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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

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In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                          

Syrian Arab Republic

Regime forces have detained and tortured tens of thousands of people since the uprising began, and many have died in custody, though detention conditions that amount to enforced disappearance mean the fate of most detainees is unknown.

  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Syria

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Syria.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Syria

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 9 August 2021]


There were numerous reports of forced disappearances by or on behalf of regime authorities, and the vast majority of those disappeared since the start of the conflict remained missing. Human rights groups’ estimates of the number of disappearances since 2011 varied widely, but all estimates pointed to disappearances as a common practice. The SNHR reported approximately 1,185 forced disappearances during the year ... The regime targeted medical personnel and critics, including journalists and protesters, as well as their families and associates. Most disappearances reported by Syrian and international human rights documentation groups appeared to be politically motivated, and a number of prominent political prisoners remained missing (see section 1.e.).


Human rights activists, the COI, and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), however, reported thousands of credible cases of regime authorities engaging in systematic torture, abuse, and mistreatment to punish perceived opponents, including during interrogations, a systematic regime practice documented throughout the conflict and even prior to 2011. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights assessed that, while individuals were often tortured in order to obtain information, the primary purpose of the regime’s use of torture during interrogations was to terrorize and humiliate detainees.


Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and in many instances were life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical and psychological abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 15 May 2020]


More than 500,000 people have been killed in the civil war since 2011, according to prevailing estimates. Both the regime and insurgent groups frequently engage in extreme violence against civilians, including indiscriminate bombardment, extrajudicial killings, and torture of detainees, with the government being the greatest abuser. Regime forces have detained and tortured tens of thousands of people since the uprising began, and many have died in custody, though detention conditions that amount to enforced disappearance mean the fate of most detainees is unknown.

Syria civil war: Germany holds unprecedented state torture trial

BBC News, 23 April 2020

[accessed 27 April 2020]

WHAT ARE THE MEN ACCUSED OF? -- The pair allegedly worked for the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), Syria's most powerful civilian intelligence agency.

It has been accused of playing a key role in the violent suppression of peaceful protests against Bashar al-Assad's rule that erupted in March 2011.

German prosecutors say that Anwar R, 57, was a high-ranking officer in charge of the GID's Al-Khatib prison in the capital Damascus. He is suspected of being involved in the torture of at least 4,000 people in 2011-12, and has been charged with 58 counts of murder as well as rape and sexual assault.

Eyad A, 43, is said to have worked for Anwar R's department and has been charged with torture in at least 30 cases.

Syria Torture Survivors Seek Justice

Deborah Amos, Jacobia Dahm, Axel Öberg, Alex Leff, Hannah Bloch, Larry Kaplow, Michael May, Emily Bogle, Claire Harbage, Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, Columbia Journalism School, 8 April 2020

[accessed 12 April 2020]

Omar Alshogre can remember every detail of his torture in Syrian jails: the electric shocks, the brutal beatings, the rancid food and open wounds, the days he was suspended by his wrists from the ceiling for hours, then returned to a crammed cell where sleep was only possible in shifts.

Sometimes the torture consisted of forcing him to listen. "They put us in the corridor just to hear the torture, and this guy is saying, 'Please kill me. I can tell you whatever you want. Stop or kill me,' " he recalls.

Artist Copes by Drawing His Syrian Torture

Nisan Ahmado, Extremism Watch, Voice of America VOA News, 7 November 2018

[accessed 11 November 2018]

Al-Bukai says he was tortured physically and psychologically. He was electrocuted, brutally beaten, starved and hanged for hours from his hands.

He says he also witnessed the torture of other detainees, with some tortured by what he termed “the German chair” technique, in which prison guards broke the backs of detainees, paralyzing them.

DEAD BODIES -- Among all the horrific memories, al-Bukai says one image stands out. It is the memory of detainees carrying the bodies of those who died under torture. The image is reflected in many of his drawings as well.

