Assad must face justice for war crimes


Amnesty International released horrifying details of mass hangings, exterminations, abuse and torture taking place in Syrian human ‘slaughterhouse’. Assad regime has killed more than13,000 people since the start of the 2011 uprising in mass hangings at Saydnaya Prison, north of Damascus. According to Amnesty report, 20-50 people were hanged each week at the prison. The killings were authorized by senior Syrian officials, including deputies of President Bashar Assad, and carried out by military police.
Saydnaya has become the main political prison in Syria since 2011. It held the detainees of the revolution.
It is not something new. Syria has been notorious for extrajudicial executions. During the rule of Hafez Al Assad, father of present Syrian leader, thousands of people were tortured and killed. Assad regime carried out a calculated campaign of extrajudicial execution. At least 35 different methods of torture have been deployed in Syria since the late 1980s. The practice only increased since 2011. More than 17,000 people have died of torture and ill-treatment in custody across Syria since 2011, an average rate of more than 300 deaths a month.
The report, which is based on the investigations carried out between December 2015 to December 2016, puts a harsh light on how Syrians are being treated by this brutal regime. It reveals a dark hidden, monstrous campaign, authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government, aimed at crushing any form of dissent within the Syrian population. Syrians are suffering in the dark pit of living hell and lawlessness, hidden from the eyes of the world. The executions take place after a sham trial that lasts over a minute or two.
But the Syrian officials have always denied the reports of torture and mass killings. In the past, they have denied reports of massacres documented by international human rights groups, describing them as propaganda.
The chilling accounts in Amnesty report came from interviews with 31 former detainees and over 50 other officials and experts, including former guards and judges. Detainees were taken out of their cell in a group of 50 and hanged in another building in the facility. The hangings were carried out once or sometimes twice a week. There was pool of blood in the cell for the other prisoners to clean up. The bodies were then taken to the military hospitals. The cause of the death was deliberately faked as ‘heart failure’ or respiratory disorder. The bodies were then buried in mass grave under the cover of darkness.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly reacted, saying he was horrified about what was in the report. Assad regime has carried out the executions in the utter disregard of international human rights and international humanitarian law.
The international community must do something to stop these extrajudicial executions, torture and inhuman treatment at Saydnaya Prison and all other government prisons in Syria. Assad regime must be forced to abandon this ruthless treatment meted out to detainees.
The upcoming Syria peace talks in Geneva cannot ignore these findings. Assad allies, Russia and Iran, must press for an end to murderous policies in Syria detention centres. Independent monitors must be allowed to all the places of detention. United Nations must immediately carry out and independent investigation into these crimes. Syrian government and officials must be held accountable for all the victims in this conflict.

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