Ten years have passed since the Syrian Revolution started, during this period, hundreds of reports of practices and violations against detainees in Bashar al-Assad prisons were issued. International human rights organizations and associations are still concerned about the detainees’ issue, as Assad detainers practice the most inhumane torturing methods against prisoners, according to the organizations.
A recent report issued by a new UN committee, reveals that forced concealment and torture continue in Syrian regime prisons, despite the declining pace of fighting in the country and calls for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. The committee affirms that the suffering of detainees in Assad’s prisons can be considered as crimes against humanity.
The Committee notes that Syrian prisons are riddled with tens of thousands of arbitrary detainees who are subjected to various forms of physical and psychological torture, including sexual violence. The committee stresses that not all arrests by the regime forces were based on clear charges or evidence, but thousands of Syrians were detained arbitrarily or due to malicious reports by Syrian security agents.
It is noteworthy that there are still no accurate official statistics on the number of detainees in Syria since the outbreak of the revolution in 2011; however, sources in the Syrian opposition assert that there are more than a million detainees and that many have died under torture.
50 Years Old Policy!!
Commenting on the UN report, Amer Saada, a human rights activist, asserts that the phenomenon of detention in Syria was not a known only during the Syrian Revolution; it is an essential part of a 50-year-old policy. It was conducted by Hafez al-Assad, the former head of the Syrian regime, who used it to consolidate his rule and reinforce his dictatorship. Saada points out that most of the security branches were established after coup d’état, led by Hafez al-Assad in 1970.
In the same context, Saada indicates that Syrian prisons have been witnessing the same criminal violations for 5 decades, but after the revolution; the numbers became huge and people had the audacity to uncover what the detainees pass in those prisons. Moreover, social media and development contributed to the revelation of these crimes.
“Palestine Detention Centre, Sidnaya prison and Palmyra prisons were all established many years before the Syrian revolution, they were even established before Bashae al-Assad comes to power,” Saada says, pointing out that in 1982, one of the biggest massacres against Syrians took place in those prisons, where thousands of Syrians were killed under pretext of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, although many of the prisoners had no political or religious affiliation, while some of them were Christians.
A few days ago, CBS America’s 60 Minutes programme revealed 900,000 documents that prove the involvement of the Bashar al-Assad regime in crimes against humanity, including executions under torture and forced concealment of men, women and children.
The documents also revealed a series of evidence of what Syria experienced during the years of the revolution that erupted in 2011, including photographs and documents belonged to intelligence branches and security committees that were formed under the direct orders of Bashar al-Assad. Those committees took over the suppression of protests, primarily the central crisis management cell.
Business of Arrest
The escalation of arbitrary arrests during the years of the Syrian Revolution, is attributed to the business of arrest, this is what the former detainee Abu Milad says. “These arrests are not only aimed at terrorizing people or preserving the authority of the regime, but have also been transformed into a business by regime operatives to increase their wealth by blackmailing the families of detainees,” he confirms.
Abu Milad cites what happened to him when he was arrested: “I was arrested in 2013 while returning to my home in Damascus, at one of the checkpoints, the regime elements stopped me, arrested me, confiscated my car, then took me to an unknown location, which I later learned was Al-Khatib’s detention branch, I stayed there for more than 9 months on charges of supporting the militants, although I was not engaged in any political or opposition activity.”
Abu Milad states that his family, after weeks of searching for him, had reached to one of the prominent figures in the regime’s security, who told them where he was for 500,000 Syrian pounds, then he said if they wanted to release him, they would have to pay 10 million Syrian pounds. His family had to sell a number of properties to get the requested amount.
It is worthwhile that the administration of former US President Donald Trump imposed last year “the Caesar Act” sanctions against the Syrian regime, and that was for a dissident whose name is Caesar and who leaked 54,000 photos documenting the murder of 11,000 Syrians in detention under torture, during 2011 and 2012.