x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Syria is running dozens of torture centres: Human Rights Watch

Captors regularly punch staples into detainees' skin, tear out fingernails, beat them and administer electric shocks to their genitals and other body parts, a rights group said yesterday.

Syrian security forces are running more than two dozen torture centres where captors regularly punch staples into detainees' skin, tear out fingernails, beat them and administer electric shocks to their genitals and other body parts, a rights group said yesterday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the frequency of torture in Syrian detention centres could constitute crimes against humanity and called for international action. "The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity," the group said.

It said it had carried out more than 200 interviews with former detainees and military and intelligence defectors, "almost all" of whom described experiencing or witnessing torture, including "prolonged beatings, often with objects such as batons and wires".

The report called on the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and to impose sanctions on those who practice or oversee torture.

The Syrian government did not comment on the allegations.

Yesterday Syrian opposition groups meeting in Cairo agreed that the government of the president, Bashar Al Assad, should be overthrown and on the formation of a national unity government, Egypt's state news agency reported.

"Solving the Syrian problem starts with the departure of Assad's regime and we in the opposition agreeing among ourselves on an adequate leadership with qualified people, whether from outside the official regime, or those who may have taken part in the official government," MENA cited Abdulbaset Sieda, the head of the Syrian National Council, as saying. "Talking about any national unity govenrment while Bashar Al Assad is still there is meaningless," he said.

Diplomats of France and Germany also said that Mr Al Assad should go.

In Syria, government troops shelled rebel districts in Homs yesterday, as the death toll mounted, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least 48 people were killed yesterday.

* With reporting by Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News and Associated Press