A 36-year-old man, identified as Rebar Haji Hussein from Ein al-Arab city in eastern rural Aleppo governorate, was abducted in the city on September 20, 2023, by personnel from the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) al-Shabiba al-Thawriya, (Revolutionary Youth) faction, also known as the ‘Joanne Schurchkar’. Rebar was taken to an SDF detention center in Ein Arab in retaliation for publishing a post on his personal Facebook page in which he called for shutting down local shops and holding anti-SDF demonstrations. This came after the SDF raised prices for fuel in areas under its control.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) notes that Rebar’s detention took place without any involvement from the SDF’s judiciary or the SDF internal security forces, which are the only two bodies with formal authority to detain and investigate in SDF-held territories. Rebar was denied any opportunity to contact his family or a lawyer following his detention.
The next day, September 21, 2023, the al-Shabiba al-Thawriya released Rebar Hussein. SNHR has acquired a number of photos and videos, now archived on our database, showing clear signs of brutal torture on different parts of his body, which were clearly the result of him being subjected to various methods of torture. Furthermore, the SDF’s al-Shabiba al-Thawriya released a video showing the civilian victim in handcuffs with a sign hanging around his neck that reads in Arabic, “To our dear residents, this is the fate of anyone who insults, disparages, and provokes the residents of Kobani”. These acts by the SDF collectively constitute various forms of torture and debasement. The signs of torture seen on Rebar’s body and the degrading manner in which he was treated is a chilling reminder of similar practices by the Syrian regime’s shabihas and security forces, and ISIS, with both parties releasingdozens of videos showing and bragging about their torture of Syrian citizens.
International law strictly prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. This has become a customary international rule that cannot be dismissed or balanced against other rights or values, even in times of emergencies. Violating the prohibition of torture is a crime in the eyes of international criminal law, according to which individuals who gave the orders for torture or assisted in committing torture are criminally responsible for these practices.
SNHR condemns all acts of abduction and torture by the SDF, which have significantly intensified recently. SNHR calls on the international coalition forces and states supporting the SDF to launch investigations and hold those responsible for gross human rights violations in the region of northeastern Syria accountable for their actions, particularly for this unconscionable incident. We also call for holding all those involved in this incident to account, from those who gave the orders to those who carried them out. The findings and results of these investigations and accountability processes must be made public to the Syrian people, and all those who have been involved in abduction and torture practices must be exposed and dismissed. Moreover, all the victims must be compensated for the material harm and psychological trauma they’ve suffered, and such impunity must be ended, with pressure being imposed on the SDF to end its detentions over expressions of opinion. Work must be done to reveal the fate of all those forcibly disappeared by the SDF, and all arbitrarily arrested detainees and abductees must be set free. There is also a need to establish an impartial and independent judiciary that prohibits military entities from carrying out arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearance on their own, along with mechanisms to hold those responsible for violations against local residents accountable.