Human rights group highlights system of torture in Syria
An international human rights organization this week released a report that it says documents a series of detention and torture facilities setup around Syria by the country's government. The report is based on hundreds of interviews with Syrians who were victims of the government program.
Human Rights Watch this week published a scathing report detailing of what it calls a state policy of torture in Syria that amounts to a crime against humanity.
It documents the locations of numerous detention facilities around the country and outlines the methods of torture used in them. The rights group conducted more than 200 interviews with victims of torture since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March of last year.
"They hung us by our arms, with our bodies suspended in the air," said one protester who described his detention and torture at a Syrian intelligence prison near Homs. "They beat us and said, 'You want freedom, you want Democracy? Here is your freedom.'"
James Reynolds, a BBC correspondent reporting from the Turkey-Syria border, said he's spoken with two teachers who took part in peaceful demonstrations and were detained by security forces.
"The first man said he was made to shout 'There is no God but Bashar al-Assad.' When he refused to do so, on religious grounds, he was kicked. He said the beatings continued for so long that in the end he tried to offer money to his guards to kill him to end the pain," Reynolds said.
The other teacher was kicked and made to offer information under threat of the guards brutalizing his wife and daughters, Reynolds said.
Human Rights Watch says that not only activists are being targeted and tortured. The organization says Syrian forces are even torturing children.
"It's notable that, in the refugee camps near here, we do see not just adults, but we see entire families. It gives you an indication of the kind of fear that these refugees have. More than 30,000 are now on this border," Reynolds said.
It's difficult to get an overall picture about the refugees and their motives for fleeing, Reynolds said, because foreigners, including foreign media, aren't allowed in. The refugees are guarded by Turkish military, making it difficult to find out what drove the refugees out of their homes.
"What we really understand from those we've been able to speak to is they're just too scared to go back. They may be scared to go back, because their homes have been destroyed; they may be scared to go back of the fear of torture," Reynolds said.
Human Rights Watch has called for the International Criminal Court to become involved, but that's highly unlikely at this time, because their involvement would be triggered by a referral from the United Nations Security Council. To date, Russia and China have used their positions on the council to block tough measured aimed at Syria.
The organization is also calling for additional, targeted sanctions against individuals in Syria behind the torture.
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