Up to 13,000 Syrians secretly hung in prison
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The human rights awareness group Amnesty International recently released a report entitled Human slaughterhouse: mass hangings and extermination at Saydnaya prison, Syria. The report, which is available on the organization's website, was put together from the testimonies of 84 individuals who either worked in Saydnaya prison or were imprisoned there according to the LA Times.
Based on the interview material they collected, Amnesty International concluded that between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners at Saydnaya have been secretly hanged and buried since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 up to 2015, although the report says that such extrajudicial executions are likely still occurring.
The Syrian government has denied the allegations. President Bashar al-Assad said, “Amnesty International, it is always biased and politicized,” adding that the group has no evidence. “They said it is based on interviews, but what about the documents? What about the concrete evidence?” According to the UK Independent, the Syrian leader, who has been facing an armed insurrection against his rule for several years now said, “We are living in a fake news era.”
The Amnesty International report contains testimonies from a military judge, officers, and detainees. On a weekly basis, according to the sources, between 20 and 50 people were hanged after a farcical trial lasting three minutes at most. A judge who saw the hangings described the scene, saying “They kept them [hanging] there for 10 to 15 minutes...For the young ones the weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks.” A former detainee said that at night, the sound of gurgling could be heard through the floor as reported by BBC.
The horrific detainment conditions of the Saydnaya prison are expounded upon in the report. A former detainee under the alias “Nader” said “Every day there would be two or three dead people in our wing…There was one time... thirteen people from our wing died [as a result of beatings].”
Physical torture was compounded with psychological torture. Prisoners were often raped or forced to rape other prisoners, and the cells were typically covered in dirt, blood, and pus.
Amnesty International notes that death sentences require the approval of high ranking government officials authorized to act on behalf of President al-Assad. For this reason, it is not likely that the president could be unaware of such activity taking place in his country’s penal institutions.
Amnesty International “conclude[s] that the Syrian authorities’ violations at Sayndaya amount to crimes against humanity,” and it has called for the UN Security Council to investigate Syria, which has not permitted international monitors to observe its prisons.