“Everyday evening around 8 p.m., a truck full of dead bodies arrived to branch 227 from other detention centers. The security officers would order a number of detainees to go out and empty the truck. We used to go out in our underwear with a green wool military blanket to carry the dead,” al-Bukai said.

Al-Bukai added that the bodies were kept in the basement of their branch for the night and in the morning those who died under torture from their branch would be put with them and taken away by a truck.

Syrian detainee No. 72's tales of torture

Anchal Vohra, Deutsche Welle DW, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 14 August 2018


[accessed 14 August 2018]

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PRISONER No. 72 - There was a routine to life in Assad's most infamous torture chambers. Meals were interspersed with thrashings, euphemistically termed interrogations.   Hanging by the wrists for hours, contorting bodies to fit in a tire, countless lashes with a pipe: These were the most commonly used techniques.

A PERPETUAL NIGHTMARE - They escorted him to Saydnaya prison, one of General Hassan's detention centers, the first stop on what would be a long and excruciating ordeal. Recounting the tortures ordered by General Hassan, he said: "They electrocuted me three times a day. Once my toenail popped out with the impact."

Syrian women tortured and humiliated in Assad regime prisons

Julia Hahn, Deutsche Welle, 1 May 2018

[accessed 1 May 2018]

Muna Muhammad remembers every tiny detail. The stench in the cells, the pain, her torturers. "He pulled a black plastic bag over my head and then he hung me from the ceiling, head down," the 30-year-old says. The memory still haunts her. The guard said he was going to leave her hanging from the ceiling until all her "evil thoughts land in this bag,"

One day, her torturer showed up with a stun gun. "He said, 'Muna, where is your heart?" she recalls. "I pointed at my heart, and that's where he zapped me."

For months, Muna was locked up in solitary confinement or packed together with other inmates. "One day they interrogated a 16-year-old," Muna says. "I heard her scream, it was so loud, I thought they must be killing her."

Many women were sexually abused, Muna says, adding that she also faced the threat of rape if she didn't confess.

There is as much evidence against Assad as there was against the Nazis

Kyle Orton, TRT World, 29 April 2018

[accessed 29 April 2018]

One of the best descriptions of Syria’s pre-war jails comes from Mustafa Khalifa, who spent twelve years inside one. In 2008, Khalifa wrote about his experience in novelised form in a book called The Shell. Khalifa describes being arrested without any explanation to him of the charges and without any explanation to his family of where he was.

On arrival at Assad’s prisons Khalifa describes a “welcoming party”—a beating—that some detainees do not survive. The cells are overcrowded and squalid. Access to water and basic hygiene needs is severely restricted. Food is minimal and sometimes withheld altogether. When food is served it is dumped on the floor and prisoners whipped as they try to retrieve it; if they stumble they might be beaten to death.

When prisoners are allowed into the yard, they are assaulted and forced to assault each other, sometimes sexually. All of this is accompanied by verbal degradation at all opportunities. The humiliation and dehumanisation is total, reinforcing to prisoners how cheaply the authorities view life and how close death is at all times.

Syrian torture survivors speak out


[accessed 23 December 2017]

My wrists were bound together with iron chains,” said the man who calls himself Abu Firas. “They put me onto an iron bar under the ceiling so that my feet were two centimetres above the floor.” “They hung me on my hands from the ceiling,” Abdul Karim Rihawi told Euronews.“They beat me with an iron stick.” “My finger felt like it was the size of a football,” said Yazan Awad. “I felt my arms were very long because my shoulders became dislocated (by this torture). I looked and saw my arms far away.

They had an electric instrument and they put electric cables under my toes, under my arms and on my thumbs,” Abu Firas described. “You still can see traces from that procedure on my thumbs. Then they turned the current on and off, on and off, again and again.

