UN human rights chief on Thursday urged the Assad regime to release all activists, lawyers and other detainees they have been holding without due process, including some jailed for years.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein estimated that between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people have been held at some point in government jails since the first anti-Assad protests erupted in Syria nearly four years ago.
“I urge the Syrian government to immediately release all those who have been jailed for peaceful expression of their views and to ensure that all those detained are accorded their full due process rights,” Zeid said in a statement.
He made a special plea for the release of prominent lawyer Mazen Darwish, who was arrested on February 16, 2012 along with Hani Zaitani and Hussein Ghreir, his colleagues at the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM).
“In many cases, people are held incommunicado for weeks or months, in particular by political security, state security, military security and air force intelligence branches,” Zeid added.
“This is particularly worrying given the Syrian government’s record of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, which has been well-documented prior to, and during, the conflict,” the high commissioner said.
Zeid’s office said militias linked to the government have also abducted activists at checkpoints throughout the country before holding them in their own facilities where they face torture and ill-treatment.
Zeid said detainees who were released reported that they were held in cells of no more than six meters by seven meters at the Political Security Branch, with up to 55 prisoners per cell and without enough food or medical care.
“They described the use of torture rooms and equipment as well as the extreme cruelty of interrogators,” he said. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)