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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs