Prisons of The Syrian Regime: Cellars of Death Claim the Lives of Tens of Thousands of Syrians
In Syria, war and destruction have been underway for so long, and there is no imminent solution on the horizon that may end the crisis which entered its 8th year several months ago, but the war and destruction was not the only torment experienced by the Syrians over those years, where the prisons and detention facilities of the Syrian regime were more severe on the Syrians than falling victims to the underway battles here or there, without being subjected to physical and psychological abuse and systematic torture by regime officers and officials, where tens of thousands of Syrians whose relatives have lost over the past years; are still in the prisons and detentions of the regime in which tens of thousands of Syrian people have been killed by regime’s authorities, intelligence services, and authorities of its allies.
Over the past 8 years, the killing, torture, and abuse of Syrian citizens continued throughout regime forces’-controlled areas as well as its allies’ controlled areas, until the number of people who were killed in prisons and torture cellars run by the regime and its intelligence services reached more than 104000 casualties according to reliable sources for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the sources confirmed that these casualties were killed by execution and killing inside the prisons of the regime forces and its intelligence services, and according to the same sources; of these 104000 casualties: more than 83% were liquidated, killed, and died in these detention facilities between May 2013 and October 2015, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented through reliable well-informed sources the deaths of more than 16000 people, including 15912 men and young men, 125 children under the age of eighteen and 64 women over the age of eighteen.
Opposing the Regime and Going Out in Demonstrations, Charges Punishable by kill and Torture
In the past years and since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, the number of detainees in the death cellars of the regime, its security services, and its allies has increased, with accusations ranging from opposing the regime or demonstrations against the Syrian regime, which are charges regime’s officials do not tolerate in any way.
Months ago, reliable sources revealed to the Syrian Observatory the continuation of silent death operations in basements of death prepared by the branches of the Syrian regime to kill its opponents, and the constant charges which are ready for the operations of torture and murder -according to the sources- are demanding freedom, justice, equality, democracy, or even reform, so that their fate became torture, food deprivation, and humiliation by different means.
Apart of the political reasons, reliable sources confirmed that the various tortures inflicted on the detainees, often were for simple reasons, such as having similar name with wanted people, or committing a criminal offence even if it was a simple, and from the beginning the investigator makes it easier to himself and moves away of the humanitarian methods of research and investigation with the accused, and resorts to using various means of intimidation and torture to extract quick confessions without bothering himself to make sure of the veracity of those confessions which were extracted under torture, and the continuation of torture process depends on the ability of the victim to bear the beats of investigators and torturers.
Over the past years and despite the reconciliation processes that took place; arrests, raids, and kidnappings by regime’s political intelligence have never stopped, were sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed that “Qudsaya” area witnessed raid operations on the 10th of February 2019, against 3 youths in the area and they were arrested and taken to an unknown destination, reliable sources revealed at the time that the 3 young men were arrested by members of the political security and that they were accused of being involved in tearing up regime’s head and writing anti-regime phrases in the area, and a few days before the incident, the sources revealed to the Syrian Observatory that the Republican Guard Forces of the regime arrested 4 young men on their checkpoint on the outskirts of the area and subjected them to several hours of torture before releasing them for the same charges.
On the 17th of December 2018, sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed that regime’s security and intelligence services continued their arbitrary operations in most of the territories that are under their control, where they carried out raids and arrests at their checkpoints, and the arrests were mostly concentrated against the people who “settled their situation” after they refused to be displaced and were keen to stay in their areas with false Russian guarantees, and on the 2nd of July 2019; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights continued to document the arrests and torture of people of Tal Arran and Tal Hasil, who previously suffered from arrests by terrorist groups and the “Islamic State” Organization, but regime forces’ control of both cities in 2014 did not bring them stability and tranquility, where the regime forces launched arbitrary arrest operations based on malicious reports, and carried out extensive moral and physical torture against large number of young people and civilians, some of whom are still missing until this day, and according to the sources: the air intelligence branch is looking for more than 150 people from the area to arrest them, and according to sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: these operations fall under the responsibility of the Air Intelligence Branch of Aleppo.
Over the past years and months, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented several incidents of death of several detainees in regime’s prisons; on the 19th of July 2019, the Syrian Observatory documented the death of a doctor from Daraa province inside prisons of “Assad” regime, and the doctor was arrested about 5 years ago by regime’s security branches and he died in 2019 as a result of the torture he suffered during his detention, and On the 15th of July 2019, the Syrian Observatory documented the killing of a citizen from al-Jiza town in Daraa countryside under torture nearly 4 years after he was arrested by regime’s intelligence, and on the 9th of July 2019, the Syrian Observatory documented the death of a young man from Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood in Aleppo city under torture inside basements of regime’s intelligence and its security services, after he was arrested in December 2016 while he was leaving towards regime forces’-controlled areas in Aleppo city, and his relatives received his body with torture marks over it, and on the 9th of June 2019, the Observatory documented the killing of a member who had defected of regime’s army and he is from Da’el city in the northern countryside of Daraa, he died under torture after being detained for 9 months by the military police, but he died as a result of torture and then his relatives received his IDs and the death certificate.
As part of the documentation carried out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Observatory documented on the 18th of May 2019 the death of a man from “Boqruss” village in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor; under torture inside the security detentions facilities after about a year and a half of arrest, while the Observatory documented on the 3rd of May 2019 the death of a man from Sheikh Meskin town in the northwestern countryside of Daraa, as a result of torture inside regime’s security detention facilities after his arrest four years ago, and on the 24th of April 2019, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the death of a young man from Idlib city under torture inside the security detention camps of the regime forces after nearly 7 years of arrest, while sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed on the 16th of April 2019, that a policeman defected from the regime forces died under torture inside basements of regime’s intelligence and its security branches, sources of the Observatory pointed out that the “Palestine Branch” of the regime forces summoned the defected policeman who had joined the rebel factions before he carried out a “settled and reconcile” after the return of the regime and its control of Daraa, where he was arrested after being summoned and remained in regime’s prison for 2 months before dying under torture, and on the 7th of March 2019, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented more casualties under torture inside regime’s prisons, where sources of the Observatory revealed the death of 10 people mostly of the same family and from al-Rastan city in the northern countryside of Homs countryside, and their relatives have been informed of their death inside regime’s cellars after being detained at varying periods of time since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
According to reliable information obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: the regime imposed death sentences on 11 detainees in Hama Central Prison for participating in demonstrations in several Syrian areas to demand the overthrow of the regime, according to audio recordings obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: 11 prisoners in Hama prison were sentenced to death in November 2018, and were decided to be taken to Sednaya Military Prison to carry out the executions against them, not to continue their trial process according to the allegations of the Military judge
Bashar and Mohab; A Live Testimony to The Death Vault Violations
As part of the following up the file of detainees and casualties who were killed by the regime forces and its various security branches, the Syrian Observatory obtained recorded videos of a testimony of two victims of torture and abuse, which are carried out against detainees under the support of the Syrian regime, in the first video: the Syrian citizen Bashar Diab, who is from Khan Shaykhun city was arrested on the 4th of November 2011, he was taken to a basement inside the State Security headquarters then the torture began, amid questions by the investigators about the anti-regime demonstrations and his involvement, Diab revealed in his testimony that he remained in solitary confinement for 4 days before being transferred later to Hama central prison, and there he was completely stripped of his clothes before being interrogated and subjected to beatings with plastic water pipes, after which he was sentenced to 60 days in prison for participating in demonstrations and he was released on the 9th of January 2012.
The second testimony obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is for a young man named Mohab Salahuddin, who was arrested on the 3rd of January 2017, where a security report was issued against him during his study at Aleppo University, then he was summoned to the Branch 290 Military Security in Aleppo, but due to the fact that his father is a defected officer of regime’s army; the military security arrested him despite having no evidence or charges against him, and during his nearly 33 days in prisons of the regime in Aleppo, he was subjected to torture, most notably the so-called “al-Akhdar al-Brahimi”, which is beating with the green water hose, as well as torture using a the ghost method for several hours specified by the investigator, which pushes any detainee to admit that he was an armed person with or without his consent just to survive torture, Salahuddin revealed the poor conditions that accompanied his arrest, where more than 20 person were sitting in one room which is no more than 3 meters long and 3 meters wide, and after 33 days of detention in Aleppo, the Young Syrian indicated that he was transferred to the Branch 248 Military Intelligence in Damascus area, and there he realized that he was detained because to the regime forces he is considered a “card” to exchange him for prisoners with the armed factions, where they sent to his family asking for the body of one of the fallen in Jisr al-Shughur, and he was held by military intelligence for one year, 4 months, and 16 days, Mohab revealed that the prisons to which she was transferred included detainees of all components and identities, even of the Alawite community, and he stressed that the regime did not let any faction survive the arrests and torture which the Syrians have been subjected to.
Mohab also revealed that he was offered a compromised during the period of Jobar Battle to fight in the ranks of the regime forces in exchange for his release, but he refused, he later discovered that those who agreed to the compromise were used as human shields in the front rows of the battle, Mohab says that the methods of torture he was subjected to in Branch 248 were much easier than those he was exposed to in the Branch 290 military security, where they relied on “al-Akhdar al-Brahimi” method but the severity of beatings was less, and the ghost method was not used for more than an hour against the detainee, but the detainees were deprived of going out to the sun and inhaling air even once a week, and according to the Syrian young man in his testimony: the methods of torture in Tartus branch were the worst, while Homs branch -one of its investigators there is called “Abu Alamin”- was amongst the worst security branches in torture operations, where the investigator used a fork-like iron stick to torture detainees to leave marks on their bodies, Mohab says that after 2017 period, the death rate in regime’s detention facilities has gotten much lower, and there has been a kind of monitoring and scrutiny to ensure that there are no deaths, but the torture continues, according to Mohab.
Bsat al-Rih (The Wind Carpet), the German chair, and the wheel, are regime’s tools to abuse its opponents
There is no limit to the methods and tools of the regime and its security services to torture and abuse the opponents and detainees, where the regime and its officials have not left a means of abuse without using it against them, and according to information obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights from multiple reliable sources, detainees, and defected officers: the methods of torture in regime’s prisons are innumerable, from the use of an underground basement where the prisoners are kept blindfolded with a piece of cloth and completely naked of all their clothes, through beating the prisoner with green plastic water pipes, electrical wires, or other tools every day for hours, in addition to electrocution and ghost, which is tying hands and hanging them from the ceiling and letting the body wave in the air in this situation for a day or two, even forcing the prisoner to sleep next to a body or 2 for several days within the framework of psychological torture, in addition to other means of psychological torture, such as leaving the water tap dipping a drip of water in complete silence inside the solitary confinement cell, leading to a situation of confusion suffered by the prisoners which lead to suicide, which already happened, where some prisoners found the only way to commit suicide by beating their heads in the wall to death.
According to sources of the Syrian Observatory: the toilets are often in the same place as the prisoners sleep, which caused many diseases most notably scabies, and the foods provided to the prisoner in solitary confinement are in very small quantities, where the food provided to them is only once every 2 days or more with a little water, other methods used by the regime to abuse detainees include the use of cold water, hot water, removal of nails, sexual assault, forcing a prisoner to sleep in a coffin, also those who are beaten and tortured and their bodies suffer from the wounds and sever injuries are put in a special person without receiving any treatment, to stay like that until they die.
Despite the apparent cruelty of these methods and means used by the regime to torture detainees, reliable sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that there are more brutal methods systematically applied in all security centers, in addition to the police and internal security services, where the ordinary Syrian citizen now knows them because of the many numbers and testimonies given by those who are close to those who have been subjected to various types of torture for various reasons, such as the famous Nazi methods of nail removal, salt spraying on wounds, ironing, beatings with metal tools, extinguishing cigarettes in the tongue, suffocation with water, and many other practices which demonstrates the brutality of the Syrian regime’s security institutions.
According to the sources, there are particularly famous methods of torture in regime’s prisons, most notably the “wind carpet” which is used systematically in the practices of the criminal security, in which they lay the victim down on a wooden or metal board, tie the limbs and chest, then all kinds of brutal beating, electrocution, and other methods of torture are applied while the victim is tied and unable to move a muscle, the second most famous method is the use of the German chair, where the ghost method is used on the chair for long hours in order to cause unbearable pain in muscles of the back, neck, and legs, due to binding the hands with the feet and bending the body forward or backward, which causes significant pressure or stretch on the spine, where the ghost method without the use of the chair is also one of the famous means of torture, where limbs of the arrested are tied and hanged from their wrists to a rope or chain hanging from the ceiling, then their bodies are raised according to the extent of punishment that the jailer wishes to apply to the victim, the goal is to put press on the wrists of the hands by using the weight of the body, and this method may last for hours or days, and is usually accompanied by severe beatings with different tools.
Another means used in regime’s detention facilities according to reliable sources is the “wheel” method, which is to force the detainee to fold his body inside a truck wheel to completely paralyze him, and then the jailer begins to beat places at the back, limbs and head, without the victim being able to move a muscle, also the electrocution is considered one of the modern means like using the electric sticks or taking a cable from the electrical grid after restraining the victim and shocking him in areas of the neck, tongue, and mouth until he loses consciousness, these are among the most famous methods used in abuse and torture according to sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Sednaya and the Air Intelligence have the worst reputation and owners of the largest number casualties
Although prisons and detention are spread in different places of regime forces’-controlled areas, Sednaya military prison which is located near the capital Damascus remains the worst one ever, although Amnesty International estimated in February 2017 that between 5000 and 13000 people were executed outside of the judiciary in Sednaya prison between September 2011 and December 2015, reliable sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that more than 30000 people were killed in Sednaya prison in particular, and in the second place of the worst detentions comes the prison of Air Intelligence Management which is run by Jamil al-Hassan, the General in regime’s intelligence, while detention camps of the security branches of the Military Security, State Security, Political Security, Branch 273 General Intelligence, Internal Intelligence, Palestine Branch, and the central prisons in Adra, al-Suwaidaa, and the rest of the provinces came next after Sednaya and the Air Intelligence, which are considered the worst ever.
ID documents, Death Registries of Unknown Causes
Over the past 8 years, sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have monitored the secretariats of civil registry in several areas of Syria -including areas in the Western Ghouta, al-Qalamoun, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, southern countryside of Idlib, Damascus, and other areas- handing over lists of detainees who have died in regime’s prisons and detentions as a result of torture, abuse, killings, starvation, diseases, and other conditions they suffered within the regime’s prisons, according to the reliable sources: lists of about 4000 names were handed over to the secretariats of the civil registry in order to officially register them in the death lists but without explaining the reasons for their deaths, which angered thousands of families of the detainees in regime’s prisons, and increased the fears for the fate of their children, whose connection with them have been lost since their arrest, because the regime forces prevent the visit between them and their children.
Although the names were handed over to secretariats of the Civil Registry, reliable sources pointed out to the Syrian Observatory that some of those who have been declared by the regime as dead; were seen in various detention facilities around 2018, despite the fact that they were officially declared dead in 2013 through death cards handed over to their relatives through the military police, the sources confirmed to the Observatory that the regime was deliberately hiding the fate of detainees, and other reliable sources pointed to the Observatory that Iran bears the first responsibility with “Assad’s” regime in killing and liquidating detainees and leaving them to their fate of hunger and disease, where Iran supervised the prisons and detentions of the regime forces and its intelligence.
Reliable sources revealed to the Syrian Observatory that the civil registry services in regime’s government continue to issue death certificates for the detainees who lost their lives under torture, the sources pointed out that tens of people of “al-Barzeh” neighborhood in Damascus headed during in September and October 2018 to the civil departments of regime’s government; to issuer a death certificate for their detained children, after receiving confirmed news about the death of their children in prisons of the regime under torture, the sources confirmed that these families who are about 25 families in al-Barzeh neighborhood received the death certificates for their children, where their deaths were documented between 2014 and 2015 without specifying the cause of death by the civil departments of regime’s government.
Detainees as negotiation weapon, deals and agreements of trading with lives
At the international level, the file of detainees and dead people in prisons, detentions, and basements of the regime may seem absent of any international discussion, but the reality is that the file was present strongly at the table of meetings “Astana”, against the background of a wide spread of resentment among families of the detainees, the missing people, and casualties who fell in prisons of “Assad’s regime”, reliable sources revealed to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that the file of detainees was present in the backstage of “Astana” meetings as part of a talk about deals of a new type to trade in Syrian detainees, through use them in exchange operations with prisoners and abductees of the rebel factions at the rebel and Islamic factions in the Syrian north, where Russia put forward in those meetings a proposal to carry out prisoner exchanges through releasing prisoners held by the regime in exchange of releasing prisoners and abductees held by the opposition factions and the rebel and Islamic Factions, also Russia hinted about the exchange of tens of abductees and prisoners which raised fears of turning the detainees into mere victims and a commercial commodity to be exchanged for abductees and prisoners, without having a movement for the full release of detainees.
At the end of September 2015, Russia entered the Russian conflict line and took over the file of detainees and defending and promoting the regime in international forums and meetings, and despite taking over this file by the Russians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored Russia’s failure to release tens of thousands of detainees who remain in regime’s prisons and detention facilities, where reliable sources indicate that more than 80000 prisoners are still alive inside the death cellars run by the regime, and according to the same sources, some of them have spent entire years in detention under disastrous humanitarian and health conditions and the lack of food and medical care, as well as torture, beatings, insults, and abuse to which they are subjected.
And with the continuation of the crisis of detainees in regime’s prisons which have become described as “death cellars”, and with the continuation of the poor conditions to which detainees are subjected like lack of care and exposure to various types of torture, and as the issue of detainees becomes a game of interests; the current circumstances to which the Syrian citizens are exposed in regime’s prisons require the stop of international actors and local and regional partiers from manipulating the lives of Syrians and their destinies, and stop the attempts to exploit them in various negotiations and agreements especially after the loss of thousands of victims, which requires international action to save Syrians from the clutches of torture they suffer at the hands of the regime.