They tortured me with the car-tyre method, squeezing my body with bent arms into the tyre up to the knees so I could not move,” he alleges. “They hit me with a piece from a tank engine, a kind of a V-belt… After the first two blows, my body felt paralysed

'It was hell': Syrian refugees share stories of torture

Priyanka Gupta, Al Jazeera, 25 June 2016

[accessed 3 August 2016]

Yehia, 29, Deraa -- 'The screams of the women were unbearable'

"It was five in the morning. Dozens of policemen came and surrounded our neighbourhood. I was asleep at the time. Someone removed the blanket from my face and dragged me and my two brothers out of the house and bundled us into a car.

I was taken to what looked like a military basement. Sixty-five people were put in one room. First I was there with my three brothers. Twenty-four hours went by and we were given no food or water. We weren't even allowed to go to the bathroom. For 16 hours the men would come and ask us questions. The investigators would come at 4pm and interrogate us until 12pm the next day.

I was blindfolded and my hands and feet were tied. Sometimes they would use electric cables and give us electric shocks. They would beat us with iron rods after pouring water on our bodies so that it hurts more. They would keep beating us for four to six hours. They hit me on my neck and on my back. One officer jammed a rod in my knee so hard that it's left a permanent injury in my leg.

60,000 'tortured to death in Syrian jails'

Australian Associated Press AAP, 22 May 2016

[accessed 9 August 2016]

[accessed 7 August 2017]

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Saturday reported that the figure of 60,000 deaths came from reliable sources, primarily in the air force intelligence and state security agencies and at the notorious Sednaya prison near Damascus.

The victims died as a direct result of torture or due to a lack of food and medicine inside the detention facilities, the UK-based monitoring group said.

The observatory said that using other sources, it had itself documented the deaths of 14,456 detainees, including 110 children under the age of 18.

Hands clamped to their mouths and faces strained in anguish: New Yorkers confronted by harrowing photos of Syrian torture victims

Julian Robinson, Daily Mail, 10 March 2015

[accessed 27 March 2015]

Horrified New Yorkers witnessed the grim reality of life in Syria as they viewed graphic photographs smuggled out of the war-torn country.

An exhibition of gruesome torture images showing eye gougings, strangulation and the effects of long-term starvation, is being staged at the city's United Nations headquarters.

About 25 pictures from a collection of 55,000 are on display this week, in an initiative sponsored by the US, Britain, France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as the conflict in Syria moves into its fifth year.

Some were visibly distressed as they viewed the horrific pictures, which were smuggled out of Syria between 2011 and mid-2013.

Former war crimes prosecutors have described the images as 'clear evidence' of systematic torture and mass killings in Syria's three-year-long civil war.

Nearly 13,000 killed by regime torture in Syria war

Agence France-Presse AFP, Beirut, 13 March 2015

[accessed 27 March 2015]

Nearly 13,000 Syrians, including 108 children, have been tortured to death in regime prisons since the uprising began in March 2011, a monitoring group said Friday.

He told AFP the toll did not include more than 20,000 detainees who have "disappeared" in government prisons and whose fate remains unknown.

According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, Syrian security officials beat prisoners with batons and metal rods as they hung from the ceiling by their wrists.

A report issued by 21 international aid organisations on Thursday said rape and sexual abuse were also used in regime detention centres as a "method of war."

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


ARBITRARY ARRESTS, ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES, TORTURE, AND DEATHS IN CUSTODY - Syrian security forces continue to detain people arbitrarily, regularly subjecting them to ill-treatment and torture, and often disappearing them using an extensive network of detention facilities throughout Syria. Many detainees were young men in their 20s or 30s; but children, women, and elderly people were also detained. In some instances, individuals reported that security forces detained their family members, including children, to pressure them to turn themselves in. On August 30, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a local monitoring group, estimated that 85,000 people were currently being held by the government in conditions that amount to enforced disappearance.

