Butcher Assad’s "Human Slaughterhouse"

Orient Net - Ruthanne Sikora 2017-02-08 14:26:00

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Many Syrians know that the Assad regime has never had any moral boundaries when it comes to the treatment of those unfortunate enough to end up being held in one of their prisons.

Many former prisoners have been interviewed, and many articles have been written exposing the inhumane conditions, brutal torture, starvation and execution. Yet, the regime has continued to stay its course with impunity.

Even after the man who is known simply as Caesar presented thousands of photos depicting unspeakable horror to the US government and the United Nations, nothing changed.

In reality, for as many years as Syrians have been talking about the existence of extreme brutality, torture and extrajudicial executions in Syria, Assad has been laughing at their accusations and calling them nothing more than propaganda and lies.

Perhaps that is why now, after another report has been released by Amnesty International saying that Assad regime authorities have been engaged in a calculated campaign of mass hangings and extermination in the notorious Saydnaya prison, many Syrians remain skeptical that any international efforts to stop it will actually be made.

Nicolette Waldman was one of Amnesty International’s Middle East research team members who conducted first-hand interviews with 84 eye witnesses that included former detainees and prison guards, judges and lawyers as well as national and international experts on detention in Syria.

Based on information obtained during those interviews, conducted between December 2015 and December 2016, it is believed that as many as 13,000 detainees were executed by hanging and their bodies disposed of since 2011. 

The executions are reported to have been performed at night with the utmost secrecy and on a scale that could only have been “authorized by officials at the highest levels of government.” 

Former prisoner Omar Alshogre, who was only 17 years old when he was arrested on suspicion of being a protester, told Orient Net last April that he was one of the prisoners in charge of throwing the bodies of the dead into trucks that would take them to be buried in mass graves.

Waldman says that the vast majority of those held as prisoners in Saydnaya, which is not a civil jail but a military prison located the countryside of Damascus, have been civilians.

“Their most common profiles are human rights defenders, longtime political dissidents, journalists, students and demonstrators,” said Waldman. 

In addition, the majority of those condemned to death by hanging were not given anything that even resembled an actual trial according to testimonies also obtained by Amnesty‘s researchers from former government officials, guards and judges who helped create the “detailed picture of the farcical procedures that lead up to the hangings” included in the report.

Once or twice a week, without any prior warning of what is about to transpire, prisoners are taken to a military court in Damascus where they are sentenced to death in perfunctory sham trials “which last between one and three minutes,” according to the report.

Detainees are then ushered back to the prison where they are blindfolded and taken to a dark basement room where nooses are put around their necks and they are hanged in groups of between 20 and 50 people with their blindfolds still in place.

“Saydnaya Military Prison is where the Syria state quietly slaughters its own people,” the report also says. “The victims are overwhelmingly ordinary civilians who are thought to oppose the government.”

Alshogre told Orient Net last April that his job as a prisoner at Saydnaya was to record the numbers of the dead bodies and help dispose of them. 

He said that the number had reached over 8,000 by the time his family paid a large bribe to prison guards to facilitate his release on June 11, 2015.

Alshogre also told Orient Net how prison guards had forced him to throw a man he could tell was still breathing along with the bodies of the dead into a truck that came around every week to collect them for burial.

Amnesty International says there is no reason to believe that the executions are not still taking place until now.

Especially since the systematic execution of political prisoners is in keeping with Assad’s larger objective of systematically reducing the number of Syrians who oppose him inside Syria through targeting civilian areas with barrel bombs, missiles, chemical weapons, starvation sieges and forced displacement.

Until now the international community has only stood on the sidelines and watched as Assad bombs houses, schools and hospitals killing innocent children, doctors, medical and rescue workers while his prisons with their hidden horrors and execution chambers remain intact.

Amnesty International says they are calling for an immediate independent investigation by the United Nations into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed at Saydnaya but skeptical Syrians say they have been down this dead end road before.

Many also say there is little contained in this new report that they didn’t already know. Rather than being shocked, they are simply reminded of how inherently evil Assad and his subhuman intelligence apparatus really are.

Syrians also say that it only serves to renew their determination to stay in the fight until the power to terrorize them and their loved ones has been stripped from Assad’s blood-soaked hands.