Nearly 18,000 people died in prison in Syria between 2011 and 2015, according to an Amnesty International report Thursday. The report — “It breaks the human”: Torture, disease and death in Syria’s prisons — alleges beatings and rape in Syria’s state jails and detention centers.
Amnesty interviewed 65 “torture survivors,” of which most had witnessed at least one death in custody. The human rights group had urged the global community to pressurize Damascus to end the use of torture toward those in government custody. However, the Syrian government has repeatedly denied these allegations. More than 17,723 people died in custody across Syria between March 2011 during the beginning of the uprising against President Bashar Assad and December 2015.
According to Amnesty, those who were detained had often received severe beatings by prison guards upon their arrival at a prison. This abuse is known as a “welcome party.” Following this, “security checks” were carried out, during which women in particular reported being raped and sexually assaulted by male guards
“They treated us like animals. They wanted people to be as inhuman as possible,” detainee Samer told Amnesty. “I saw the blood, it was like a river… I never imagined humanity would reach such a low level.. they would have had no problem killing us right there and then,” he said.
Another inmate, Ziad (not his real name) revealed how seven people died in one day after the ventilation stopped working at an intelligence agency detention centre.
“For decades, Syrian government forces have used torture as a means to crush their opponents,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said. “Today, it is being carried out as part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against anyone suspected of opposing the government in the civilian population and amounts to crimes against humanity,” he added.
Human rights groups have said that these allegations should be urgently addressed by the international community, particularly the United States and Russia, who co-chair peace talks on the Syrian crisis.