Paris – Statement by the Syrian Network for Human Rights:
A collection of photos and videos, obtained by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) on September 9, 2021, show a number of personnel wearing military uniform brutally torturing a civilian, by beating him with a whip and a club all over his body, while he was completely stripped naked, and forcing him to apologize to those who were torturing him while filming these acts. This attack and the grotesque forced ‘apology’, along with the attackers’ verbal insults to the victim throughout the attack, all constitute multiple types of torture and are an affront to human dignity.
International law wholly prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. This being a customary rule, states are prohibited from dismissing or undermining this rule in favor of other rights or values, even in times of emergency. Violating the laws prohibiting torture is an international crime under international criminal law, with those individuals who issued orders for torture, or assisted in perpetrating it defined as being criminals with legal responsibility for these practices.
As shown in one of the videos that we obtained, which we have retained copies of, the civilian who was being tortured stated that his name is Ali al Sultan al Faraj, from Balwa village, which is administratively a part of Slouk district in the northern suburbs of Raqqa governorate. The photos and videos also showed signs of violent torture on different parts of his body, which suggests that he was probably subjected to various types of physical torture.
According to what local activists in the Slouk area in the suburbs of Raqqa governorate told us, Ali al Sultan al Faraj was detained near his home in al Balwa village and has been held since the beginning of September 2021, by personnel we believe to be affiliated with the 20th Division/ Soqoor al Sonna, which is one of the divisions of the Syrian National Army. Following his arrest, he was taken to an undisclosed location, with the reason for his detention being unknown, and has been forbidden from communicating with his family or a lawyer, while the detention was not carried out by a judicial authority; all these factors make the process of detention more like a kidnapping than a legitimate arrest.
The signs of torture and the brutal means used to violate the sanctity of the citizen Ali al Faraj remind us of similar practices by the Syrian regime’s shabiha and security forces, who have appeared in dozens of videos, filming themselves torturing Syrian citizens and bragging about doing so.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) condemns all kidnapping and torture practices carried out by gunmen affiliated with Syrian National Army, which have increased significantly since the beginning of this year, especially in the northern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo governorate; SNHR calls for an immediate independent investigation into all the incidents of kidnapping and torture that took place, in particular this barbaric incident. We also emphasize the need to hold all those involved in this crime accountable, starting from those who ordered it and extending to those who carried it out, and for Syrian society to be informed of the results of the investigation, with full accountability for the perpetrators. In addition, we stress the need for all those involved in kidnapping and torture over the past months to be exposed and dismissed, and for compensation to be paid to all victims for the material and moral damage they have been subjected to, and urge opposition forces not to follow the policy of the Syrian regime and Russia in denying the occurrence of violations, a policy which has led to no regime or regime-affiliated security or military member, officer or shabih being held accountable for their crimes for the past ten years.
Photo of Ali al Sultan al Faraj during his detention
Photo showing the signs of torture on the body of Ali al Sultan al Faraj