Human Rights

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UN Accuses Iran-Backed Assad Regime of Carrying Out “Extermination” of Prisoners

A United Nations report has accused the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of carrying out a campaign of “extermination” against jailed opponents, among many other crimes against humanity.

Although the report documented abuses on all sides of the Syrian civil war, it was particularly thorough in cataloging the ring of prisons run by the Iran-backed Assad regime, where thousands of detainees have been beaten to death.

“Nearly every surviving detainee has emerged from custody having suffered unimaginable abuses,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said in a statement. “For ordinary Syrians, the specter of arrest or abduction, and the near-inevitable horrors that follow, have paralyzed communities across the country.”

The report was based on the testimony of more than 600 former detainees, as well as supplementary documentary evidence.

In addition to executions and torture, prisoners were said to be subjected to inhumane treatment that would lead to their deaths. The UN Human Right Council observed:

Government officials intentionally maintained such poor conditions of detention for prisoners as to have been life-threatening, and were aware that mass deaths of detainees would result. These actions, in the pursuance of a State policy, amount to extermination as a crime against humanity.

The Commission determines that the Government of Syria has further committed the crimes against humanity of murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts. These violations constitute war crimes, where the acts were committed after the start of the armed conflict.

After images of systematic torture, starvation, and mass killing in Assad’s prisons, taken by a photographer known as “Caesar,” emerged in July 2014, Steven Rapp, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes, said the photos showed “solid evidence of the kind of machinery of cruel death that we haven’t seen frankly since the Nazis….If it is as it appears thus far, we’re talking about more than 10,000 individuals being killed in custody over the period from 2011 to 2013, including largely men but also some very, very young men and boys and women… It’s shocking to me, as a prosecutor—I’m used to evidence not being so strong.”

France announced last October that it was investigating the Assad regime for committing crimes against humanity.

Syrian forces, alongside the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, have laid siege to the Syrian city of Madaya in recent weeks, causing widespread hunger and leading to the death by starvation of more than 50 people. The lack of a forceful American response prompted The Washington Post to criticize the Obama administration for “enabling…war crimes.”

[Photo: Voice of America / Wikimedia ]