Released detainees consistently report ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities and prison conditions that lead to many cases of deaths in custody. Four former detainees released from the Sednaya military prison in 2014 described deaths in custody and harsh prison conditions that closely match the allegations of mass deaths in custody by a military defector made in January, who photographed thousands of dead bodies in military hospitals in Damascus. At least 2,197 detainees died in custody in 2014, according to local activists.

ISIS using barbaric device to torture breastfeeding mothers

Chris Perez, New York Post, 30 December 2014

[accessed 30 December 2014]

The 24-year-old new mom, referred to as Batol to conceal her identity, was walking through the city of Raqqa when she was snatched up by the Islamic State’s all-female police squad — the notorious al-Khansa brigade, the Daily Mail reports.

“They brought a sharp object that has a lot of teeth and held me, placing it on my chest and pressing it strongly,” she said. “I screamed from pain and I was badly injured. They later took me to the hospital.”

The al-Khansa brigade has become infamous for its savagery in recent months after countless British women who joined the ISIS insurgency began boasting about their membership on social media. The group bragged about handing out merciless beatings, severe lashings, managing sex slaves and ordering executions, according to the Daily Mail.

Even though Batol’s claims could not be verified, the account matches stories that other people have told about the al-Khansa extremists’ behavior.

Female Isis fanatics clamped torture spikes on woman's breast for feeding baby in public

Jeremy Armstrong, Daily Mirror, 29 December 2014

[accessed 30 December 2014]

A man also told resistance movement website ‘Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently’ that he was flogged for smoking, now banned by IS laws.

Sami, 25, revealed: “They arrested me on charges of smoking and they took me to their headquarters and then put me to the torture chamber.

“The room floor was full of blood and then they flogged me 40 times and threw me in a cell. There were a lot of detainees, when I looked at them I saw death in their eyes and their situation was pitiful.

“During the three nights I spent at the headquarters, I heard the screams of women and men who IS were torturing. To hear the screams of the people of my city when they are being tortured at the hands of strangers is a torture of another type, which has destroyed my dignity.”

Syrian Defector: Assad Poised to Torture and Murder 150,000 More

Josh Rogin, The Daily Beast, 31 July 2014

[accessed 1 August 2014]

According to a senior State Department official, his department initially asked to keep this hearing -- in which Caesar displayed new photos from his trove of 55,000 images showing the torture, starvation, and death of over 11,000 civilians -- closed to the public, out of concerns for the safety of the defector and his family. Caesar smuggled the pictures out of Syria when he fled last year in fear for his life. Caesar’s trip had been in the works for months.

Caesar told the committee members his story. After spending two years meticulously documenting the systematic torture and murder of thousands of men, women, and children, he carefully planned his escape with the photos and the files that accompany them. The FBI is near complete in its effort to verify them, increasing their evidentiary value for future war crimes prosecutions.

Syrian rebel fighter recalls torture inside ISIS prison

Brenda Stoter, Al-Monitor, Gaziantep Turkey,  4 March 2014

[accessed 26 March 2014]

SUMMARY - A young Syrian rebel fighter recounts the horrific experience of spending more than three months imprisoned by the radical Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Guards didn’t talk to him for the first two days in prison, but when the "investigation" started on the third day of his capture, masked militants began beating him. Torture methods included electricity shocks and hanging him upside down from the ceiling. The cries and screams of other inmates were constant, but he doesn’t know exactly how many people were detained, as he was put in a separate cell with only one other person. There was no electricity, only a small window without bars.

“I shared a cell with an Alawite officer. They were beating him so severely that the whole cell was covered in blood," Mohammed said. He had been forced to watch.

He added that he was forced to sleep in his cellmate's blood, who told him that he hadn’t seen his three children for more than two years.

“Outside the prison I would probably hate him like I hate Bashar, but inside the cell we supported each other. God bless him."

Two days later, the Alawite prisoner died from his wounds. He had bruises all over his body after severe and repeated beatings. The next morning, guards removed the corpse, but Mohammed said that dead bodies usually weren’t removed from prison immediately.

