Out of Sight
Syria is still the world’s leading country in rates of torture to death, as the Syrian regime remains responsible for the overwhelming majority of deaths due to torture with 99% while the rest of the parties are responsible for 1% according to SNHR’s database. Torture has been used as a tool to establish dominance, crush the opposition, terrorize and shatter the society and drive it to submit and accept the one-family rule.
Released by SNHR on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the report notes the various torture-related violations by the parties to the conflict, and the large death toll resulting from torture which also left many more with physical and mental disfigurements and disabilities.
The report draws upon continued and regular monitoring and reviewing, and contains 13 accounts that were collected between June 2017 and June 2018 from torture survivors and families who lost one of their members to torture. These interviews were conducted in Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey, or via phone and communication software.
Titled “Out of Sight”, the report documents that 13,197 individuals died due to torture between March 2011 and June 2018, including 167 children and 59 women (adult female). The report also adds that 121,829 individuals are still under arbitrary arrest or enforced-disappearance since March 2011. Of those, the report stresses, 87% were arrested or disappeared at the hands of the Syrian regime alone.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“The staggeringly large numbers of victims who died due to torture, particularly at the hands of the Syrian regime, is a sure reminder that these deaths have been for years one of the most horrendous national catastrophes to afflict the Syrian state. What is even more appalling is the fact that it is still going on with no treatment even for those who somehow survive the years of torture and enforced-disappearance. Donor states should secure and raise more urgent assistance in this regard specifically.”
Despite the Syrian regime’s denial of practicing torture inside its detention centers and issuing tens of death certificates for disappeared persons who were detained by the Syrian regime on the premise that they had died of heart attacks or abrupt apnea, the report stresses that the Syrian regime is responsible for the death of 13,066 individuals, including 163 children and 43 women, due to torture inside its prisons.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has violated the 2012 Constitutions that the Syrian regime itself was the one who established it, as well as article 391 of the Syrian Criminal Law which provides that torture is a prohibited and punishable act. The report also slams Article 16 of Law 14 of 1969 which grants impunity to the Security apparatus through a law that legalizes the crime. In addition, the report says that the Syrian regime has committed the crime of torture against its enemies during the non-international armed conflict as part of a widespread and systematic assault, which constitutes a crime against humanity and a war crime in accordance with Article 7 and 8 of the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statue.
According to the report, ISIS was responsible for the death of 31 individuals due to torture, including one child and 13 women, inside their detention centers. The report notes that the torture methods used by ISIS on detainees and forcibly disappeared persons vary according to the charges and the detention center. On the other hand, the report notes that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham used severe beating and whipping against the detainees and the forcibly-disappeared persons which also saw other psychological torture methods such as pretended execution and death and assassination threats. These methods have resulted in the death of 21 individuals due to torture, including one child.
The report stresses that both ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham have blatantly violated the international humanitarian law and Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, adding that ‘taking hostages’ during armed conflicts constitutes a war crime according to Rome Statue while torture constitutes a crime against humanity according to Article 7 of the same document.
The report records a notable rise in the rates of torture use by Self-Management forces in 2018 following them taking over new areas in the governorates of Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zour. The report documents that 31 individuals, including one child and two women, died due to torture inside the prisons of the Kurdish Self-Management forces.
The report notes that Kurdish Self-Management forces didn’t respect the principles of the international human rights law or the international humanitarian law in this regard. The acts of torture practiced by them against their enemies during the non-international armed conflict constitute war crimes.
Moreover, the report records a rise in the number of deaths due to torture at the hands of armed opposition factions, noting that 36 individuals, including one child and one woman, died due to torture in their detention centers, which constitutes an explicit violation of the international human rights law and the international humanitarian law as armed opposition factions practiced torture against one of their enemies during the non-international armed conflict, which makes these practices qualify as a war crime.
The report calls on the Security Council and the United Nations to Protect the civilians who are being detained by the Syrian regime from being tortured to death, and save whoever left of them. In addition, the report calls on the United Nations General Assembly to take charge in the Syrian case and work towards implementing the ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution in light of the Security Council’s utter idleness on account of the Russian-Chinese veto.
Also, the report calls on the UN’s relief organs to research the families that have lost their provider or one of their members to torture, and ensure the delivery of aids to the people who are truly in-need and launch the rehabilitation efforts.
Additionally, the report calls on the state parties to the Convention against Torture to act to establish their jurisdiction over the perpetrators of torture crimes and take every possible action to achieve so on the material and security levels.
The report calls on the Syrian regime to Immediately end all torture practices and abstain from consuming the Syrian state’s resources to terrorize and torture the people of Syria, and to immediately grant access for the Commission of Inquiry and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as impartial human rights groups to all detention centers. Also, the report calls on the Syrian regime to release all detainees.
The report urges the Self-Management to respect the standards of the international human rights law and cease using torture against political or military foes, and launch investigations to expose the individuals involved in those crimes and hold them accountable.
Further, the report calls on the extremist Islamic groups to ensure the implementation of the international human rights law inside their prisons and areas of control, and cease all forms of torture inside detention centers.
Lastly, the report calls on armed opposition factions to respect the rules of the international human rights law, cease conducting unlawful trials, and end all forms of torture inside detention centers, as well as holding all individuals involved in torture practices accountable and discharge them completely.