Detainees and forcibly-disappeared people in a decade of the war | Over 105,000 civilians killed and died in regime prisons…fate of hundreds of thousands others remains unknown…while relevant organizations continue inaction
Ambiguity surrounds the file of Detainees
The file of political, security, and human rights prisoners remains the mistiest, especially since many parties are seeking for keeping shocking facts and horrific stories secret, while most of international and local human rights organizations seem indifferent and not care less about this file.
According to SOHR statistics, 968,651 people, including 154,984 women, were detained by regime security services since the beginning of the “Syrian Revolution”, while the number of civilians who have died under torture in regime’s prisons since the beginning of the Syrian revolution has reached 16,249 fatalities, all documented by names: 16,060 men and young men, 125 children under the age of eighteen, and 64 women over the age of eighteen.
Reliable sources have informed the Syrian Observatory that the number of people killed, executed and/or died in regime prisons exceeded 105,290 people. Over 83% of the total death toll were killed and/or died in these prisons between May 2013 and October 2015. SOHR sources have also confirmed that more than 30,000 detainees were killed in the notorious prison of Sednaya alone, while the second largest percentage of killing occurred in the Air Force Intelligence detention facilities or prisons.
It is worth noting that the recent number of detainees in regime’s prisons and forcibly disappeared people approximates 280,416 people, they are as follows:
- 152,342 people detained in regime prisons, including 41,293 women.
- 128,074 forcibly disappeared people, including 20,315 women.
Moreover, the number of terrorism files in the competent court has reached 102,453 files.
The leaking of nearly 50,000 pictures portraying the brutal torture these victims endured in regime prisons has aroused interest of a broad cross-section of Syria’s society and sparked popular anger, while no workable solution looms on the horizon still.
SOHR activists have confirmed that the Syrian detainees in regime prisons and security centres of extremist organizations and rebel factions have been arrested and prosecuted for fabricated accusations.
Families of some political prisoners frequently told about their sons who have been arrested, although they have never been involved in any political issues or adopted any political attitudes.
As there are no serious negotiations with the Syrian regime concerning the file of detainees and enforced disappearances, fears grows for the lives and safety of these victims, especially since the Syrian regime continues blackout on this file.
Former prisoners spoke of an endless cycle of beatings. On the journey after arrest. In transit between detention centres. As part of a “welcome party” of abuse on arrival at a prison affiliated to both Syrian regime and opposition factions. And in some cases every day for every conceivable minor ‘breaking’ of rules, including talking to other prisoners.
Many of the prisoners said they had been beaten with plastic hose pipes, silicone bars and wooden sticks. Some had been scalded with hot water and burnt with cigarettes. Others were forced to stand in water and given electric shocks.
The Amnesty International Movement has pointed out to the fact that some of the techniques used are so commonplace they have their own nicknames. There’s the ‘flying carpet’, where people are strapped face-up on a foldable board, and one end is brought up to the other. Or the “tyre” (dulab), where people are forced into a vehicle tyre, with their foreheads pressed onto their knees or ankles, and beaten.
Both men and women have been raped and sexually harassed. Women have also been threatened with rape in front of their relatives in order to extract “confessions”.
The UN detectives have announced in a report issued recently that the fate of tens of thousands of civilians who were arbitrary arrested and forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime remains unknown, describing the situation as a “national trauma” that will affect the Syrian society for decades. The UN detectives also talked about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the regime security services against detainees, including torture, rape and killings. For a decade of dominance and instability, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has been all along warning against the repercussions of such situation which has been worsened even more with the intervention of foreign powers and actors. SOHR also appeal to find a workable solution for the file of detainees, and to disclose the fate and thousands of detainees and forcibly disappeared civilians.
The enforced disappearances have been not exclusively limited to the Syrian regime, as thousands of people abducted by ISIS, and their fate remains unknown, including Khalil Ma’touq, Abdulaziz al-Khair, Faten Rajab, Hussein Iso, tens of intellectuals and defenders of freedom of opinion, Father Paolo Daololio, Bishops John Ibrahim and Paul Yazji, Abdullah Al Khalil, a British journalist, Sky News journalist, other journalists, and hundreds of abductees from Ain Al Arab (Kobani), Afrin, and Deir Ezzor. The Syrian Observatory also documented hundreds of people held in the prisons of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, Turkish-backed factions and Syria Democratic Forces.
Human rights violations
In exclusive interviews by SOHR, several politicians stated that no country in the whole world, in modern times, has experienced such methods of torture or arrests like in Syria. These politicians have accused the regime government of deliberately hiding the fate of prisoners held in its prisons as a part of its systematic practices which violate human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity.
Unfulfiled political settlement
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 has recommended confidence-building measures, including the release of detainees. However, the “Resolution” has not been fulfiled and remained unheeded. According to international organizations, the prisoners who have been released from regime prisons were set free within prisoners-swap deals between regime forces and opposition factions or after paying large bribes to regime senior officials.
Charter for disclosing truth
In February 2021, a charter dubbed the “Truth and Justice Charter” was put forth by a group of five associations formed by victims and survivors (and/or their family members) of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and all violations that accompanied or resulted from enforced disappearance and detention including extrajudicial execution, torture, and sexual abuses. The charter lays out a common vision and framework on the question of enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention in Syria.
The charter’s members, one of whom has been interviewed by SOHR, seek for revealing the regime violations which the international community has failed to put an end to or held the “criminals” accountable, which helped the prevalence of the culture of impunity and the repetition of such practices and violations by most of the rebel factions and extremist organizations. The charter’s members have also stated “reaching a comprehensive justice satisfying the needs and aspirations of victims, survivors, and their family members is a long-term process that will encompass cumulative stages. There are immediate measures that must be taken to put a halt to ongoing violations and alleviate the suffering of survivors, victims, and their families.”
It is worth noting that the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has urged the regime government to take urgent, comprehensive steps to reveal the fates of those who have been forcibly disappeared. It also recommends that the international community pressure warring parties to prevent violations, establish a mechanism to account for the missing, and support victims, including Syrians and foreigners held in displacement camps.
We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, renew our appeals and calls to the international community, particularly the secretary-general of the United Nations, the UN Security Council and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to spare no effort to disclose the fate of tens of thousands of forcibly disappeared people and announce the results to the Syrian, regional and international general opinion, and most importantly to their grieving families. We also call upon the international courts to put priorities bringing all criminals, perpetrators and all those who aided and abated such heinous crimes to involved in the disappearance and killing of thousands to justice so that they can be held accountable for their crimes against the Syrian people.