Including 12 in December
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SNHR announced today that at least 976 individuals died due to torture in Syria in 2018, including 12 in December.
The latest SNHR report notes that international law completely prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. This being a customary rule, states can’t dismiss or undermine this rule in favor of other rights or values, even in times of emergency.
The report stresses that torture is being practiced in Syria in a systematic manner to extremely brutal and sadistic degrees. In many cases, torture is perpetrated on the basis of victims’ ethnicity or sect, particularly in the detention centers of Syrian regime, which has been, and continues to be the primary and main perpetrator of all crimes of torture.
According to the report, other parties have also committed crimes of torture, albeit to a far smaller extent than the Syrian regime, with SNHR’s team documenting a notable increase, since 2015, in rates of deaths due to torture at the hands of other parties – particularly at the hands of ISIS and the Self-Management forces, while rates of death due to torture at the hands of armed opposition factions saw an increase since late 2016.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“The norm of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ must be implemented in light of the government’s failure to protect its people, and the fruitlessness of the diplomatic and peace-making efforts so far. Crimes against humanity and war crimes are being perpetrated every day in Syria, mainly at the hands of the organs of the state itself.”
The report draws upon ongoing monitoring of news and developments by the SNHR team, and on an extensive network of contacts with various sources, in addition to speaking with either former detainees, or victims’ families and friends, most of whom can only obtain information about their detained loved ones by bribing senior regime officials.
The report notes that the ability to confirm deaths remains completely subject to ongoing documentation and verification with cases of this nature remaining open in light of the serious difficulties encountered in the documentation process. The cases included in this report represent only a fraction of the actual total number of violations that are being perpetrated.
The report documents that 976 individuals died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria in 2018. Of this number, 951 died at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, including 11 children and two women. One woman died due to torture at the hands of ISIS, while nine other individuals, including one child, died due to torture at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition. The report further documents the death of 10 individuals due to torture at the hands of Self-Management forces, while other parties were responsible for the death of five more individuals due to torture.
According to the report, the highest death toll due to torture in 2018 was recorded in Damascus Suburbs governorate, with 271 individuals. The remaining death toll is distributed across governorates as follows:
163 in Homs, 134 in Hasaka, 131 in Hama, 101 in Daraa, 47 in Damascus, 38 in Idlib, 29 in Dei Ez-Zour, 25 in Latakia, 24 in Aleppo, nine in Raqqa, and four in Suwayda.
The report also contains the death toll due to torture for December, which saw 12 cases of death due to torture documented, all of them in the official and unofficial detention centers of Syrian Regime forces, including three cases in Damascus, two in Homs, Hama, Dei Ez-Zour and Raqqa each and one in Damascus Suburbs.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has practiced torture through multiple institutions in a widespread manner which constitutes an explicit breach of international human rights law, with these actions qualifying as crimes against humanity. Also, these crimes, which have been perpetrated after the start of the non-international armed conflict, constitute a blatant breach of international human rights law and constitute war crimes. Furthermore, the report notes that the Syrian regime has never launched any investigation, or held those who were involved accountable, but has instead concealed and hidden criminal evidences.
The report adds that other parties to the conflict (ISIS, Kurdish Self-Management forces, and factions of the armed opposition) have perpetrated violations of the rules of international human rights law or international humanitarian law which constitute war crimes.
The report calls on the Syrian regime to launch an immediate investigation into all cases of deaths inside detention centers, and to suspend all death sentences since the verdicts in all these cases are based on confessions extracted under brutal torture. Also, the report states that the Commission of Inquiry, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and all objective human rights groups should have immediate access to detention centers. In addition, the report demands action to end all forms of torture.
Additionally, the report calls for the release of arbitrarily arrested detainees, especially women and children, in addition to revealing the fates of tens of thousands forcibly-disappeared persons, with the report holding the Syrian regime responsible for deaths due to torture.
The report calls on the Kurdish Self-Management forces to respect the standards of international human rights law, cease the use of torture, and hold all those involved in perpetrating these crimes accountable, as well as calling on the Kurdish Self-Management to reveal all detainees and publicize lists of their names, make the locations and sites of the group’s secret detention centers public, and allow families and human rights groups to visit detainees.
Moreover, the report calls on the extremist Islamist groups and factions from the armed opposition to ensure the implementation of the international human rights law in the areas and prisons under their control, and to cease all forms of torture inside detention centers.
The report calls on the Security Council and the United Nations to apply pressure on the Syrian government in order to implement Security Council resolutions 2042, 2139, and 2254, and to take action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in order to save detainees from dying inside detention centers.
The report calls on Russia to stop hindering the referral of the case in Syria to the International Criminal Court, stressing that states party to the Convention against Torture should take all necessary measure to establish their jurisdiction over the perpetrators of torture crimes, and impose serious sanctions against the Syrian regime.
Lastly, the report calls on the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to launch investigations into the incidents included in this report and previous reports. The report stresses that SNHR is willing to cooperate and provide further evidence and data to assist in any such endeavors.