News / Middle East

UN: Secret Detention Part of Syria ‘Campaign of Terror’

Reuters
Syrian activists and other citizens have vanished into secret detention as part of a “widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population” by the Damascus government, U.N. investigators said on Thursday.
 
The state-run practice of enforced disappearances in Syria - abductions that are officially denied - is systematic enough to amount to a crime against humanity, they said in a report.
 
Some armed groups in northern Syria, especially the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have also abducted people into incommunicado detention and denied their captivity, tantamount to the crime of enforced disappearances, it said.
 
In a separate report, London-based Amnesty International said ISIL was perpetrating “a shocking catalogue of abuses” in secret jails across northern Syria, including torture, flogging and killings after summary trials.
 
But the United Nations investigators said most witnesses  identified Syrian intelligence officers, soldiers and militias loyal to President Bashar al-Assad as having snatched people whose fate remains unknown.
 
“In Syria, silence and fear shroud enforced disappearances. In several cases, individuals who reported a disappearance were themselves detained,” said the report by the independent investigators led by Brazilian Paulo Pinheiro.
 
Despite the “organised nature” of the arrests and detentions, authorities fail to record the names and personal details of such detainees, including those who die, making it difficult to trace them and inform families, it said.
 
Some bodies are returned bearing signs of severe torture.
 
The first victims were protesters in the revolt against Assad that began in March 2011. But as Syria descended into civil war, targeting spread to include people snatched at checkpoints and in their homes, it said.
 
Wounded patients in hospital suspected of links to rebels, doctors providing medical care in opposition areas and families of defectors have disappeared, the investigators said, quoting first-hand accounts, mainly from Syrians who have fled abroad.
 
The mother and brother of a British surgeon who died in a Syrian prison days before his planned release this week are pleading with authorities to return the man's body and put an end to their family's 13-month ordeal.
 
Thousand of cases

 
More than 100 cases of enforced disappearances have been documented, but the total number of cases is likely to be in the thousands, one U.N. official said.
 
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that enforced disappearances were committed by government forces, as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population, and therefore amount to a crime against humanity,” the report said.
 
The investigators, who include former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, said that there was no statute of limitations for such crimes.
 
“Investigating each case of enforced disappearance will remain the responsibility of the Syrian state regardless of the government in power,” the report said.
 
With a view to future prosecution, the U.N. investigators have already drawn up two confidential lists of suspected war criminals on both sides, naming individuals as well as units believed to have carried out atrocities.
 
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict and millions forced from their homes, according to U.N. figures. Shi'ite fighters from Iraq and Lebanon's Hezbollah have fought alongside Assad's army, while Sunni militants have flocked from across the Islamic world to join the rebels.
 
Amnesty said that ISIL, one of the most powerful jihadi groups to emerge from the almost three-year-old conflict, operates seven clandestine prisons in rebel-held areas, dispensing torture and summary killings.
 
Detainees are held for reasons ranging from suspected theft to offences against Islam such as smoking or sex outside marriage. Others are seized simply for challenging ISIL authority or belonging to rival armed groups, it said.
 
“Those abducted and detained by ISIL include children as young as eight who are held together with adults in the same cruel and inhuman conditions,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
 
Urging world powers to halt the flow of arms to ISIL and other armed groups accused of war crimes and other abuses, Amnesty said Turkey in particular should prevent jihadi fighters and weapons crossing its border into northern Syria.
 
Gulf Arab states that back the anti-Assad rebels and are viewed as a main source of funding for the radical armed groups should also cut off flows of arms and equipment, Amnesty said.
 
The dominance of ISIL and other hardline rebel groups, which reject next month's planned Syria peace talks, has eclipsed more moderate, Western-backed rebels, fracturing the armed struggle against Assad and prompting Western alarm that al-Qaida is building a stronghold in northern Syria.
 
Amnesty said several children had received severe floggings and on one occasion a father had to listen to his son's screams in a nearby room. Two detainees said they witnessed a child of about 14 receive 90 lashes at prison in Raqqa province.
 
“After years in which they were prey to the brutality of the Assad regime, the people of Raqqa and Aleppo are now suffering under a new form of tyranny imposed on them by ISIL, in which arbitrary detention, torture and executions have become the order of the day,” Luther said.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
December 19, 2013 10:33 AM
Come on! This is nothing new, we've been seeing videos for 3 years of abuse in Syria by the Syrian so called government beating and torturing people in their so called jails. The world does nothing, an entire disgrace. This bashar al assad character should of been dealt a serious blow long ago. This is why the Syrians are being slaughtered by government troops, because noone is doing anything. No action is enabling the criminal bashar to continue his ring of terror on Syrians.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 20, 2013 11:51 AM
Hong Ha from: Vietnam why not write the UN to investigate?
We are talking about bashar al assad and his crimes, we aren't skipping the subject here, this is not news about USA. This has been going on for over 3 years and it is time the International Community steps in and holds assad 100% responsible for all of his murders and all of his other crimes. If you ask me I believe the crimes that bashar al assad has commited amount to terrorist acts against the people of Syria. Anyone assisting bashar al assad should be treated as a criminal as well. Whether they be giving him arms or collecting people for jails, or murdering innocent people thinking they are under protection of bashar al assad. Murder is murder, and those responsible should be held accountable. Just last week bashar indiscriminately dropped barrel bombs in civilian areas, murdering 28 children and many many adults. There is no excuse in the world for this crime. Bashar should be faced with 28 murder charges last week just with children alone, not even adding the many other thousands of civilians he has also murdered for 3 years. There should be a reward for assads capture. This would allow the Syrians to be able to face the person responsible for murdering their family members. Scumbags like that deserve to be jailed for life, in Syria bashar would get 28 death sentences if convicted by his very own laws.
In Response

by: Hong Ha from: Vietnam
December 19, 2013 8:41 PM
Why there has not been an investigation into the beating and torturing of prisoners in the USA's jails yet? Especially in Vietnam. People may come to Vietnam to witness such crime against humanity.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs