The 11th Annual Report on Torture in Syria on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

14,685 People Documented Killed Due to Torture, Mostly by the Syrian Regime, Including 181 Children and 94 Women, with Torture and Deaths by Torture Still Continuing

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Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today issues its 11th annual report on torture in Syria, marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which falls annually on June 26. In the latest report, SNHR reveals that torture has been used as a systemic and ongoing strategy for 11 years and that the documented death toll of those killed under torture has reached 14,685 individuals, from March 2011 until June 2022, including 181 children and 94 women (adult female), with the vast majority of all these victims killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces.

The 45-page report includes details of a wide range of incidents of torture and testimonies of survivors of detention and torture, as well as deaths due to torture, that we have documented over the past year, since June 26, 2021. The report notes torture, prohibited in the harshest terms in international law, continues to be widely practiced in Syria against political dissidents or military opponents, among the parties to the conflict, or by the controlling forces against civilian citizens of the society that they govern, with the aim of extending their control, denying fundamental human rights, and suppressing any dissent or exercising of democracy. The report adds that the process of arresting people in Syria is in itself a form of torture because it takes place without presenting any judicial arrest warrant, which is a common practice by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces and leads inevitably to other types of torture. The report also confirms that the vast majority of detainees go on to be classified as forcibly disappeared, with enforced disappearance also being among the cruelest forms of torture.
The report is based on the SNHR’s database and the daily documentation work conducted over a year, including interviews we conducted with the families of victims and survivors of torture inflicted in detention centers run by various parties to the conflict, providing 13 accounts, which we obtained directly rather than from open sources. The statistics included in this report are also based on the cumulative work, resulting from the daily monitoring and documentation work that we have carried out continuously since 2011 up to the current moment concerning incidents of arbitrary arrest and torture. The report categorizes the deaths due to torture according to the governorate which each victim comes from, rather than the place where the torture took place, in order to show the extent of the loss and violence suffered by the people of that governorate compared to other governorates.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, SNHR’s Director, says:
“Torture in Syria has been practiced at the same frequent and systematic pace since 2011. We have no belief or hope that it will stop being perpetrated by the Syrian regime or the other parties to the conflict without a political change away from the existing leaders who have conducted no investigation or imposed any serious accountability for those involved in torture. We are still documenting brutal torture cases and deaths due to torture, and we fear for the fate of tens of thousands of forcibly disappeared people.”

As the report reveals, between March 2011 and June 2022, at least 14,685 individuals, including 181 children and 94 women (adult female), have been killed as a result of torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, with the Syrian regime being responsible for the deaths of 14,464 of these cases, including 174 children and 75 women. Meanwhile, ISIS is responsible for the deaths of 32, including one child and 14 women, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham is responsible for the deaths of 31, including two children, due to torture. Additionally, as the report notes, 83 individuals, including one child and two women, were killed as a result of torture by Syrian Democratic Forces, while 50, including one child and two women, were killed as a result of torture by all Armed Opposition factions/Syrian National Army. The report also documents the deaths of 25 individuals, including two children and one woman, at the hands of other parties.

As the report further discloses, the Syrian regime, which is responsible for the arrest of by far the largest number of Syrian citizens, continues to detain or forcibly disappear the great majority of them, with torture continuing throughout the duration of every person’s detention. The report details the Syrian regime’s use of torture, perpetrated in many cases in connection with the victim’s affiliation with a certain area known for opposing the Syrian regime as a form of collective retribution, in the regime’s detention centers, and notes that the governorates of Daraa and Homs have seen the highest numbers of residents killed due to torture. The report also outlines the cumulative indicator of the torture death toll in Syria since 2011.

The report also explains that Syrian regime has established ‘laws’ that allow torture and prevent criminals from being held accountable, as well as giving complete immunity from prosecution to those who carry out its orders, with the report outlining the most prominent of these laws, adding that the highly centralized nature of the Syrian regime means that it could not torture at least tens of thousands of detainees and kill vast numbers of them without direct orders from the individual at the head of this pyramid, namely the President of the Republic. The report further notes that the Syrian regime’s systematic use of torture and the vast number of associated deaths necessitates the participation of not just one but several state institutions.
The report adds that under international humanitarian law, commanders and other senior officials are held responsible for war crimes committed by their subordinates, with the report providing the names of the most prominent leaders of the Syrian regime involved in torture, according to the SNHR’s database of data of perpetrators of violations. The report also demands that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria should reveal the names of individuals whose involvement in committing egregious violations, including the crime of torture, constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The report documents the deaths of at least 11 individuals due to torture in the Syrian regime’s detention centers since the issuance of Law No. 16 criminalizing torture on March 30, 2022. In addition, the report records many summonses by the regime’s security services in various Syrian governorates targeting the torture victims’ family members, who were investigated and warned against announcing the deaths of their loved ones, being themselves threatened with arrest if they did so. This confirms that the law criminalizing torture is an empty formality created for the sake of appearance.

Finally, the report confirms that all the controlling forces in Syria have inflicted torture on their opponents, with these practices still ongoing to date, noting that the Syrian regime has clearly violated the provisions of the Syrian constitution and the provisions of the Convention against Torture which Syria ratified in 2004, as well as tampering with existing laws by enacting legislation that protects its forces from any prosecution.

The report recommends that the UN Security Council and the United Nations should devise a mechanism to compel all parties to the conflict, especially the Syrian regime, to stop torture, and to reveal the locations of the victims’ bodies and hand them over to the victims’ families.
The report also recommends that the international community should take serious punitive measures against the Syrian regime to deter it from continuing to kill Syrian citizens under torture, and to put pressure on the other parties to the conflict in all possible ways to stop practicing torture once and for all.
The report also provides several other additional recommendations.

Download the full report