The horrifying experiences of detainees subjected to rampant torture and other ill-treatment in Assad’s prisons are laid bare in a damning new report published by Amnesty International on Thursday. The report estimates that 17,723 people have died in the Assad regime custody since March 2011; an average rate of more than 300 deaths each month.
‘It breaks the human’: Torture, disease and death in Syria’s prisons documents crimes against humanity committed by the Assad regime forces. It retraces the experiences of thousands of detainees through the cases of 65 torture survivors who described appalling abuse and inhuman conditions in security branches operated by Syrian intelligence agencies and in Saydnaya Military Prison, on the outskirts of Damascus. Most said they had witnessed prisoners dying in custody and some described being held in cells alongside dead bodies.
The majority of survivors told Amnesty International that the abuse would begin instantly upon their arrest and during transfers, even before they set foot in a detention center. Upon arrival at a detention facility detainees described a “welcome party” ritual involving severe beatings, often using silicone or metal bars or electric cables. “They treated us like animals. They wanted people to be as inhuman as possible… I saw the blood, it was like a river… I never imagined humanity would reach such a low level… they would have had no problem killing us right there and then,” said Samer, a lawyer arrested near Hama. Such “welcome parties” were often described as being followed by “security checks”, during which women in particular reported being subjected to rape and sexual assault by male guards.
Another detainee, “Ziad”, said ventilation in Military Intelligence Branch 235 in Damascus stopped working one day and seven people died of suffocation. “For decades, Syrian government forces have used torture as a means to crush their opponents. Today, it is being carried out as part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against anyone suspected of opposing the government in the civilian population and amounts to crimes against humanity,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)