Stopping the Torture Machine Should be on Top of every Negotiation Agenda
SNHR has released its yearly report on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The report, entitled: “Stopping the Torture Machine Should be on Top of every Negotiation Agenda”, sheds light on the practice of torture inside detention centers and its subsequent effects that include death and distortions.
The report notes that torture and ill-treatment and inhumane or degrading treatment are strictly prohibited by the international law, where this is considered a norm that no state can dispute or balance with other rights or values even in times of emergency. Violating the prohibition of torture is deemed an international crime in the international criminal law, and the people who issue orders for torture or didn’t work on preventing its occurrence are responsible for these practices.
The report primarily draws upon SNHR’s archive that has been built through daily and ongoing monitoring and documentation since 2011. Most of the statistics we have include names, pictures, place and date of death and arrest. In light of the extraordinarily challenges in Syria, this report only represents the bare minimum of the actual severity and magnitude of the violations that are being perpetrated. The report includes six accounts from torture survivors or from families who lost beloved one to torture at the hands of the various parties to the conflict in Syria.
The report documents the death toll due to torture ins Syria from March 2011 until June 2017. 13,029 individuals at least have died, including 164 children and 57 women. Of those, Syrian regime forces have killed 12,920 individuals, including 161 children and 41 women, while Self-Management Forces have killed 26 including one child and two women. ISIS has killed 30 individuals, including one child and 13 women, whereas Fateh al Sham Front killed 17 individuals. Armed opposition factions have killed 30 individuals, including one child and one woman. In addition, the report records six individuals who died due to torture at the hands of other parties.
The report stresses that torture is still ongoing as a mechanical pattern in an extremely savage and sadistic manner, and exhibits a sectarian nature in many cases, especially in the Syrian regime’s detention centers given that the regime holds the greatest portion of detainees at a percentage of 87% of no less than 106,727 individuals who are still detained according to SNHR’s data since March 2011.
The report talks about the most notable methods of torture at the detention centers of the four main parties in Syria, while the eyewitnesses elaborated on the cruel torture that they experienced or saw during their detention.
The report emphasizes that the Syrian regime, via multiple apparatuses, have practiced torture as an institutional policy and a pattern in a widespread manner. This constitutes a blatant violation to the international human rights law and qualifies as crimes against humanity, and resulted, in many cases, in violating the right to life in a heavy manner. Moreover, the crimes that were perpetrated after the start of the non-international armed conflict in a systematic, widespread manner constitute a blatant violation to the international humanitarian law and qualify as war crimes.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
““The Syrian government’s torture-to-death mindset is not being addressed and tackled duly on the international level, and it doesn’t even get a mention in the political process in Geneva, Astana, and other international platforms. The states parties to the Convention against Torture are not doing what is asked of them, as per Article 5 of the Convention which binds the states parties to take steps to establish their jurisdiction over crimes of torture, as there are many perpetrators of crimes of torture who are now refugees in countries that signed the Convention. More efforts and finance must be devoted to prosecute and try those people.”
The report adds that ISIS holds image trials for its detainees in accordance with laws that result in sentences such as torturing the detainee to death or field-executions or savage, innovative kills. All of this completely disregard the principles of the international human rights law or the international humanitarian law, which constitutes a war crimes. Furthermore, the report records an escalation in the use of torture by Fateh al Sham Front on its detainees. In addition, we noticed the use of elevated torture methods and an increase in deaths due to torture inside the group’s detention centers between mid-2016 and June 2017. However, these practices don’t qualify yet as systematic practices that form patterns.
The report notes that Kurdish Self-Management forces didn’t take into consideration the principles of the international human rights law or the international humanitarian law in these matters. These forces’ torture practices against their foes as part of the non-international armed conflict constitute a war crime.
The report also says that an escalation in the use of torture at armed opposition factions detention centers was recorded from October 2016 until June 2017. The torture practices by armed opposition factions constitute an explicit violation to the international human rights law when committed against residents in their areas of control, and to the international humanitarian law when committed against their foes in the non-international armed conflict. These practices constitute a war crime.
The report calls on the Syrian regime to take immediate steps to cease all forms of torture, and suspend all capital punishment sentences as it is issued on the grounds of confessions that were extracted under brutal torture, and launch an immediate investigation into all the death cases inside the detention centers, and release arbitrarily arrested detainees, especially children and women, and immediately grant the Commission of Inquiry, the International Committee of the Red Cross and all objective human rights organizations an access to detention centers.
Furthermore, the report calls on the remaining parties to respect the international human rights law, immediately cease torture practices, and hold the people who are involved accountable.
The report calls on the Security Council and the United Nations to renew the demands for the Syrian regime to seriously cease torture practices, and immediately reveal the fates of victims of torture, and rescue the remaining detainees as soon as possible, and to punish all people who are involved in the machine of torture. Also, the report calls on Russia to cease its obstruction of referring the case in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The report calls on the states parties to the Convention against Torture to take steps to establish their jurisdiction over the perpetrators of the crimes of torture, and make every possible and available security and material effort for the sake of achieving this goal. Moreover, the report calls on the international community to impose serious sanctions against the Syrian regime in order to deter it from killing Syrian citizens under torture, and provide more support for the local organizations that work on rehabilitating and caring for the victims of torture and their families, as well as the individual activists and local organizations that are concerned with documenting violations without interfering in their work or enforcing political redirections.