Monday, February 13, 2017

SYRIA - House of Death

"Amnesty documents 'human slaughterhouse' in Assad's Syria" PBS NewsHour 2/7/2017


SUMMARY:  Somewhere between 5,000 and 13,000 people were tortured and executed at one Syrian military prison between 2011 and 2015, according to Amnesty International.  A new report alleges that officials at the high level of government approved the killings.  William Brangham discusses the disturbing details and larger implications with Amnesty's Sunjeev Bery.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Amnesty International has just issued a report documenting what it says is clear evidence that the Assad regime in Syria has been illegally imprisoning, torturing and murdering political opponents.

William Brangham has more.

And a warning:  Some of the details here are disturbing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Amnesty's report says that somewhere between 5,000 and 13,000 people were tortured and executed at one military prison outside Damascus between 2011 and 2015.

Amnesty alleges that officials at the highest level of the Syrian government approved the killings, as did the grand mufti of Syria, the highest ranking religious figure in the country.

I'm joined now by Sunjeev Bery.  He's Amnesty's director of advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa.

SUNJEEV BERY, Amnesty International:  Thank you for having me.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Very, very troubling reading in this report and the stories of the people who were tortured and executed at this prison.

Can you tell me, who were these people?

SUNJEEV BERY:  There were thousands of civilians, as well as some ex-military officers, who are held at Saydnaya prison in Saydnaya, Syria.

We estimate that between 10,000 and 20,000 people are held there now.  And for years, on a weekly basis, as many as 50 people have been hanged in mass executions by the Syrian government at this prison.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  And are these people who are picked up — what are the crimes that they're accused of?

SUNJEEV BERY:  Many of them are perceived to be opposition to the government, although when you're doing this kind of mass arrest, mass torture and miss execution, who knows what the individual people's backgrounds are?

And, of course, peaceful, nonviolent opposition to a government is certainly not a crime.  But with that background, many of them are subjected to forced confessions through extraordinarily brutal torture, and once that confession is put via ink to paper, then the execution process begins.

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