Torture in Syria worst seen in 30 years, report says

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The scale of torture in Syria since an antigovernment uprising began a year ago amounts to crimes against humanity and is the worst the country has experienced in 30 years, says an Amnesty International report released Tuesday.

Syrians calling for the fall of President Bashar Assad have been arrested in droves and have faced harsh and sometimes fatal mistreatment similar to the brutal crackdown on dissent exerted by government forces during the late 1970s and early 1980s, says the report, released a day before the one-year anniversary of the uprising.

In at least 276 cases documented by Amnesty International, prisoners have died as a result of torture. The human rights group has repeatedly called for involvement by the International Criminal Court.

Some victims of torture were younger than 18, Amnesty reported. The torture appears to have been intended to not only punish and coerce confessions from prisoners, but also perhaps as a warning to others, the report says.


Dozens of victims and witnesses, interviewed after they fled into Jordan, described 31 methods of torture that began with severe beatings upon arrest –- termed “reception” -- with fists, sticks, rifle butts, whips and braided cables.

“During one of those night-beating sessions a guy had his ribs broken in front of me. Another had his back broken but they did not take him to hospital,” said an 18-year-old student from Dara province. “A young man from Homs was beaten in one of those sessions with metal pipes. His neck was broken and he died on the spot. I don’t know where they took him.”

“I was beaten with cables, especially on my head, and told to kneel before a picture of Bashar Assad,” said a 40-year-old decorator from Dara city.

The former prisoners also recounted being forced into a tire, arms pinned to their side, and beaten, hung by their wrists from the ceiling for hours at a time and being electrocuted on various parts of their bodies.

“I was crucified naked on the door for three days using metal handcuffs with my toes barely touching the floor,” one reported.

The Times recently wrote about an Aleppo activist’s account of being in detention for more than 90 days, during which he suffered similar treatment.

In the Amnesty report, one prisoner said that during his interrogation at the military intelligence branch in Damascus he was forced to watch another male prisoner being raped.

Though the overwhelming majority of alleged human rights violations have been committed by government forces, there are some reports of abuses committed by rebel fighters , including kidnapping and killing of pro-government individuals or their relatives or those suspected of being members of the government’s armed militia.


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-- Times staff