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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs