Syria running ’27 torture centres’

Rights group says tens of thousands detained and 20 torture methods used and wants issue referred to ICC

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Syrian intelligence agencies are running torture centers across the country where detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, sexually assaulted, and their fingernails torn out.

The report released on Tuesday by the New York-based group identified 27 detention centers that it says intelligence agencies have been using since President Bashar al-Assad’s government began a crackdown on an uprising that began in March 2011.

HRW conducted more than 200 interviews with people who said they were tortured, including a 31-year-old man who was detained in the Idlib area in June and made to undress.

“Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful,” the man told HRW.

“They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days,” he said.

Thousands detained

The report found that tens of thousands of people had been detained by the country’s four main intelligence agencies: Department of Military Intelligence, the Political Security Directorate, the General Intelligence Directorate, and the Air Force Intelligence Directorate.

“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,” HRW said.

The group documented more than 20 torture methods that “clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.”

The group called for the UN Security Council to refer the issue of Syria to the International Criminal Court and to adopt targeted sanctions against officials carrying out abuse.