Including 15 in December
By: Dan Winters
SNHR has published its periodic report on victims who died due to torture for the month of December. The report documents that no less than 232 have died due to torture in Syria in 2017.
The report notes that a comprehensive ceasefire was announced from the Turkish capital Ankara under a Russian-Turkish sponsorship on December 30, 2016. The signing parties, the Syrian regime on one side and armed opposition factions on the other side, agreed to cease all armed attacks in the majority of the Syrian region. The military areas controlled by ISIS (self-proclaimed the Islamic State) were excluded from the agreement.
The report adds that that Ankara Ceasefire Agreement was followed by seven rounds of talks that were held in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, between Russian, Turkish, and Iranian representatives as the states who sponsored Ankara Ceasefire Agreement. These rounds -the most recent of which was on October 30-31, 2017- discussed mostly, in parallel with a number of local agreements, ways to further establish de-escalation zones in Idlib governorate and the surrounding areas (parts of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia governorates), northern Homs governorate, Eastern Ghouta, and parts of Daraa and Quneitra governorates in south Syria. Additionally, the talks addressed ways to deliver humanitarian aids and enable IDPs to return to those areas.
Since these agreements went into effect, the included areas saw a relatively good and noticeable drop in killing rates in relation to the past months since March 2011.
The report stresses that breaches didn’t stop despite Ankara Ceasefire Agreement and the de-escalation agreements that followed – mainly by the Syrian regime, who is seemingly the party that would be most affected should the ceasefire go on, and in particular extrajudicial killing crimes and, more horrendously, deaths due to torture. This strongly asserts that there is a ceasefire of some sort on the table, but the crimes that the international community -especially the guarantors- won’t see are still going on as nothing had changed.
The report notes that the Syrian authorities denies executing any arrests and, instead, accuses Al-Qaeda and terrorist groups such as ISIS. Additionally, the Syrian regime doesn’t acknowledge any torture or death-due-to-torture cases. SNHR obtains information from former prisoners or prisoners’ families where most of the families get the information they have about their detained relatives through bribing officials in charge. Syrian authorities usually don’t give back the dead bodies of the prisoners to their families. Also, in most cases, families are scared to go and get the dead bodies of their relatives or even their personal items from military hospitals out of fear of being arrested themselves.
The report sheds light on the difficulties SNHR team encounters in the documentation process on account of the ban imposed against it and the fact that its members are being pursued by various parties. In light of such circumstances, it might be difficult to fully verify deaths as the process remains subject to ongoing documentation and verification.
The report records that 232 individuals have died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria in 2017. Of those, the Syrian regime killed 211, including one child and two women (adult female) while one individual was killed at the hands of ISIS. On the other hand, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed four, including one child. The report also records that seven individuals died due to torture at the hands of factions from the armed opposition in 2017 whereas five were killed at the hands of Self-Management forces, and four at the hands of other parties.
According to the report, Damascus and its suburbs governorates saw the highest toll of victims who died due to torture with 46 individuals. The remaining death toll is distributed across governorates as follows:
42 in Daraa, 31 in Aleppo, 29 in Idlib, 25 in Homs, 20 in Deir Ez-Zour, 15 in Hama, 9 in Latakia, 6 in Raqqa, 5 in Hasaka, 2 in Suwayda, 1 in Quneitra, 1 of another nationality
The report outlines the most notable deaths due to torture in 2017: eight university students, two engineers, two teachers, one media activist, one pharmacist, one nurse, two veterinarians, one Red Crescent personnel, two athletes, two students, three elders, four cases of kin, two children, and two women.
Additionally, the report documents 15 deaths due to torture in December inside the official and non-official Syrian regime detention centers
According to the report, Homs governorate saw the highest toll of victims who died due to torture with five individuals. The remaining death toll id distributed as follows: 4 in Daraa, 3 in Idlib, 1 in Deir Ez-Zour, 2 in Hama.
Most notable cases of deaths due to torture in December were: Two veterinarians
The report affirms that this considerably huge number of victims who are dying under torture every month, with taking into consideration that the actual number of deaths is most likely higher, unequivocally indicates a systematized policy that is being adopted by the head of the ruling authorities. All of the state’s organs, branches, and figures are fully aware of these policies. Furthermore, these policies were enforced in a widespread manner which constitutes crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Also, the report stresses that extremist Islamic groups, Kurdish Self-Management forces, and factions from the armed opposition have practiced acts of torture which constitutes war crimes.
The report calls on the Russian guarantor to respect the agreements they struck and apply serious pressure on their Syrian and Iranian allies in order to cease all forms of killing, shelling, and torture-to-death inside detention centers, and start releasing detainees – an issue that is yet to see any notable progress.
The reports call on the Security Council to implement the Resolutions adopted on Syria and hold all those who violate the Resolutions accountable. Finally, the report calls on the Russian guarantor to stop the Syrian regime from dooming all de-escalation agreements, and start making progress in the detainees issue by revealing the fates of 76,000 forcibly-disappeared persons.