18 000 died in Syria’s pris­ons: Amnesty

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

AL­MOST 18 000 Syr­i­ans have died in govern­ment jails since 2011, with au­thor­i­ties us­ing tor­ture, beat­ings, elec­tric shocks and rape against pris­on­ers on a “mas­sive scale,” a rights groups has said.

The UK-based Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said on Thurs­day that an av­er­age of 300 peo­ple were dy­ing in the coun­try’s pris­ons each month in a re­port it said was based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of thou­sands of for­mer pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing 65 sur­vivors of tor­ture.

“They beat me un­til I passed out . . . when I woke up... my trousers had been opened and moved down a bit, my abaya [full length robe] was open and my un­der­shirt was moved up. Every­thing was hurt­ing.

In­ter­vie­wees said the abuse would of­ten start from the day they en­tered pri­son with so-called “wel­come par­ties” that in­volved beat­ings with sil­i­cone or metal rods.

Fe­male pris­on­ers said sex­ual as­saults or rapes would start at their first se­cu­rity check.

“When I woke up . . . my trousers had been opened and moved down a bit, my abaya [full length robe] was open and my un­der­shirt was moved up. Every­thing was hurt­ing.”

Ni­co­lette Boehland, one of the Amnesty re­searchers who worked on the re­port, told Al Jazeera that “wel­come par­ties” were so in­tense that some pris­on­ers died from their in­juries.

“One man said that when he ar­rived at Da­m­as­cus’ Sayd­naya Mil­i­tary Pri­son with 60 other peo­ple, the beat­ings were so bru­tal that by the time he reached his cell, he heard that 20 men had been killed,” she said.

Other pris­on­ers spoke of be­ing flogged on their feet dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tions, be­ing forced into rub­ber tyres while be­ing beaten with plas­tic pipes, be­ing sus­pended by their wrists and hav­ing their bod­ies force­fully “folded” back­wards while in stress po­si­tions.

“They treated us like an­i­mals. They wanted peo­ple to be as in­hu­man as pos­si­ble,” Samer, a lawyer, said. “I saw the blood, it was like a river . . . We used to al­ways say here that there was no jus­tice in Syria but I never imag­ined hu­man­ity would reach such a low level.”

Most de­scribed wit­ness­ing at least one, if not sev­eral, deaths in cus­tody, Amnesty said.

One for­mer prisoner said when the ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem in a pri­son known as Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence Branch 235 in Da­m­as­cus stopped work­ing, seven out of nine peo­ple in one cell died of suf­fo­ca­tion.

“They be­gan to kick us to see who was alive and who wasn’t. They told me and the other sur­vivor to stand up against the wall and that is when I re­alised that on that day seven peo­ple had died, that I had slept next to seven bod­ies,” he said. — Al Jazeera

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