Date
21 October 2017
President Bashar al-Assad has rejected reports of torture and extrajudicial killings in a civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Photo: Reuters
President Bashar al-Assad has rejected reports of torture and extrajudicial killings in a civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Photo: Reuters

Syria executes, tortures thousands at military prison: Amnesty

The Syrian government executed up to 13,000 prisoners in mass hangings and carried out systematic torture at a military jail near Damascus, Reuters reports, citing rights watchdog Amnesty International.

Amnesty said the executions took place between 2011 and 2015 but were probably still being carried out and amounted to war crimes.

It called for a further investigation by the United Nations, which produced a report last year with similar accusations also based on extensive witness testimonies.

Syria’s government and President Bashar al-Assad have rejected similar reports in the past of torture and extrajudicial killings in a civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

The Amnesty report said an average of 20-50 people were hanged each week at the Sednaya military prison north of Damascus.

Between 5,000 and 13,000 people were executed at Sednaya in the four years after a popular uprising descended into civil war, it said.

“The victims are overwhelmingly civilians who are thought to oppose the government,” the report said.

“Many other detainees at Sednaya Military Prison have been killed after being repeatedly tortured and systematically deprived of food, water, medicine and medical care.”

The prisoners, who included former military personnel suspected of disloyalty and people involved in unrest, underwent sham trials before military courts and were sometimes forced to make confessions under torture, Amnesty said.

The executions were carried out secretly and those killed were buried in mass graves outside the capital, with families not informed of their fate, it said.

The report was based on interviews with 84 witnesses including former guards and officials, detainees, judges and lawyers, as well as experts.

It followed a report issued a year ago by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, whose war crimes investigators said they had documented a high number of deaths in Sednaya military prison.

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