London – A military jail authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government has overseen a “monstrous campaign” of secret atrocities, including the hanging of up to 13,000 people in five years, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
The secret mass hangings were carried out under a “calculated campaign of extrajudicial executions” by President Bashar al-Assad’s government at the Saydnaya prison near Damascus, the human rights group said.
Guards at Saydnaya oversaw weekly – or sometimes twice-weekly – hangings of up to 50 prisoners at a time, most of whom were believed to be government opponents, “in the middle of the night and in total secrecy.”
Up to 13,000 prisoners were executed at the prison from 2011 to 2015, following convictions by military courts after forced confessions, read the report, titled “Human slaughterhouse: Mass hangings and extermination at Saydnaya prison.”
It documented “repeated torture and the systematic deprivation of food, water, medicine and medical care,” saying the practices at the prison “amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty’s regional office in Beirut, said the campaign was “aimed at crushing any form of dissent within the Syrian population.”
“We demand that the Syrian authorities immediately cease extrajudicial executions and torture and inhumane treatment at Saydnaya prison and in all other government prisons across Syria,” Maalouf said.
“Russia and Iran, the government’s closest allies, must press for an end to these murderous detention policies,” she said, adding that upcoming Syria peace talks in Geneva “cannot ignore these findings.”