Up in Arms

Published — March 16, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Grim torture tales from Syria

Syrian protestors — children and adults alike — tortured by Bashar al-Assad’s regime


Many reports of violence by pro-Government forces in Syria have been at arms length, and rarely given in detail. That changed today when Amnesty International released a disturbing new report detailing the almost invariable violence adult protestors — as well as some children below the age of 18 — have faced from the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The report’s findings, the group concludes, are “evidence that torture and other ill-treatment in Syria form part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and as part of state policy and therefore amount to crimes against humanity.” It says that hundreds have died in custody.

Among the persistent methods of torture detailed in the report:

  • “Shabeh, whereby the victim is hung in one of a number of ways, for example from a raised hook or handle or door frame” and then beaten. Crucifixion is also sometimes used, and the beatings can be accompanied by being cut with bayonets and burned with cigarettes.
  • The report says that the use of rape has increased, as well as sodomy with various objects.
  • Victims are routinely placed in cramped cells with little or no access to fresh food, water or bathrooms. Some of those who die are left in the crowded cells for prolonged periods of time.

The report includes personal tales of horror from dozens of Syrians that Amnesty interviewed in Jordan. Their accounts are harrowing, and Amnesty cites them to call for an arms embargo and Assad’s prosecution by the International Criminal Tribunal. But the accounts may also intensify calls from activists for the US to come to the defense of Syria’s civilian population.

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