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Secret Detention Centers in Syria


Der Shmiel camp

Der Shmiel

With the accumulating, ceaseless widespread, and systematic arrests and detentions is continuing at the hands of government forces (The army, security forces, or the local and Shiite militias), the number of detainees has exceeded 215,000 according to SNHR’s estimation. SNHR has documented approximately 110,000 whilst the fates of tens of thousands remain unknown. You can search our lists for any name by using the search engine on our website.
As a result, the official detention centers, the four main security branches and its sub-branches has been completely overfilled with detainees. Since the beginning of 2012, government forces started using schools, stadiums, some building and villas as detention camps which is similar to the Nazi and Stalinist camps. This report will highlight the largest secret camp: Der Shmiel secret camp.

The secret detention centers are controlled by local militias (The National Defense Army and the Popular Committees) which are affiliated to the Syrian government that worked on facilitating these militias’ work in exchange of insuring the cooperation of these militias in raids, clashes, and terrorizing the residents of the nearby areas. This is the case in Der Shmiel camp where the majority of the forces that control the camp are residents from the surrounding towns and villages. There are about 1,500 “Mercenaries -Shabihas-” in these camps including women according to local activists and residents in these areas.

Investigations and former prisoners’ testimonies suggested that the main purpose of this kind of detention centers is brutal torture. The brutality of torture in these secret detention centers surpasses other security branches’ by far. The torture in Der Shmiel has a religious background. Additionally, it is extremely rare for anyone to get out alive from the camp. SNHR, after years of searching, managed to find only one survivor who was formerly imprisoned inside Der Shmiel secret camp.
The second goal is gaining large amounts of money as most of the detainees inside these secret detention centers were kidnapped.
The Syrian law indulges torture inside the official detention centers let alone the secret detention centers. According to decree 14 of 1968, anyone who works with the intelligence apparatus can’t be prosecuted without the authorization of his administrator. Also, any military personnel can’t be prosecuted without the approval of the minister of justice. After the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Law no. 55 was adopted on 21 April, 2011 (only a month after the outbreak of the popular protests) to expand the circle of impunity to include the other branches of the government forces. The Syrian government only wants to affirm the practices of torture more and more.
The international commissions wasn’t able to visit any official detention centers and will never be able to visit any secret detention center.

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