Syria: Bullets, Fists and Electric Cables against Protestors

Human Wrongs Watch

Beirut, 6 Oct., 2011 – Six months into pro-democracy protests in Syria, allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime proliferate.The latest UN figures talk about 2.900 deaths.

Image: Syriana2011 | Wikimedia Commons

Human rights organizations documented numerous cases of torture in the six months since the start of the uprising. Amnesty International has documented 10 cases of children dying in custody, some of them mutilated either before or after death; while another global campaigning organization, Avaaz, reports that 16 children died in detention after they suffered severe torture.

A UN-backed rights commission has urged Syria to let it into the country to investigate reports of killings and torture, including of children, according to IRIN, humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs*. “We have received many scary reports about the situation of children during the conflict,” said Paulo Pinheiro, a Brazilian human rights expert heading the commission of inquiry.

Crimes against Humanity?

Avaaz has recorded the names of 11,006 people arrested and detained in Syria, though some activists believe the real number to be many as 15,000 people.

Inside prison, detainees face what Human Rights Watch has described as “rampant torture”.

In interviews with 19 Syrian detainees in April, including two women and three teenagers, Human Rights Watch found that all but two had been tortured, including being whipped with cables and stunned with electric-shock devices while drenched in cold water.

Doused in Cold Water and Beaten

Insan, a Syrian human rights organization, said it had received numerous reports of torture where detainees have been left naked in groups for hours and doused in cold water before collectively being beaten.

In May, Amnesty International reported cases of detainees forced to lick blood off the floor of a prison and others who had to drink toilet water after being starved for three days.

Dying Behind Bars

The mounting toll of reports of people dying behind bars provides yet more evidence of crimes against humanity and should spur the UN Security Council into referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, on Sept. 23.

Syria ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2004.

Yousef* has a hard time describing what happened to his brothers Sami*, 34, and Ahmad*, 36,” IRIN reports. (*not their real names).

Beating with Electric Cables

The two had been arrested in July with other protesters in a suburb of Damascus after a demonstration – one of many in an anti-government uprising which began in March. They had been chanting for freedom and the fall of the 41-year-old Assad regime (President Bashar-al Assad succeeded his father in 2000).

The beatings began on the bus, Yousef told IRIN. Security forces stood on his brothers and insulted them while beating them with electric cables.

Three times a day for the first seven days, they were taken one by one for interrogation. “The interrogator would scream, ‘You want freedom?’” said Yousef.

Then he would hit them. My eldest brother, Ahmad, is very strong, so when they beat him he wouldn’t scream. So they told him: ‘You are like an ox,’ and they hit him harder.”

Fists, Electric Wheels, …

According to Yousef, interrogators used fists, electric batons, electric cables and the so-called electric wheel, a large tractor wheel hung from the ceiling to which the prisoner is strapped while the wheel spins and the torturer hits the prisoner randomly.

Holding a photo of the president, they asked Ahmad: “Who is your God? Say: Bashar is,” the men told him. When he refused, the beatings continued. “I saw all the scars on his back and his hands,” said Yousef. “Long and open wounds… Here, torture is normal.”

Upon their release, Yousef’s brothers were told not to speak of their ordeal. “We are really suffering. You can’t imagine,” Yousef said. “We feel as if we are in a jungle with big monsters and we are alone and without any help.”

*Based on IRIN report:

2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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