(New York) – Former detainees and defectors have identified the locations, agencies responsible, torture methods used, and, in many cases, the commanders in charge of 27 detention facilities run by Syrian intelligence agencies, Human Rights Watch said in a multimedia report released today. The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.
Human Rights Watch research shows that the worst torture has taken place in detention facilities run by the country’s four main intelligence agencies, commonly referred to collectively as the mukhabarat:
• The Department of Military Intelligence (Shu`bat al-Mukhabarat al-`Askariyya);
• The Political Security Directorate (Idarat al-Amn al-Siyasi);
• The General Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-`Amma); and
• The Air Force Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya).
Each of these four agencies maintains central branches in Damascus as well as regional, city, and local branches across the country. In virtually all of these branches there are detention facilities of varying size.
All of the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described detention conditions that would by themselves amount to ill-treatment and, in some cases, torture – extreme overcrowding, inadequate food, and routine denial of necessary medical assistance. A graphic model depicting an overcrowded cell described by one former detainee illustrates how the conditions fall short of international legal standards.
Diagrams produced by SITU Studio and Forensic Architecture, an ERC-funded project.