responsible for such crimes. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)