HRW Report Presents Compelling Evidence on Mass Deaths & Torture of Detainees in Assad’s Prisons

In response to the latest Human Rights Watch report confirming mass deaths and torture in Assad’s prisons, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition Salem al-Meslet called for the disclosure of information relating to the fate of all cases of enforced disappearance and detainees in the dungeons of the Assad regime.

Stressing the need to refer this file to the International Criminal Court, Meslet stated that the file of the detainees in the Assad regime’s custody must be a priority in any potential political process aimed at resolving the conflict in Syria.

The 86-page report, published on Wednesday and titled “If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria’s Detention Facilities,” lays out new evidence regarding the authenticity of the Caesar photographs; identifies a number of the victims; and highlights some of the key causes of death.

Over a period of nine months, Human Rights Watch located and interviewed 33 relatives and friends of 27 victims whose cases researchers verified; 37 former detainees who saw people die in detention; and four defectors who worked in Syrian government detention centers or the military hospitals where most of the photographs were taken. Using satellite imagery and geolocation techniques, Human Rights Watch confirmed that some of the photographs of the dead were taken in the courtyard of the 601 Military Hospital in Mezze.

“If the Dead Could Speak” reveals some of the human stories behind the more than 28,000 photos of deaths in regime custody that were smuggled out of Syria and first came to public attention in January 2014.

“Just about every detainee in these photographs was someone’s beloved child, husband, father, or friend, and his friends and family spent months or years searching for him,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “We have meticulously verified dozens of stories, and we are confident the Caesar photographs present authentic – and damning – evidence of crimes against humanity in Syria.”

“We have no doubt that the people shown in the Caesar photographs were starved, beaten, and tortured in a systematic way, and on a massive scale,” Houry said. “These photographs represent just a fraction of people who have died while in Syrian government custody – thousands more are suffering the same fate.”

“The government registered these deaths, processing dozens of bodies at a time, while taking no action to investigate the cause of death or to prevent yet more people in their custody from dying,” Houry said. “Those pushing for peace in Syria should ensure that these crimes stop and that the people who oversaw this system ultimately face accountability for their crimes.”

Human Rights Watch said that countries meeting to discuss peace negotiations in Syria – including Russia, as the Syrian government’s major backer on the international stage – should make a priority the fate of the thousands of detained people in Syria. “Concerned countries should insist that the Syrian government give international monitors immediate access to all detention centers and that Syria’s intelligence services must stop forcibly disappearing and torturing detainees,” Human Rights Watch said.

In addition to granting international monitors immediate access to all of its detention facilities, the Assad regime should release all arbitrarily detained and political prisoners, Human Rights Watch said. Russia and Iran, as the main backers of the Assad regime, have a particular responsibility to press it for immediate and unhindered access for recognized international monitors of detention.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 17.12.2015)

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