18 prisons divided into 3 categories, the torture share belongs to regime’s detainees and “agents” and its oppositionists, those with history supervise the prisons: The Syrian Observatory reveals the conditions of detainees in prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham
On the 28th of January 2017, a group of the radical jihadi groups announced their merger in the so-called “Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham”, where that coalition was formed from the merger of Fateh al-Sham Front (Jabhat al-Nusra formerly), Ansar al-Dien, Jaysh al-Sunnah, al-Haq Brigade, and Nour al-Dien al-Zenki Movement. And after the establishment was declared; other groups, individuals, and fighters from Syria and abroad joined Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, and despite this merger, members of Jabhat al-Nusra dominate most of the prominent leadership positions in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, which expanded its control until it become a major player in the Syrian conflict, and because no Syrian has been spared from the horrors of war and the fall of areas under the control of armed factions in different whatever their directions are; practices of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham against its detainees have not been different that much of practices of the regime forces and the Turkey-loyal factions, and as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed the conditions of detainees inside the prisons of the regime and inside the prisons of the Turkey-loyal armed factions, especially “Sultan Murad Squad” the most powerful faction among these factions, the Syrian Observatory continues to reveal the situation of detainees inside prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra formerly), where sources revealed to the Observatory that their prisons are divided into several categories in several areas.
18 Prisons And 3 Categories: Prisons Of “Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham” Divided According To Their Purpose
According to the reliable sources of the Syrian Observatory: the prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham are mainly divided into 3 categories according to their purpose, meaning that the category “A” includes a group of small prisons that gather the headquarters of a particular faction, the purpose of which is to conduct investigations and then hand over the detainees to the Sharia courts, the prisons of this category can only hold less than 50 detainees, while the second category “B” are secret judicially independent medium-sized prisons, with a capacity of less than 300 people, and the third category is the largest among the prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, and they directly following the Sharia courts of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham with capacity of more than 300 people.
In general, Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham has established 18 prisons divided to the 3 categories, according to sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and according to these sources: the first prison among these prisons is a private prison within category “A”, which is located in the Ghassaniya area in Bezrah village, which is about 5 kilometers away of the highway, and it is under the control of the jihadi groups operating in Latakia countryside area, most of them are of the Iranians, east Asian countries, Turkistanis, Uzbeks, Moroccans, and Iraqis, and in general -according to the sources- the prison is run by Iranian prisoners and officials.
Sources of the Syrian Observatory also revealed information about the rest of the prisons in the Category “A”, which are: the “Scientific Research” prison located in Sahel al-Rouj and administered by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, and “Madajen al-Kokhiyyeh” prison in Sahel al-Rouj as well and is also under the control of Tahrir al-Sham, the sources added: “there is also the Training Camp prison in Khirbet al-Jawz area, which belongs to the Tahrir al-Sham, also, there is Ain al-Bayda prison which is also under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham.”
As for prisons of the Category “B”, sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed that there are 6 prisons in that category, and they are: a very secret prison in the heart of Bab al-Hawa crossing below the building of the offices, and it has 2 underground entrances, in addition to the “Iqab” prison (Punishment Prison), which is located in Jabal al-Zawiyah between Belyon and Kansafra north of Kansafra, the sources continued: “there is also IKARDA Prison on Aleppo road which is controlled by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, and another prison called al-Zanbaqi Prison located next to Darkush, which is controlled by the Turkmens and Tahrir al-Sham,” and according to the reliable sources: there is also “Deir Osman” prison in Darkush area and it belongs to Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, and Mazra prison in Zarzour area in the countryside of Jisr al-Shughur, which also follows Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, “and there is also Khirbet al-Jawz prison which has been turned into a court now, and belongs to Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham,” the sources said.
Sources of the Syrian Observatory also revealed the prisons of the Category “C”, which are: “Shaheen” Central Prison which belongs to Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, and “Harem” prison in the ancient citadel area after and falls under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, in addition to “Harem” Central Prison which is also under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham.
In addition to the above-mentioned prisons; there are a group of prisons sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have not been able to identify their categories, and they are as follows: “al-Kahef prison in the southern countryside of Saraqib on Aleppo – Damascus highway between Kafr Batikh and Khan al-Sobol in al-Hersh area, in addition to a prison west of al-Seher area in al-Mohandesin countryside, and finally, a prison in Qabr al-Englizi area in al-Mumayyazoun School.
