In a report issued yesterday (Monday), the UN Human Rights Council has accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of actions which amount to “extermination.”The detailed report, titled Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic, charges that the Syrian regime is imposing its rule by the routine use of massive and systematized violence — including the killing of detainees in official and makeshift detention centers. The massive and systemized brutalization and killing have taken place out of sight, far from the battlefield.
The report specifically examines the killing of detainees occurring between 10 March 2011 and 30 November 2015. The investigators say their findings are based on 621 interviews, as well as considerable documentary material.
The UN report says that detainees held by the Syrian government were beaten to death, or died as a result of injuries sustained due to torture. Other prisoners perished as a consequence of inhuman living conditions. “The government has committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, and other inhuman acts,” the report says. “Based on the same conduct, war crimes have also been committed.”
“Over the past four and a half years, thousands of detainees have been killed while in the custody of warring parties,” the commission of inquiry on Syria said.
“The killings and deaths described in this report occurred with high frequency, over a long period of time and in multiple locations, with significant logistical support involving vast state resources. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct described amounts to extermination as a crime against humanity.”
The UN notes that tens of thousands of detainees are held by the Assad government at any one time, and thousands more have “disappeared” after being arrested by state forces or gone missing after abduction by armed groups, the report said.
Through mass arrests and killing of civilians, including by starvation and untreated wounds and disease, th Syrian state forces have “engaged in the multiple commissions of crimes, amounting to a systematic and widespread attack against a civilian population.”
The report note that some anti-government armed groups established makeshift places of detention where captured Syrian government soldiers were ill-treated, and executed. Others were summarily executed following illicit trials. Some individuals taken hostage have died while held by armed groups.
Jabhat Al-Nusra has set up detention facilities in Idlib where deaths in detention were documented. The terrorist group also conducted mass executions of captured government soldiers. Both Jabhat Al-Nusra and some anti-government armed groups have committed the war crimes of murder, cruel treatment, and torture.
The report notes that ISIS subjected detainees to serious abuses, including torture and summary executions. Detainees were frequently executed after unauthorized courts issued a death sentence. ISIS has committed the crimes against humanity of murder and torture, and warcrimes.
The Human Rights Council says that accountability for these and other crimes must form part of any political solution. “The situation of detainees is critical, and represents an urgent and large-scale crisis of human rights protection,” the UN says. “Urgent steps must be taken by the Syrian government, armed groups, external backers, and the wider international community to prevent further deaths.”