Amnesty condemns Syria over ‘enforced disappearances’

Amnesty International condemns Syria for ‘enforced disappearances’ of detainees that is crime against humanity

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A Syrian rebel who surrendered to the government during the siege of Homs

The rights watchdog, Amnesty International, said in a report on Thursday that the Syrian state and allied militia forces have detained and abducted tens of thousands of people since 2011 in a campaign of enforced disappearances that is a crime against humanity.

"The enforced disappearances carried out since 2011 by the Syrian government were perpetrated as part of an organized attack against the civilian population that has been widespread, as well as systematic," Amnesty said.

Amnesty interviewed relatives of the disappeared people. The relatives told the rights watchdog that they were forced to pay bribes to the authorities via middle men so as to learn what would be the fate of their family members.

Amnesty said that it had tried to contact with the Syrian authorities about the issue of enforced disappearances. The authorities are yet to respond.

The Syrian government has consistently dismissed reports accusing the state of human rights abuses.

Amnesty regarded such acts as crimes against humanity and urged Damascus to let international monitors from the United Nations-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria gather information about detainees.

Detainees were kept in overcrowded and dirty cells where disease was rampant and medical treatment unavailable, Amnesty reported saying that those imprisoned people were tortured with electric shocks, whipping, suspension, burning and rape.

"People would die and then be replaced," said Salam Othman, who was forcibly disappeared from 2011 to 2014.

"I did not leave the cell for the whole three years, not once ... Many people became hysterical and lost their minds," he was quoted as saying in the report.

Residents carry an injured man through a site damaged from what an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad on the main field hospital in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus on October 29, 2015 (Reuters)

Relatives had to go to middlemen to seek details about detainees such as their location or whether they are alive in exchange for bribes because they were fearing that something could happen to them if they make an official enquiry to the government, Amnesty said.

The bribes may be from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, compelling some families to sell their homes to afford the sums demanded.

"State officials are profiting from enforced disappearances in Syria, and given how widespread and common these bribes are, the state must either be expressly or implicitly condoning this practice," said Nicolette Boehland, the author of the report, which only covered detentions by the state.

Amnesty announced that it would release a report focused on detention-related abuses committed by non-state armed groups in the coming moths.

At least 65,000 people, most of them civilians, were forced to disappear between March 2011 and August 2015 and remain missing, Amnesty reported citing figures from the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a Syria-based monitoring group.

In 2011, Syria’s revolt began with protests against Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad and had dragged into a civil war drawing in foreign states that a range of insurgent groups have been fighting against government forces and allied militia.


TRTWorld and agencies