Numbers of detainees are unknown, accusations are broad, and the torture is from the share of regime’s detainees and “agents”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has tried to obtain an accurate numbers of prisoners held by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham or the factions that follow it, but the numbers are not yet known, amid estimates that they exceed thousands, especially that there are information about the presence of some detainees who have been in prisons since days of control of al-Nusra Front, i.e. before the announcement of the merger in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, in addition to the existence of secret prisons that no one knows about, and according to sources of the Syrian Observatory: periods of detention range from one week to 4 years, each according to the charges against the prisoner, but there are several prisoners who exceeded these detention periods so much, without any information about the reasons for keeping them detained, and reliable sources indicated that there are Several detainees of the Free Syrian Army, who have been held in prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham for several years.
As for the accusations against the people detained by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham; reliable sources pointed out to the Syrian Observatory that the accusations are small and large, start from shooting at weddings and end with being agent for the regime, the Russians, or the Coalition, in addition to many other charges that do not need imprisonment, in which the accused person is only summoned for several hours to be investigated about the charges against him, then they release him without going to prison and according to the sources: the accusations that pursue the accused people vary greatly, including adopting ideas of the “Islamic State” Organization or what is called “converting into ISIS”, and adopting ideas of al-Hazemi Movement in relation to the Sheikh Ahmed bin Omar al-Hazemi, in addition to fighting Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and inciting against it, or beating a member of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham or the Rescue Government, in addition to other accusations due to family disputes, trade of hashish and narcotic substances, or using them, in addition to the accusations of murder or affiliation to “Euphrates Shield” operation which is supported by Turkey, but sources of the Syrian Observatory pointed out that the issue of being a member of the “Euphrates Shield” has been largely overlooked recently.
Well informed sources indicated that most of the detainees in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham’s prisons were accused of fighting Jabal al-Turkman, joining “Euphrates Shield” Operation, or joining “Olive Branch” Operation in earlier times, in addition to going against Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham. The sources added: “In addition to that, there are several prisoners of opinion and journalists whose charges have been fabricated, such as being an agent or communicating for other parties, also there are arrests under the pretext of complaining against one of the members of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, even if the accusation was without an evidence; it is enough to accuse a person loyal to Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham in order to be arrested and imprisoned.” The sources also pointed out that “most of the prisoners do not have a trial in the first place, and also there are the arbitrary arrests without the possibility of visiting the prisoners by their families, where many of the detainees are missing and nothing is known about them.
When trials of detainees are conducted under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham; these trials are conducted via a judge appointed by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, the sources revealed to the Syrian Observatory that “there is a person named Abu Azzam al-Jazrawi, who is responsible for this file, and after these trials, most of the people are accused of small charges severe only one month in detention, but the trial is considerably slow,” the sources pointed out that prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham are generally supervised by notorious security officials known for their cruelty and loyalty to Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, in addition to the fact that most of them are form those who have history and joined Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, while some prisons are supervised by immigrants as we have previously indicated.
And regarding the violations in prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights pointed out that: “the violations exist in a great manner, but their situation is quite different from what it used to be, where it has been so long since those with small accusations have been tortured, but regime’s members who were detained in the clashes and agents of the Coalition, Russians, and members of the Islamic State; are greatly subjected to torture, where they are being beaten and placed in coffin, and they use against them al-Shabah tactics, electrocution, sometimes uprooting nails, enforced absence, and torture, and according to some detainees: the torture in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham prisons is no different from the torture in Assad’s prisons, and the violations reach the limit of killing under torture or killing on purpose.”
On the 19th of June 2019, the Syrian Observatory published the news of the death of a member defected of the regime forces more than eight years ago; inside Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham’s prison in Idlib province, but no information as to whether his death was natural, under torture, or was liquidated, where the lieutenant was from Trismeh town in Hama countryside, and he was arrested by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham on charge of “communicating with outside parties,” and although the Syrian Observatory published in April that the Rescue Government had actually received the prison file from Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham; the Observatory noted that the situation had not changed and the fate of a large number of detainees in those prisons remains unknown.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as it reveals the conditions of prisons and detention facilities at Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, and the harsh conditions and torture of detainees, it calls on the international community and human rights organizations to act to highlight the suffering of detainees in these prisons, and exert the greatest pressure possible on the different parties in Syria, to respect the human rights and freedoms of citizens, and to stop the torture, persecution, and human rights violations that take place under the control of the various conflict parties, and under the sight of all the world powers involved in the Syrian conflict.