As many as 13,000 opponents of the Assad regime were secretly hanged in one of Assad’s most infamous prisons between 2011 and 2015 as part of an extermination policy ordered by the highest levels of the Assad regime, Amnesty International said.
Thousands more people held in Saydnaya prison died under torture and starvation, Amnesty said in a new report released on Monday. The bodies were dumped in two mass graves on the outskirts of Damascus between midnight and dawn on most Tuesday mornings for at least five years.
The report, Human Slaughterhouse, details accounts of state-sanctioned abuse in the facility where between 10 and 20 thousand detainees are held. It suggested thousands more people could have been hanged in Saydnaya since the end of 2015.
Among the 84 people interviewed were four former guards at two key buildings, a “red building” in which civilian detainees were held and a “white building” that held former military members and where hangings were carried out in the basement. More than 12 months of research focused on 31 men who were held in both buildings. A military judge was also interviewed.
The witnesses claimed that, once or twice a week, 20 to 50 people at a time were hanged after sham trials before a military court. Their bodies were taken to the nearby Tishreen military hospital where a cause of death was typically registered as a respiratory disorder or heart failure. They were buried on military land in Nahja, south of Damascus, and Qatana, a small town to the west.
The prisoners, who included former military personnel suspected of disloyalty and people involved in unrest, were sometimes forced to make confessions under torture, Amnesty said.
The report’s author, Nicolette Waldman, said the estimated number of people hanged ranged from a minimum of 5,000 to a maximum of 13,000.
Waldman said the victims were separate from the systematic killing of more than 11,000 detainees in Syria from March 2011 until August 2013, which were documented by a photographer codenamed Caesar who worked for the Syrian military police.
“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.
“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,” Maalouf added.
“The UN must immediately carry out an independent investigation into the crimes being committed at Saydnaya and demand access for independent monitors to all places of detention.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)