Friday 20 April 2018

Revealed: Horror of Syrian torture centres with stun guns, staples and electric shocks

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Kfr Suseh area in Damascus. Photo: Reuters
Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Kfr Suseh area in Damascus. Photo: Reuters

James Hastings in Jerusalem

SYRIAN security forces are running more than two dozen torture centres where captors regularly punch staples into detainees' skin, tear out their fingernails, beat them with sticks and administer electric shocks, an international rights group said.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the frequency of torture in Syrian detention centres could constitute crimes against humanity and called for international action.

Tens of thousands of government opponents have been subjected to beatings, burned with acid or sexually assaulted, according to Human Rights Watch.

Although claims of human rights abuses, including the torturing to death of children, have been made in the past, the report is the first to name those allegedly responsible, laying the ground for possible prosecutions before international courts, the group said.

Feared

The 81-page report, based on 200 interviews of former inmates, provided satellite images identifying the location of the detention facilities operated by President Bashar al-Assad's intelligence services for the first time.

"The intelligence agencies are running an archipelago of torture centres scattered across the country," said Ole Solvang, the group's emergencies researcher.

Hundreds of people have been tortured to death in facilities operated by Syria's feared intelligence agencies, known as the Mukhabarat, according to the opposition. Rebels have attacked Mukhabarat buildings in revenge.

One 31-year-old man described three days of repeated torture at one facility near the city of Idlib.

"They started squeezing my fingers with pliers," he said. "They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again."

Human Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and to impose sanctions on those who practise or oversee torture.

The Syrian government did not immediately comment on the allegations.

The Human Rights Watch report gives the locations of 27 detention centres in cities across Syria which use torture and the names of some of the facilities' commanders.

The group said each of the centres and techniques was mentioned by multiple people interviewed, and that there are probably other facilities which the group has not been able to document. Many former detainees reported being held in overcrowded facilities where torture by guards and interrogators was commonplace.

Interviewees reported more than 20 different torture methods, including beatings with sticks and cords, squeezing fingers with pliers, attacks with electricity and acid and sexual assault and humiliation.

Irish Independent

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