New reports state that Syrian authorities have executed as many as 13,000 civilian opposition supporters after imprisoning them in squalid conditions and subjecting them to torture since 2011.
In the report, Amnesty International reveals that secret mass hangings, authorized by the administration of President Bashar al-Assad, have been occurring at Saydnaya prison, located north of Damascus, every week for more than four years.
While the Syrian regime denied killing and torturing political detainees, UN human rights experts testified less than a year ago that “deaths on a massive scale” were taking place. Citing witness accounts and documentary evidence, they added that the Syrian military had detained tens of thousands of people.
After interviewing 84 individuals involved in the killings, such as Saydnaya prison officials and former guards, Amnesty International was able to expand on these allegations.
The new report details how between September 2011 and December 2015, Syrian authorities hung 20 to 50 civilians every week — and frequently twice a week.
The report states that a “military field court” gave these detainees one-three minute long “trials.” Amnesty says judges would ask the prisoners if they were guilty, and, “Whether the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, he will be convicted… This court has no relation with the rule of law,” a former Syrian military judge said.
Once the court had secured a sham conviction, guards would take the condemned prisoners to a basement cell and beat them for two-three hours.
“The beating was so intense. It was as if you had a nail, and you were trying again and again to beat it into a rock. It was impossible, but they just kept going,” said Sameer, a former detainee. “I was wishing they would just cut off my legs instead of beating them anymore.”
Then, in the early hours of the morning, guards would blindfold the detainees and move them into a different cell, informing them that they were sentenced to death as they placed the noose around their neck.
“They kept them [hanging] there for 10 to 15 minutes. Some didn’t die because they are light. For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks,” said a former judge who personally witnessed the hangings.
Meanwhile, Hamid, a former military officer detained at the prison, said, “If you put your ears on the floor, you could hear the sound of a kind of gurgling. This would last around 10 minutes… We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death. This was normal for me then.”
Syrian authorities then loaded the dead bodies into trucks and buried them in mass graves situated on Syrian military land.
Amnesty concluded the report by saying that while they have no direct of evidence of executions occurring after December 2015, they believe that the killings have not stopped, meaning that thousands more may have perished in the time since.
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