Amnesty International’s report about atrocities taking place at Saydnaya prison prompted a strong reaction from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who, “was horrified about what was in the report,” according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“We have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the grave violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria, including in detention centers and government-run prisons,” Dujarric told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday. “What is important is that there needs to be accountability for all the victims in this conflict.”
As many as 13,000 opponents of the Assad regime were secretly hanged in Saydnaya Prison between 2011 and 2015 as part of an extermination policy ordered by the highest levels of the Assad regime, Amnesty International said in a report published on Monday.
Thousands more people held in Saydnaya Prison died under torture and starvation, Amnesty said, adding that 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. The findings suggest thousands more people could have been hanged in Saydnaya since the end of 2015.
Amnesty said the killings were authorized by senior Syrian officials, including deputies of President Bashar Assad.
“These executions take place after a sham trial that lasts over a minute or two minutes, but they are authorized by the highest levels of authority,” including the Grand Mufti, a top religious authority in Syria, and the defense minister.
The chilling accounts in the report came from interviews with 31 former detainees and over 50 other officials and experts, including former guards and judges.
Detainees were told they would be transferred to civilian detention centers but were taken instead to another building in the facility where they were, blindfolded, severely beaten then hanged.
The prisoners, mostly civilians involved in unrest but who included former military personnel suspected of disloyalty, were sometimes forced to make confessions under torture, Amnesty said.
The Syrian Coalition expressed support for the set of recommendations put forward by Amnesty’s report, particularly with regards to calling on the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to force the Assad regime to immediately cease extrajudicial executions against detainees; allow access for independent monitors to all places of detention; and to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily detained.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Coalition urged the UN Security Council to initiate judicial proceedings based on the mechanism adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 21, 2016 which called for an investigation of war crimes in Syria and the prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes since 2011.
The Coalition called upon all rights groups and human rights activists to shed light on the horrible details the report laid out and to consider every possible means to help save hundreds of thousands of detainees in Assad’s prisons. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Agencies)