- Human Rights Watch report released as Syrian President Bashar Assad says he regrets the shooting down of a Turkish jet by his forces last month
- Group says tens of thousands of people had been detained across Syria by intelligence agencies
- Detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, sexually assaulted, and their fingernails torn out, claims the report
- ‘The reach and inhumanity of this network of torture centres are truly horrific,’ says Human Rights Watch researcher
By Anthony Bond
PUBLISHED: 09:14 GMT, 3 July 2012 | UPDATED: 17:46 GMT, 3 July 2012
Syrian intelligence agencies are running torture centres across the country where detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, sexually assaulted, and their fingernails torn out, a report released today has said.
Human Rights Watch identified 27 detention centres that it says intelligence agencies have been using since President Bashar al-Assad’s government began a crackdown in March 2011 on pro-democracy protesters trying to oust him.
The New York-based rights group found that tens of thousands of people had been detained across Syria. It conducted more than 200 interviews with people who said they were tortured.
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This included a 31-year-old man who was detained in the Idlib area in June and made to undress.
He told the group: ‘They started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful.’
‘They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days,’ he said.
The report was released as it emerged Syrian President Bashar Assad claims he regrets the shooting down of a Turkish jet by his forces last month.
Turkish newspaper The Cumhuriyet quoted Mr Assad as saying: ‘I say 100%, I wish we did not shoot it down.’
The Human Rights Watch report found that tens of thousands of people had been detained by the Department of Military Intelligence, the Political Security Directorate, the General Intelligence Directorate, and the Air Force Intelligence Directorate.
The reports documented by the group match those of a former Syrian intelligence officer who told how he was routinely ordered to torture prisoners.
Speaking to CNN, the former officer, who later fled to Turkey with his family, said: ‘Whatever we wanted the prisoner to say, he would say. We took their fingernails out with pliers and we made them eat them. We made them suck their own blood off the floor.’
Human Rights Watch documented more than 20 torture methods that ‘clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.’
The group called for the U.N. Security Council to refer the issue of Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to adopt targeted sanctions against officials carrying out abuse.
‘The reach and inhumanity of this network of torture centers are truly horrific,’ Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch said.
‘Russia should not be holding its protective hand over the people who are responsible for this.’
Russia – an ally of Syria – and China have already vetoed two council resolutions that condemned Damascus and threatened it with sanctions and French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters yesterday that reaching a Security Council consensus to refer Syria to the ICC would be difficult.
‘As France is concerned it’s very clear we are very much in favor of referring Syria to the ICC,’ Mr Araud said.
‘The problem is it will have to be part … of a global understanding of the council and I do think that for the moment we have not yet reached this point,’ he said.
PRESIDENT ASSAD CLAIMS HE REGRETS SHOOTING DOWN TURKISH JET
Syrian President Bashar Assad regrets the shooting down of a Turkish jet by his forces, a Turkish newspaper said today.
The Cumhuriyet newspaper published the remarks from an exclusive interview with Mr Assad in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Sunday.
The paper quoted Mr Assad as saying: ‘I say 100%, I wish we did not shoot it down.’
Turkey says Syrian forces downed its jet in international airspace after it briefly strayed into Syrian airspace on June 22.
Mr Assad insists the plane was inside Syrian airspace and flying in a corridor that had been used by Israeli planes three times in the past.
Turkey responded by deploying anti-aircraft missiles on the Syrian border, and has scrambled its jets several times after it said its border was approached by Syrian helicopters.
VIDEO: Warning graphic content. Detainees talk about their horrific ordeals…