Syria jihadists torturing, killing detainees: Amnesty

Agence France-Presse AFP, 19 December 2013

[accessed 19 Dec 2013]

The rights group said detainees held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) include children as young as eight and that minors have been sentenced to severe floggings and held with adults in "cruel and inhuman conditions".

It described individuals being seized by masked men, held for weeks on end in solitary confinement at unknown locations and tried by self-styled Islamic sharia courts that mete out death or floggings with little if any due process.

Former detainees described being beaten with rubber generator belts or cables, tortured with electric shocks and being forced into a painful stress position known as the "scorpion" in which the detainee's wrists are bound over one shoulder.

"After years in which they were prey to the brutality of (President Bashar al-Assad's) regime, the people of Raqa and Aleppo are now suffering under a new form of tyranny imposed on them by (ISIL), in which arbitrary detention, torture and executions have become the order of the day," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and North Africa."

One horrific tale of torture from Syria

Dimitar Dimitrov, Стандарт нюз, Standard News Corp, 27 November 2013

[accessed 28 Nov 2013]

On 9 July 2013, Mohammed was detained by members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an al-Qaeda affiliate, along with six other members of the council in the border town of Tal Abyad.   Mohammed was tortured on a daily basis by the jihadists over the next month.   "I was handcuffed, blindfolded when I was taken to their base. Like the six other detainees with me, we were whipped 70 times every day."

Mohammed recalls how two brothers were detained by ISIS fighters in Raqqa and then killed - one was tortured to death; the other shot in the head - simply because they were members of President Assad's minority Alawite sect.   Mohammed also tells about a heating oil merchant, Abu Wael, who was tortured because he refused to sell to members of ISIS at a discount.   One night, he was detained and then tortured for six consecutive days.   "His shirt was so embedded in his flesh [from the flogging] that I had to push my finger deep into the wounds to pull out the material," Mohammed says.   "We managed to convince them later to transfer the remainder of his punishment to us, and we received 70 lashes a day to save him from more torture."

 Why young Syrian refugees will haunt the Mideast for decades to come

Mark Mackinnon, Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan, The Globe and Mail, 14 September 2013

[accessed 14 Sept 2013]

The cruel, pointless torture of young Halim Mahameed went on for two days.“The security forces took me and beat me. … They tied my whole body up and they whipped me with electric cables,” the diminutive young Syrian says matter-of-factly.

 “Why?” is the only response I can muster in the silence that follows. The 14-year-old smiles sadly before continuing.

“I had gone to some demonstrations and, when people were killed and injured, I helped with the ambulances. Someone from the security forces saw me and put me on a list.”

Torture evidence found in Syrian prisons

The Associated Press AP, Beirut, 17 May 2013

[accessed 26 March 2014]

Rights activists have found torture devices and other evidence of abuse in government prisons in the first Syrian city to come under the control of the opposition, Human Rights Watch said in a report Friday.

The HRW said its researchers found physical evidence that Syrians were tortured, including with a device which former detainees said was used to stretch or bend victims' arms and legs.

Four former detainees said that officers and guards in the facility tortured them, HRW said.

Ahmed said he and his brother had been beaten and tortured with electricity shocks for several hours a day throughout five days of detention. He told HRW that intelligence officers and prison guards wanted him to give up the names of other protesters.   "The torture started in turns between my brother and me," Ahmed said. "They started torturing him with electricity for three, four hours, and then they threw him in a solitary cell. They wanted me to tell them who used to go out to demonstrate with me . and they would make me hear my brother's screams."   The interrogators also threatened to detain his mother. Ahmed told HRW that the possibility of his mother being harmed made him confess to anything.   "Whatever it is you want, I am with you," he said he had told the interrogators. "I will fingerprint a white piece of paper, and you write what you want."

In one method of torture the HRW report details, the victim is tied to a flat board, sometimes in the shape of a cross. In some cases guards stretched or pulled their limbs or folded the board in half so that their face touched their legs, causing pain.”

Secret prison likely site of torture, killings

Lauren Williams, The Daily Star, Beirut, 15 April 2013

[accessed 15 Aug  2013]

[accessed 3 January 2018]

“We walked down in a northerly direction, coming down three steps, and then we walked further until we arrived at another one, that got us to an underground dungeon.”

“Beatings started the moment we arrived ... with batons, electrocution sticks and cables, they also used their hands and legs, kicking us all over our bodies, not to mention of course that all of that was accompanied by a torrent of insults and cursing.”

Another former detainee, Kamal, a student from the Damascus suburbs, said he was also bound, blindfolded and beaten.

“We were taken handcuffed with long chains that bound me [to the] other detainees so to make movement impossible,’ Kamal said. “As we walked further we could hear the screams of other detainees who were clearly suffering from torture, their voices kept getting louder as we walked further in.”

Torture centres in Syria [video]

VancouverSunOnline [Stuart Greer reports], 13 April 2013

[accessed 15 Aug  2013]

[video]  Human Rights Watch says Syrian security forces are running torture centres for anyone who opposes the regime.

Hell Holes: Torture, starvation and murder the norm at world’s worst gulags

Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, 1 March 2013

[accessed 2 March 2013]

TADMOR PRISON, SYRIA - Sarraj, now an immunologist at Northwestern School of Medicine in Chicago, has a chillingly lyrical name for the prison where he spent nearly a decade: “Symphony of Fear.”

The prison was shut down in 2001 but was re-opened in June 2011. Guards at Tadmor are given free reign in handling prisoners and often dole out beatings, torture, hangings, and even chop off body parts of anyone considered a traitor.

12 Syrian detainees killed under torture

News Agencies, Beirut, 1 March 2013

[accessed 1 March 2013]

[accessed 30 August 2016]

[accessed 3 January 2018]

Twelve civilians, including four members of one family, from the same Damascus district were killed under torture in prison after their arrest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday.

Families received the identity cards of the victims from the security forces on Wednesday night, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

The men were all from Nahr Aisha district in the embattled south of the capital, which has seen regular raids and arrests by government troops that have resulted in the imprisonment, torture and killing of other residents, it said. The Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists on the ground, also reported the deaths and identified the men by name.

The Observatory, which collects reports from a wide network of activists, rights lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals, has documented hundreds of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death and many others in which torture led to permanent disability. It estimates that "tens of thousands" of Syrians are being held in prisons throughout the country.

"There is no exact number of detainees because we don’t know what happens after their arrest. Over 200,000 people have been taken prisoner, but we don’t know how many were killed," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahmansaid.

Oakville MD risks murder, torture to treat wounded in Syria

Hamida Ghafour, TORONTO STAR, 28 Jan 2013

[accessed 29 January 2013]

[accessed 7 August 2017]

Dr. Anas al Kassem knows he is a marked man. A friend’s wife phoned him recently from Damascus to warn that his life was in danger. The friend, a psychologist, had been kidnapped by Syrian security and tortured for three months. When he broke he gave al Kassem’s name to his interrogators.   Al Kassem, 39, is a trauma surgeon and part of a secret network of dozens of doctors working in 50 underground clinics run mostly out of private homes across Aleppo and Idlib provinces in the northwest which treat civilians and fighters wounded in the civil war.

An increasing number of Syrian doctors are being killed or tortured as the war grinds on between President Bashar al-Assad — who was once an ophthalmologist in England — and rebels seeking to overthrow his regime.

Physicians for Human Rights, an American advocacy group, published a report saying that during the first seven months of the conflict 250 doctors were arrested and interrogated for treating injured protesters. Others say the figure is higher. At least 800 medical workers have been detained, tortured or killed since the uprising began, said Sahloul.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/SYR/CO/1/Add.2 (2012)

[accessed 8 March 2013]

C. Principal subject of concerns

18. The Committee is deeply concerned at consistent, credible, documented and corroborated allegations about the existence of widespread and systematic violations of the provisions of the Convention against the civilian population of the Syrian Arab Republic committed by the authorities of the State party and by militias (e.g. shabiha) acting at the instigation or with the consent or the acquiescence of the authorities of the State party.

