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SNHR Condemns Syrian Regime Forces for Detention, Fatal Torture of A Refugee Forcibly Deported from Lebanon Who Died in a Damascus Hospital

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Ahmad Nemer al-Halli, from the Barza neighborhood of Damascus city, was arrested in early-June 2024 by Syrian regime forces at a checkpoint in Damascus city. He was taken to the Military Security Intelligence Directorate’s infamous Palestine Branch, or Branch 235, in Damascus city.

According to intelligence received by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) from local activists in Damascus city, Ahmad, who had been a refugee in Lebanon, had been forcibly deported by personnel from Lebanon’s General Security to the Lebanese-Syrian border along with a group of fellow refugees a short time before. These deportations form part of a continuing security crackdown by the Lebanese authorities against Syrian refugees in Lebanon that has been going on since the start of this year.

Ahmad was arrested as soon as he was deported from Lebanon, without any legal arrest warrant being presented. His family was not informed of his arrest, and he was denied any opportunity to contact his family or a lawyer. At the end of June 2024, we documented his transfer from the Palestine Branch to a hospital elsewhere in Damascus city. At the time of his transfer to the hospital, he was extremely unwell due to the brutal torture to which he had been subjected in detention. He remained in the hospital’s intensive care unit until his death on Saturday, July 6, 2024, as we recorded.

International law strictly prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, degrading, or inhumane punishment. The prohibition of torture is a customary rule that cannot be disputed or balanced against other rights or values, even in times of emergency. Violating this rule is a crime according to international criminal law. Those who issued the orders for or assisted in carrying out torture are criminally liable for their actions.

Since the start of 2024, SNHR has documented regime forces’ arrest of at least 126 of the refugees forcibly deported from Lebanon, including four children and three women, all of whom have been detained in various regime detention centers. Most of these detainees were arrested by personnel from the Syrian regime’s Military Security Intelligence detachment located in al-Masna area on the Syrian-Lebanese border. SNHR must stress that the forcible deportation and refoulment of Syrian refugees constitute violations of customary international law. The governments carrying out such acts are legally responsible for any violations to which those refugees may be subjected at the hands of the Syrian regime; including but not limited to torture, killing, and enforced disappearance, in addition, of course, to the regime’s direct responsibility for these violations.

SNHR condemns all arrest and torture practices by Syrian regime forces, more especially those inflicted on returning Internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. We call for the immediate launch of an independent investigation into all incidents of arrest and torture that have taken place, particularly this latest barbaric incident. We also call for all of those involved in perpetrating such crimes to be held accountable, from the officials issuing the orders to the individuals who carried them out. The findings of these investigations and accountability processes must be made public to the Syrian people. All of those involved in carrying out arrest and torture practices over the years must be exposed and dismissed from their positions, while the survivors and victims’ families must be compensated for the grave physical, psychological and emotional trauma inflicted on them.

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