by Ciara Mannion
Since the start of the 2011 uprising, Syrian authorities have hanged at least 13,000 people at a prison north of Damascus, known to detainees as “the slaughterhouse.”
According to Amnesty International, at least once a week between 2011 and 2015, groups of up to 50 people were taken out of their prison cells for arbitrary trials, beaten, then hanged “in the middle of the night and in total secrecy.”
The rights group wrote:
“throughout this process, they remain blindfolded. They do not know when or how they will die until the noose was placed around their necks.”
A former judge who witnessed the executions said:
“They kept them (hanging) there for 10 to 15 minutes.”
“For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks,”
Most of the victims were civilians believed to be opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Amnesty accused the Syrian government of carrying out a “policy of extermination”.
A twisted set of “special rules” governed the facility. Detainees were not allowed to speak and must assume certain positions when guards enter their cells.
Guards would feed detainees by tossing meals onto the cell floor which was often covered in blood and dirt. Prisoners were raped and forced to rape each other.
Since the late 1980s, Amnesty has recorded at least 35 different methods of torture in Syria, practices that only increased since 2011, said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director of research at Amnesty’s regional office in Beirut.
In a report last year, Amnesty found that more than 17,000 people have died of torture and ill-treatment in custody across Syria since 2011, an average rate of more than 300 deaths a month.
Those figures are strikingly comparable to battlefield deaths in Aleppo, where 21,000 were killed across the province since 2011.
Other rights groups have also found evidence of massive torture leading to death in Syrian detention facilities.
A probe by the United Nations last year accused Mr Assad’s government of a policy of “extermination” in its jails.
More than 310,000 people have been killed since the conflict began with anti-Assad protests.