19. The Committee takes into account the finding of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic that “a reliable body of evidence exists that ... provides reasonable grounds to believe that particular individuals, including commanding officers and officials at the highest levels of Government, bear responsibility for crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations” (A/HRC/19/69, para. 87). It also takes note of the statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of 27 May 2012, according to which, “indiscriminate and possibly deliberate killing of villagers in the El Houleh area of Homs in Syria may amount to crimes against humanity or other forms of international crime”.1

20. The Committee expresses its grave concern about the prevalence, continuation and un-rebutted occurrence of violations of the Convention in the State party, as documented in the above-mentioned reports:

(a) Widespread use of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees, individuals suspected of having participated in demonstrations, journalists, web bloggers, defectors of security forces, persons wounded or injured, women and children (arts. 2, 11, 13 and 16);

(b) The habitual use of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment as a tool, which appears to be deliberate and part of State’s policy, to instil fear and to intimidate and terrorize civilian population (arts. 2 and 16) and the complete disregard by State party authorities of the requests from authoritative international bodies and experts to cease these violations (art. 2);

(g) The reported existence of secret places of detention; as well as reports on the lack of access to places of detention by international and national monitors and organizations; such secret detention centres are per se breaches of the Convention and lead inevitably to cases of torture and ill-treatment contrary to the Convention (arts. 2, 11, 12, 13 and 16);

(s) Continued granting of immunity from prosecution for members of the security forces which promotes a long-standing culture of abuse and impunity, as evidenced by the fact that Legislative Decree No. 14, of January 1969, and Decree No. 69, of September 2008, are still in force (arts. 12 and 13).

Torture Archipelago

Human Rights Watch, July 3, 2012 -- ISBN: 1-56432-906-2

[accessed 29 January 2013]

Arbitrary Arrests, Torture, and Enforced Disappearances in Syria’s Underground Prisons since March 2011

This report is based on more than 200 interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch since the beginning of anti-government demonstrations in Syria in March 2011. The report includes maps locating the detention facilities, video accounts from former detainees, and sketches of torture techniques described by numerous people who witnessed or experienced torture in these facilities.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, were widespread and committed with impunity by government forces and associated militias seeking to extract information or “confessions” and to terrorize or punish suspected government opponents. Methods included severe beatings, suspension by the limbs, being suspended in a tyre, electric shocks and rape and other sexual abuse. Detainees were often held in very cramped, insanitary conditions and denied medical treatment or even abused by medical staff.

Salameh Kaileh, a Palestinian journalist with Jordanian nationality, was tortured by Air Force Intelligence officers after being arrested at his home in Damascus on 24 April, apparently because of a Facebook conversation and his possession of a left-wing publication. He was whipped on the soles of his feet and insulted. On 3 May he was moved to a military hospital, where he and others were beaten, insulted and denied access to toilets and medication. He was deported to Jordan on 14 May.


Government forces withheld information on the fate of hundreds, possibly thousands, of detainees held in connection with the conflict in conditions that amounted to enforced disappearance. The authorities also continued their failure to account for some 17,000 people who disappeared in Syrian custody since the late 1970s. They included hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese nationals who were arrested in Syria or abducted from Lebanon by Syrian forces or by Lebanese and Palestinian militias. However, the release of Lebanese national Yacoub Chamoun almost 27 years after he went missing reinforced hopes among some families that their loved ones may still be alive.

Activist Zilal Ibrahim al-Salhani disappeared after security forces arrested her at her home in Aleppo on 28 July. Her fate was still unknown at the end of the year.


Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 7   Civil Liberties: 6   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 29 January 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

While the lower courts operate with some independence and generally safeguard defendants’ rights, politically sensitive cases are usually tried by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), an exceptional tribunal established under emergency law that denies the right to appeal, limits access to legal counsel, tries many cases behind closed doors, and routinely accepts confessions obtained through torture. SSSC judges are appointed by the executive branch, and only the president and interior minister may alter verdicts.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

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TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices, and the penal code provides punishment for abusers. Under article 28 of the constitution, "no one may be tortured physically or mentally or treated in a humiliating manner." However, security forces continued to use torture frequently.

During the year local human rights organizations cited numerous cases of security forces torturing prisoners, including the case of 200 Kurds on trial in a Damascus military court for their involvement in the March 2004 riots in Qamishli. During the proceedings, a number of detainees complained of torture and displayed their injuries to the judge. Torture of political detainees also was common.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reported that a French man of Lebanese origin was detained on September 5 at the Syrian-Lebanese border by Syrian authorities and was later transferred to Detention Center 235 (Palestinian Branch). The man, identified in press articles as Charles F., was held for 10 days, during which he was reportedly beaten with electrical cables, kicked, and forced to watch other prisoners being tortured. On December 15, he filed a complaint against Syrian authorities in a Parisian court.

Multiple human rights organizations reported that Seraj Khalbous, an Islamist, was tortured for approximately one month following his September 12 detention, resulting in several weeks of hospitalization and partial paralysis.

According to a December 14 AI report, security forces tortured foreign national Yasin Taha, and forced him to "confess" to being a leading member of al-Qa'ida after his 2003 arrest. The reasons for his arrest were unknown. AI later reported that he was turned over to Tunisian authorities in December.

Family members of 45 accused Islamists from the villages of Qatana, al-Otaiba, and al-Tal reported to human rights organizations during the year that their relatives had been tortured at the time of their arrests in 2004.

In April 2004 five Kurdish students detained by the police were reportedly beaten and subjected to electric shocks for three days (see section 5). AI reported the case of four young men arrested in 2003 in Daraa and held in Saidnaya prison, where they were subjected to various forms of torture and ill-treatment, including having their fingers crushed, beatings to the face and legs, dousing with cold water, standing for long periods of time during the night, subjected to loud screams and beatings of other detainees, stripped naked in front of others, and not being allowed to pray and grow a beard.

Former prisoners, detainees, and reputable local human rights groups, reported that torture methods included electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling; alternately dousing victims with freezing water and beating them in extremely cold rooms; hyperextending the spine; bending the detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; and using a backward-bending chair to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the victim's spine. Torture was most likely to occur while detainees were held at one of the many detention centers operated by the various security services throughout the country, particularly while authorities attempted to extract a confession or information.

Past victims of torture have identified the officials who tortured them, up to the level of brigadier general. In past years, when allegations of excessive force or physical abuse were made in court, the plaintiff was required to initiate a separate civil suit against the alleged abuser for damages. However, no action was taken against the accused. There were no confirmed cases of new allegations during the year. In December a French citizen filed a complaint with French courts, claiming to have been tortured during his September detention in Syria (see section 1.c.). Courts did not order medical examinations for defendants who claimed that they were tortured (see section 1.e.).

August 2004 marked the government's accession to the UN Convention Against Torture, but the government's objection to article 20 prevents outside observers from coming to the country to investigate allegations of torture within the country.

Police beat and mistreated detainees during the year. On March 11, Safwat Abdullah died following a police beating in Lattakia (see section 1.a.). On November 12, human rights activist Dr. Kamal al-Labwani reported to other human rights observers that he had been struck four times by a security official while in political security custody and had not been given food for four days. Authorities at Damascus International Airport detained Dr. al-Labwani on November 8 following a three month-long trip abroad (see section 1.d.) that included a visit to Washington.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Syria",, [accessed <date>]