x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Amnesty: prosecute Syrian regime

The human-rights group report details government's 'grave crimes' as the violence leaves 59 more dead.

Rebels with the Free Syrian Army take their positions in Idlib province on Tuesday as Idlib city was reclaimed by government forces.
Rebels with the Free Syrian Army take their positions in Idlib province on Tuesday as Idlib city was reclaimed by government forces.

BEIRUT// The human-rights group, Amnesty International, said yesterday it had compiled a grim catalogue of 31 methods of systematic torture, including rape, by government forces in the year since the revolution against the president Bashar Al Assad began.

Government forces had abused detainees, including beatings, electric shocks and sexual assault, Amnesty said in a report released yesterday that evaluated the uprising that has killed close to 10,000 civilians and government forces.

Amnesty's acting deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Ann Harrison, said many of those detained by Syrian authorities in a wave of arrests over the past 12 months had experienced a "nightmarish world of systemic torture".

Amnesty urged that the Syrian authorities be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.

The 43-page report detailed widespread abuse including victims being suspended so their feet barely touch the floor and then beaten, the use of pincers to gouge out flesh, and sexual violence.

A man identified as "Tareq", told Amnesty he was forced to watch another male detainee being raped.

Amnesty documented 276 deaths of people in custody over the past year.

"The testimonies we have heard give disturbing insights into a system of detention and interrogation which, a year after protests began, appears intended primarily to degrade humiliate and terrify its victims into silence," Ms Harrison said.

"We continue to believe that the ICC represents the best option of securing real accountability for those responsible for the grave crimes that have been committed against people in Syria."

However, the ICC has so far been powerless to launch trials against members of Muammar Qaddafi's regime, including his son and the heir apparent Saif Al Islam Qaddafi.

Although most abuses were by Syrian security forces, Amnesty said there had also been reports of abuse by opposition groups, including killings and kidnappings of those believed to be associated with the regime.

The information was collected through interviews with dozens of victims and witnesses who managed to flee to Jordan.

The United Nations refugee agency said earlier this week that some 230,000 Syrians had fled their homes in the last 12 months of fighting. About 30,000 are believed to have sought safety in other countries.

Syrian government officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the Amnesty report.

Syria's state news agency, Sana, said yesterday that 15 civilians, including children, were killed in the Karm Al Louz neighbourhood of Homs on Tuesday by "armed terrorist groups",

Activists reported more fighting across the country yesterday, as the Syrian army pushed back against rebel opposition fighters.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces and rebels clashed in the northern Idlib province, a day after most of Idlib city was retaken by the regime.

Activists said there were also attacks and reports of dead and wounded in the southern city of Deraa, where pro-democracy demonstrations first began a year ago today.

The Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union, a network of opposition activists, said more than 59 people were killed in Syria yesterday, including 34 in Idlib. This information could not be independently confirmed.

zconstantine@thenational.ae

* With additional reports by Reuters and the Associated Press