Tuesday 19 September 2017

Syria denies mass hangings

A Syrian regime fighter aims an anti-tank missile system as they advance towards Hayyan oil field, east of the central Syrian Homs province. Photo: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian regime fighter aims an anti-tank missile system as they advance towards Hayyan oil field, east of the central Syrian Homs province. Photo: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Sarah El Deeb

Syria's justice ministry yesterday rejected an Amnesty International report of mass hangings of as many as 13,000 people in a prison near Damascus, calling the allegations "totally untrue" and part of a smear campaign.

Syria's justice ministry yesterday rejected an Amnesty International report of mass hangings of as many as 13,000 people in a prison near Damascus, calling the allegations "totally untrue" and part of a smear campaign.

The ministry's statement, published by Syria's state-run news agency, came a day after Amnesty released its report, based on a year of research and interviews with 31 former detainees of the Saydnaya prison near Damascus and more than 50 former guards, prison officials, judges and experts.

Amnesty's report included chilling details from witnesses who saw various stages of the killings, down to the actual implementation and last-minute wishes of the men hanged, most of whom were civilians.

In Damascus, the justice ministry said "misleading and inciting" media outlets carried the Amnesty report with the intention to smear the Syrian government - particularly after recent "military victories against terrorists groups". The government refers to all armed opposition as "terrorists".

It also called the allegations "baseless" and stated that executions in Syria follow due process and various stages of litigations. It also questioned testimonies of survivors who are currently outside of Syria. "Why didn't the Syrian authorities execute them and why were they released if others were executed?" it said. "The justice ministry denies and condemns in the strongest terms what was reported, because it is not based on correct evidence, but on personal emotions that aim to achieve well-known political goals," the statement said.

Meanwhile, Syrian government jets bombed a rebel-held district of Homs in the west of the country yesterday, rescue workers and a monitoring group reported. A pro-Damascus media outlet said Syrian planes targeted militants in al-Waer after the insurgents fired at civilian areas in government-held Homs. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight people were killed.

A military media unit run by Assad ally Hezbollah said the militants had violated a ceasefire.

Irish Independent

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