IGOHR is Appalled by the Syrian Regime’s systematic use of Torture, Extrajudicial executions and Cremation of Prisoner’s Bodies at Saydnaya Prison

IGOHR is Appalled by the Syrian Regime’s systematic use of Torture, Extrajudicial executions and Cremation of Prisoner’s Bodies at Saydnaya Prison 17 May 2017

The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights welcomes the satellite images by the US State Department that shows that the Syrian government have modified a building into a crematorium at the Saydnaya military prison where it cremated the bodies of thousands of executed prisoners. IGOHR is equally appalled by the Syrian regime’s continuous use of torture and extrajudicial executions at its prisons which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law and international humanitarian laws.

The US State Department released a couple of satellite images which revealed that the Syrian government have built a crematorium within the Saydnaya prison so as to cremate the bodies of prisoners who executed in order to hide or mask evidence of mass extrajudicial killings taking place in the prison. Thousands of prisoners – mostly members or supporters of the opposition parties – are tortured and hanged or killed and their bodies are disposed by burning at the crematorium. As such e

According to Amnesty International – a rights group who investigated and wrote a report on Saydnaya prison –  tens of thousands of civilians and opposition members have been imprisoned by the Syrian government since the beginning of the six-year old conflict in Syria. The report also alleged that the Syrian regime have systematically tortured and carried out between 5,000 and 13,000 undocumented executions of prisoners over a period of five years; with executions being carried out in groups of between 20 and 50 persons every week or twice a week. The rights group further asserted that the extrajudicial executions of these prisoners were approved by top government officials without the sanction of any judicial proceedings or legal process.

IGOHR asserts that the use of torture, extrajudicial killings and the cremation of the bodies of prisoners by the Syrian government is highly unacceptable and a grave violation of international humanitarian treaties. For example, the 1949 Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs) guarantees that POWs must always be treated humanely and are entitled in all circumstances to the respect of their dignity and honor and that violations of the fundamental rules on POW treatment – for instance, willful killing, torture or any other inhumane treatments – constitute grave breaches of the provisions set out in the Convention.

Also, Article 2 of the United Nations Convention against Torture prohibits torture or degrading treatment of any form against civilians regardless of “any circumstances whatsoever which may be invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict.” The Syrian government has ratified and a state party to these conventions but have failed to recognized its commitments with respect to these provisions in its detention, treatment and execution of prisoners.

IGOHR is therefore calling on the United Nations and the international community to investigate the crematorium built by the Syrian government in the Saydnaya prison. They should also hold accountable and send to the International Criminal Court for prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity those who have perpetrated the torture, mass extrajudicial executions and the cremation of prisoners’ bodies to hide evidence of the human rights abuses of the Syrian regime.

Such cruel and barbaric treatment by the Syrian regime gives convincing evidence of Assad’s authoritarian rule over the Syrian people. It equally shows to what extend Syria has failed in respecting its obligations to protect civilians in times of conflict as stated under international humanitarian covenants. Since 2011, the regime has brutally and violently suppressed opposition groups and civilians who complained about lack of political freedom, increased unemployment and widespread corruption in the country. The crackdown on peaceful protest by dissidents led to the ongoing civil war that have left over 300,000 civilians dead and more than 1.9 million wounded.  More than 13.5 million Syrians – over half of the country’s population – have been displaced as a result of the protracted conflict.

During this seemingly unending war, pro-government forces have committed several human rights violations against the Syrian people such as the use of chemical weapons, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions and blocking access of humanitarian supplies to affected areas which has further exacerbated the humanitarian situation in the country.  This oppressive way of ruling has sadly been supported by Iran and Russia whose military, financial and political support for the government has contributed directly to the intensification and continuation of the fighting

IGOHR further calls on the Assad government to fulfill its responsibility towards the international conventions and treaties it has signed to uphold and respect the rights and freedoms of civilians in times of conflict including the proper treatment of prisoners of war and refrain from carrying out executions that does not follow due legal process. IGOHR also strongly urges all parties to the Syrian civil war including Iran, Russia, US and Turkey to arrive at a consensus decision at the ongoing Syrian talks – brokered by the UN in Geneva – on the four key issues that will put an end to the protracted conflict which are: good governance (political transition), a new constitution, democratic and free elections and the fight against terrorism.