Detainees in Syria’s year-old crackdown on dissent face a “nightmarish world of systematic torture” that has set the country back decades, Amnesty International warned on Wednesday.
“The scale of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria has risen to a level not witnessed for years and is reminiscent of the dark era of the 1970s and 1980s,” the group said in a report based on testimony from survivors who fled to Jordan.
The experience “is now very similar to that of detainees under former president Hafez al-Assad -- a nightmarish world of systemic torture,” said Ann Harrison of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, according to AFP.
Amnesty’s report, based on interviews last month with Syrians who had fled to Jordan, documents 31 methods of torture or other ill-treatment meted out by security forces, army and pro-government armed gangs, described by witnesses or victims.
“The testimony presented in this report, taken in the context of other human rights violations committed against civilians in Syria, is yet further evidence that torture and other ill-treatment in Syria form part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and as part of state policy and therefore amount to crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said according to Reuters.
The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria since the violence began. This is not the first time Amnesty has added its voice to growing international alarm over human rights abuses committed there.
“Many victims said beating began on arrest, then they were beaten severely -- including with sticks, rifle butts, whips and fists, braided cables -- on arrival at detention centers,” the report said.
It said testimonies of 25 people who reported having been tortured or otherwise ill-treated indicated prisoners were most at risk when under interrogation.
“Several survivors told of their experience of the dulab (tyre in Arabic), where the victim is forced into a vehicle tyre -- often hoisted up -- and beaten, including sometimes with cables or sticks.”
Other methods on the increase were of the victim being suspended above or just touching the ground and beaten, or being subjected to electric shock.
One of those detained, named only as Tareq, told Amnesty of how, under interrogation in the Kafr Sousa district of Damascus, he was forced to watch the rape of another male prisoner, Khalid.
“They pulled down his trousers. He had an injury on his upper left leg. Then the official raped him up against the wall. Khalid just cried during it, beating his head on the wall,” Tareq is quoted as saying.
An 18-year-old student identified only as Karim told Amnesty that his interrogators used pincers to remove flesh from his legs when he was being held at an Air Force Intelligence branch in Deraa in December 2011.
Harrison said the testimonies amounted to “yet more evidence of crimes against humanity in Syria.”
“Syrians responsible for torture -- including those in command -- should be left in no doubt that they will face justice for crimes committed under their watch,” she said.
Amnesty said torture and other ill-treatment had been rife in Syria for decades, particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s. The situation improved somewhat after that, but in the past year violations had returned to the high 1980s’ levels, it said.
Independent U.N. investigators led by Paulo Pinheiro said last month that Syrian forces committed crimes against humanity including murder and torture on orders from the “highest level” of Assad’s government.
Amnesty called for the U.N. Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of its Commission of Inquiry on Syria “and reinforce its capacity to monitor, document and report, with a view to eventual prosecutions.”