Amnesty Report Reveals Crimes Against Humanity in Syria

Oqba al-Sha'ar

Oqba al-Sha'ar, one of at least nine men believed to have died in custody in Tell Kalakh, Syria. © Private

The protests in Syria to demand change began in mid-March, and since then the Syrian government has ordered a brutal crackdown against the protesters, while blocking access to international journalists and human rights observers to document the events in Syria. Today, Amnesty International released a report that sheds light on what happened in Tell Kalakh, near the Lebanese border, in May when Syrian army and security forces mounted a broad security sweep.

Amnesty International reveals that security forces committed atrocities against Syrian civilians by rounding up men and boys, arresting them and torturing them in detention for weeks. At least nine people died in custody and one person was killed by snipers, according to witnesses who spoke to Amnesty’s researchers. The abuses documented in the report, according to Amnesty, amount to crimes against humanity as they appear to be part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.

Most of those detained following a May 14th anti-government protest in Tell Kalakh were tortured, some even as they were being arrested. In one incident, soldiers transporting detainees counted how many they had arrested by stabbing lit cigarettes on the backs of their necks.

Those detained told Amnesty International that security used the shabah (ghost) method, in which a detainee is forced into a stress position for long periods and beaten. The detainees were tied by the wrists to a bar high enough off the ground to force them to stand on the tip of their toes.

“Mahmoud,” 20, who was arrested on May 16, and released after nearly a month in detention, was held for around five days at the Military Security detention facility in Homs:

“Each day [was] the same story. They tied me up in the shabah position and applied electricity to my body and testicles. Sometimes I screamed very loudly and begged the interrogator to stop. He didn’t care.”

Amnesty International knows that a number of people arrested in Tell Kalakh still remain in detention, including a 17-year-old boy.

The organization called on the Syrian authorities to release all individuals arbitrarily arrested and detained for peaceful demonstrations or expressing dissent.

Amnesty International repeated its call for the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It also urged the Syrian authorities to provide unimpeded access to U.N. investigators currently looking into the human rights situation in Syria.

The full report (pdf) is available here.

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