Allegations of torture and executions against the Syrian regime


Since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, the Bashar al-Assad regime has been accused of multiple atrocities, including acts of torture, rape, summary executions and chemical attacks.

In 2014, a former photographer for the military police, exfiltrated under the pseudonym “Caesar,” revealed photographs of tortured bodies in regime prisons from 2011 to 2013. “Caesar” fled Syria in 2013 and took 55,000 photographs.

He explains that his job was to take photos of the bodies for the Defense Ministry. “I have seen horrible photos of the bodies of people who had been tortured,” he recalls, describing deep wounds, burn marks and strangulation, eyes out of their sockets, beaten children and women.

– “Archipelago of torture” –

Human Rights Watch (HRW) mentioned in 2012 an “archipelago of torture”: “use of electricity”, “sexual assault and humiliation”, “fingernails plucked” and “mock executions”.

According to the NGO, there are 27 detention centers run by the regime’s intelligence agencies, the “Mukhabarat”. They also use military bases, stadiums, schools and hospitals for this purpose.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), at least 100,000 people have died under torture or due to the terrible conditions of detention in the regime’s prisons. Half a million people have passed through these prisons since 2011, the source adds.

In 2016, UN investigators claimed that the large number of detainees killed “suggests that the government is responsible for acts that have to do with extermination and amount to a crime against humanity.”

In February 2017, Amnesty International accused the regime of hanging some 13,000 people from 2011 to 2015 in Saydnaya prison, near Damascus. These hangings add to the 17,700 people killed in regime prisons that Amnesty had already documented.

The report is based on interviews with 84 witnesses, including various guards, inmates and judges. Most of the victims were civilians.

In May 2017, the United States accused the regime of using a “crematorium” in Saydnaya prison, to destroy the remains of thousands of dead prisoners.

In late March 2020, NGO’s warned of the possible spread of the new coronavirus in the regime’s prisons, where detainees are crowded into very small cells and often deprived of medical care.

The regime is accused of resorting to chemical weapons. Damascus denies it.

On April 8, 2020, the International Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) published an official report accusing the Syrian army of chemical weapons attacks against the town of Latamné (north) in 2017.

The regime was also accused of sarin gas attacks on two rebel strongholds near Damascus (more than 1,400 dead according to the United States) in August 2013 and in the rebel city of Jan Sheikhun (northwest, more than 80 dead) in April 2017. He is also accused of alleged attacks with chlorine gas.

In 2012, HRW denounced the launching of “fire bombs” that cause serious burns from military aircraft. These weapons “may contain flammable substances such as napalm, termite or white phosphorous,” according to the NGO.

The OSDH and several activists denounced the use of “barrels of explosives”, filled with TNT, launched from planes or helicopters.

In 2018, a UN investigation based on 454 interviews reported systematic rape and sexual violence against civilians by soldiers and pro-regime militiamen. The rebels committed similar crimes but on a “considerably lower” scale, according to the investigation.

Thousands of women have been victims of sexual violence or harassment by pro-regime forces, hundreds of them in prison, according to data from the Syrian human rights network in 2018.

acm / mw / bek / tp / bfi / erl / mar