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Three Months After the ICJ’s Ruling, the Syrian Regime Has Blatantly Breached it, Killing More Syrian Citizens Under Torture

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We Documented the Killing of At Least 16 Individuals Due to Torture, and At Least 246 Arbitrary Arrests/Detentions, Including of Six Children and 17 Women

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Press release: (Download the full statement below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released a statement entitled, ‘Three Months After the ICJ’s Ruling, the Syrian Regime Has Blatantly Breached it, Killing More Syrian Citizens Under Torture’, in which it noted that the group documented the killing of at least 16 individuals due to torture, as well as at least 246 arbitrary arrest/detentions, including of six children and 17 women, at the hands of Syrian regime forces since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its ruling on November 16, 2023, up until February 21, 2024.

As the statement reveals, the Hague-based ICJ issued an order to indicate the provisional measures requested by Canada and The Netherlands on the Application of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment (Canada and The Netherlands Vs. the Syrian Arab Republic). In it, the ICJ requested that the Syrian Arab Republic undertake a number of provisional measures in accordance with its obligations to the Convention Against Torture. As specified in the court documents, the Syrian Arab Republic was to “take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and ensure that its officials, as well as any organizations or persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts of torture or other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In addition, the document continued, the Syrian Arab Republic “shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of any evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” Despite three months having passed since the ruling, however, the statement stresses that the Syrian regime has enacted no tangible changes with respect to its oppressive policies and draconian security machine, or even shown any initiative to repeal the laws legalizing torture and impunity. We have not seen any indicators that torture will stop. On the contrary, the Syrian regime has been committing more acts of torture, some of which even reach the criminal level of killing under torture.

In the period since the ICJ issued its ruling on November 16, 2023, up until February 21, 2024, the statement revealed, SNHR has documented 246 arbitrary arrests, including of six children and 17 women, with those arrested imprisoned in regime detention centers. Of these, 29 were released, while 217 have been reclassified as enforced disappearance cases, while at least 16 individuals have been killed under torture in regime detention centers. The statement adds that no fewer than seven individuals classified as forcibly disappeared have been registered as dead in the state civil registry records between November 10, 2023, and February 10, 2024. One prominent case was that of the well-known poet and activist Nasser Bunduq who has been forcibly disappeared in regime detention centers since February 17, 2014, and ultimately was registered as dead in the civil registry records. In all of these seven cases, the cause of death was not mentioned, the victims’ bodies have not been returned to their families, and the Syrian regime failed to announce the victims’ deaths at the time they occurred.

The statement further stresses that Syrian regime is still committing acts of torture of every variety, beginning with arbitrary arrest, which is, in and of itself, a form of torture since it is carried out in a manner more akin to an abduction than a legitimate arrest with no judicial warrant shown. The process of arrest also involves the use of excessive violence and beatings of various types and degrees, which usually begin from the very first moment of the arrest, and continue throughout the detention period, and which also include subjecting detainees to cruel and inhumane detention conditions, as well as referring them to exceptional security courts, where trials are conducted in a way that is closer to a interrogation at a security facility than a legitimate courtroom trial. The statement adds that most arbitrarily arrested detainees are subsequently classified as forcibly disappeared persons, with such forcible disappearance being another horrific form of torture in itself. This is all, of course, accompanied by subjecting arbitrarily arrested detainees to brutal forms of torture, with a previous SNHR report cataloguing 72 methods of physical, psychological, and sexual torture commonly used in all regime prisons, all being practiced in a deliberate, calculated, and widespread manner. Women, children, elderly people, invalids, and individuals with physical and learning disabilities are also not immune from torture. These barbaric conditions are suffered constantly, every day by all those who have been and, in too many cases, are still unjustly detained by the regime, often for years. These horrendous conditions are the same for almost all detainees in regime detention centers, as almost every detainee has been subjected to one or multiple methods of tortures in detention, even if only for a few hours.

Additionally, the statement underlines that one can find no indication of any willingness by the regime to cease torture, or even to undertake the most minimal and basic of measures mentioned above in response to the ICJ’s ruling. Furthermore, at least 135,638 people are still arbitrarily detained and/or forcibly disappeared by the regime, and enduring torture in regime detention centers. Despite being responsible for such unimaginable suffering, the Syrian regime has not launched even one investigation into the disappearance or torture of detainees by its personnel. On the contrary, the regime has enacted “laws” shielding them from accountability.

The statement condemns the Syrian regime’s breaches of the ICJ’s ruling in the strongest possible terms, as well as condemning its repeated breaches of the Convention against Torture which was ratified by Syria in 2004. The statement calls on the UN and international community to take all possible measures against the Syrian regime, including issuing a binding resolution by the UN Security Council calling for ending the systematic torture that amounts to crimes against humanity, and condemning the regime’s breach of the ICJ’s ruling.

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